Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Dear Jeremy, I recently read a quote from the late comedian Bill Hicks. He suggested that the only way for people in marketing and advertising to save their souls would be to kill ourselves. "You are Satan's spawn filling the world with bile and garbage," he said, "the ruins of all things good." Were the great man still alive, and talking directly to you, what would be your retort?

A: Scattergun vituperations such as this don't lend themselves easily to knockout retorts. I might try, "well, snubs to you with knobs on", but I doubt if it would leave him humbled.

Alternatively, I might try the theosophical and remind Mr Hicks that the act of suicide, far from saving an unfortunate's soul, irredeemably condemns it to oblivion. His recommended solution therefore lacks intellectual cohesion: perhaps he would like to reconsider it? To which he might respond: "I'm deeply obliged to you for drawing my attention to the logical inconsistencies in my stance on this matter." But there again, he might not.

There was a time in the 60s, a few years after the publication of The Hidden Persuaders and The Affluent Society, when monologues of this kind were an everyday experience for those of us unmasked as being in advertising.

I found the most successful attitude to adopt was one of eager agreement.

After listening animatedly to a catalogue of advertising's crimes against society, nodding excitedly at each item, I would say: "And don't forget its insidious corruption of editorial independence!"

The most vigorous of polemicists quickly loses heart when met, not just with no resistance but with enthusiastic accord. The aggressor simply runs out of puff and complains: "Have you nothing at all to say in defence of your slimy trade?" - and I'd confess that was so. To the polemicist, of course, this presents an irresistible challenge. Within minutes he'd be citing advertising's positive influence on product improvement, the contribution of classified advertising to the reduction of waste, the welcome subsidy that advertising provides for the quality press and even one or two cartoon ads that he personally found more entertaining than some of these new programmes.

I'm sorry Mr Hicks is dead.

Q: How do you think people in the media industry should reconcile their claims of media-neutral planning when it appears that a number of them appear to have been taking bungs, in the form of sur-commissions, for using particular media channels?

A: I'm surprised you ask. It's clear that if all media channels were sensible enough to offer sur-commissions at a universally agreed rate, media neutrality would be restored overnight. I don't know what's holding them back.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I'm on a graduate placement in a top agency creative department. I feel I am in an enviable position, but at one of the many Christmas drinks at the end of last year I ended up sleeping with my creative director. He's a real hottie, and I fear I have fallen for him. However, my position here is almost unbearable, as he won't even acknowledge me, apart from to talk about work. How should I handle this?

A: It's now getting on for three months since Christmas. For a real hottie, he seems to be playing it remarkably cool. I'm sorry to be brutal, but your question implies that you have choices - and you don't. Well, of course you do; but when you examine them carefully, I think you'll find you don't.

For example, you could stalk him, blackmail him, plead with him, write him passionate e-mails, threaten self-harm. Not an attractive list of options, is it? All of them horrid for you and none even notionally likely to succeed.

He's ignoring you because he's doing his best to convince himself that Christmas never happened. He may even have succeeded. Contemptible, I know; selfish, unfeeling, vile - and so on. But it tells you all you need to know. On third thoughts, you do have a choice. Empty your mind of any thought of love and stay. Or empty your mind of any thought of love and leave. The emptying your mind bit will be extremely difficult, but you'll feel absolutely wonderful when you've done it.

I'm a copywriter who has had an ad I created copied by another agency for a different brand in the same sector. Is there anything I can do about this? Please advise.

It was you who gave birth to this ad but it belongs to your client. The damage to his commercial interests is greater than that to your vanity.

Let him handle it.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4683

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.