Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: What do you think about bookmakers taking bets on the outcome of big pitches? Surely it opens up the opportunity for unscrupulous clients to make a few bob?

A: Your question contains an interesting subtext. You clearly believe that clients see the ultimate choice of an advertising agency as less important than the chance to take a few thousand quid off William Hill. In that, I suppose, you might be right. I can only say that they disguise their carefree approach to agency selection with some skill. A pitch process involving a longlist of 12 and a shortlist of four, conducted over seven months and in three continents, involving the contestant agencies in an aggregate expenditure of £4 million, certainly fools me into believing they're taking things quite seriously.

Your question also reveals a strange innocence on your part. You take it for granted that clients think as one. They do not. If there are eight clients involved in the selection process, they will think not as one but as eight. That's why the one you had a drink with, and who was so encouraging about your chances, was just as surprised as you were when the decision went against you. If all eight started laying bets with William Hill, at least seven of them would lose their shirts.

Q: What's your view on office attire? I run a sales team at a large media owner and am considering banning the use of suits and ties.

A: Fifty years ago, when independent grocers still ruled, a friend of mine was a travelling representative for Procter & Gamble. On entering a shop (or rather, a retail outlet) he was instructed to raise his hat and proclaim: "Good morning, Mr Retailer! You will be cock-a-hoop to hear the news I have for you today!"

P&G rightly recognised that a salesman's apparel should be chosen with his prospects in mind. His hat signified respectability. Raising it signified respect.

You should encourage your salesmen to follow this example. Give them the freedom to match their outerwear to their prospects' prejudices. Some may respond to jeans and trainers; some to suits and ties; some to a T-shirt with tracksuit bottoms; some, even, to a Homburg. What they wear in your office is irrelevant.

Q: I am a German creative who wants to break on to the London advertising scene, but have had no luck. I am beginning to think that British agencies have no time for German creatives. Indeed, I have heard that a German agency's work has to be 50 per cent better than everyone else's to get the recognition it deserves. Why aren't German creatives given a fair crack of the whip?

A: I was about to write, in defence of London's creative directors, that they have an understandable reluctance to hire copywriters for whom English is not their first language. I then remembered, first, that you might be an art director; and second, to judge from their output, English is not the first language of most working copywriters either.

Being German, you may not be familiar with Peter Cook's Tarzan sketch. In it, Dudley Moore plays a one-legged actor who fails to land the part of Tarzan. Later that day, in the solitude of his bed-sit, he will no doubt have consoled himself with the belief that, had he possessed a more conventional number of legs, he would have been destined for stardom.

You see the point I'm making. You obviously find it consoling to ascribe your failure to break into the London advertising scene to your nationality; yet London is full of people who have failed to break into the advertising scene and only a few of them are German. Mostly, people fail to break into the London advertising scene through lack of talent. You mustn't despair, however. Lack of talent isn't an invariable barrier to entry: see my comment about copywriters. What you need is persistence, luck and an Australian partner. Given the first and the third, the second should follow in due course. Talent, as always, would be a welcome bonus.

Q: The great Hunter S Thompson once wrote: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." In dealing with people in the record business, I'm beginning to see what he means. They are forever trying to pedal music that the Americans wouldn't use to torture Iraqi prisoners, let alone me use it to promote my brand. Do you have any advice for getting along with these people?

A: I'm afraid not.

- "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.


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