Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Clients moan about the various Christmas dos they have to go to with all their agencies. Should we buck the trend and do something in January or does this look like we're less dedicated than everyone else?

A: You must first understand the reason clients moan. If they truly resented the waste of time incurred in attending agency parties, they could politely decline: they'd forfeit nothing and might even earn a little surprised respect. The clue to their reason for moaning lies in the observable fact that almost all of it is done in the hearing of senior colleagues and members of their immediate family. They moan in the touching hope that their multiple party attendances will be seen by others as stoic acts of seasonal corporate duty. Naturally, this fools no-one but makes the clients feel very slightly better about themselves - that's why they always manage to stay right to the end of the parties they forced themselves to go to in the first place.

It is the fact of Christmas, and only Christmas, that makes this charade even theoretically plausible. So if you decided to defer your own party to January, you can expect to entertain a great many colleagues and members of the trade press - but absolutely no clients. The alternative, of course, is to rebrand your party and call it a seminar. That should work a treat.

I do hope all this excellent advice hasn't reached you too late.

Q: I know my boss is having an affair with my junior; I accidentally read some of their e-mails. I'm more attractive than my junior and have always fancied my boss but kept it to myself because I thought it would be unprofessional to encourage him. Now I'm sandwiched between them and feel really angry. Should I leave or steam in and replace her?

A: "You see, m'lud, I accidentally stumbled on the secret combination for the company safe and then accidentally opened it. It was only after that nice police sergeant took up my floorboards and found the £20,000 in used tenners that I'd accidentally hidden there that I realised what an accident-prone person I really was."

When people describe themselves as attractive, my first instinct is to snap: "To whom?" In the eyes of your boss, you're clearly less attractive than your junior. Your habit of accidentally reading other people's e-mails doesn't add to your allure. Nor does your anger. With whom, other than yourself, do you have good reason to be angry?

Steam in if you must - but don't expect to replace her. Instead, expect embarrassment and humiliation of engulfing proportions.

For a far happier New Year, count to 342, pour yourself a serious drink and open an online dating account.

Q: I was at the Internet Advertising Bureau's conference a few weeks ago and heard Bill Gates talking about how advertising is going to change because TV, radio and newspapers will all be on the internet. I find this a bit worrying because the agency I work for is still principally focused on TV and doesn't look as though it's going to change. Are we all doomed?

A: Like all late converts, Bill Gates displays excessive zeal. It's a well-documented fact that no major advertising medium has yet been dumped into history's landfill as a result of upstart competitors. Media adapt, reposition and survive. Posters, well into their 200th year, are booming as never before.

No - the reason your agency is doomed is not because TV advertising will suddenly disappear into cyberspace. It won't. The reason your agency is doomed is that it's failed to recognise the difference between an advertising agency and an advertisement agency. For the brief 30 years or so that TV and advertising were thought to be synonymous, such sloppy thinking didn't matter very much. Now it does.

If the only thing you're good at is TV ads, you'll soon lose mainstream presence. Clients will no longer come to you for any of the bits that make the practice of advertising inexhaustibly interesting: the strategic speculation, the sudden flashbulb of an insight, the mining for gold in the densest of research reports, the wondering aloud, with the whole world to choose from, just what needs to be done to make this brand delight.

Your highly paid creative teams, confident only when working to a 30-second length and with post-production wizardry to camouflage their banality, will soon become peripheral ... and then baffled ... and then bitter ... and then sadly, inevitably, infinitely expendable.

It's only advertisement agencies that have anything to fear. Advertising agencies have a fascinating future - and the internet will make it more so.

- "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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