Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I've just bought a Sky+ box at home and now don't see any advertising as I fast-forward through it all. The problem is that as a major advertiser, I don't want other viewers to be doing the same thing. My media agency reckons investing heavily in sponsorship and chunky idents is the way forward. Are they right?

A: Ask yourself, please: what is the difference between these two experiences: A barely intelligible call centre slave gets you out of your chair at 7.30 in the evening. "Congratulations! Your name has come up on the computer! You have already won a prize! A design team will be in your area next week!"

An irrelevant commercial interrupts the programme you're watching.

The cold call, it's true, is more irritating and disrupts your private life for longer. The commercial, it's true, has in part paid for the programme it interrupted.

But in principle, there's no difference. Both are examples of push rather than pull (see John Naughton); both are uninvited guests; both are ill-mannered.

I note that you distinguish between yourself as a person and yourself as an advertiser. As a person, you don't want to watch any advertising.

As an advertiser, you want everyone else to. In the world of property, this would be called Nimbyism - and its days are numbered.

As a handful of exquisite commercials have demonstrated over the years, it's entirely possible to make interruptive advertisements that are so relevant, so courteous and so rewarding that they're a pleasure to watch.

It's entirely possible but extremely difficult. Quite soon, however, if you want to stay with push television, they'll be the only ones worth making.

If you and your agency aren't up to it, you'll have to place all your ads in live programmes. You can't fast-forward a Cup Final because it hasn't happened yet. And yes, of course, you must think about sponsorship and chunky idents: please let me know when you've worked out how to measure their value.

But for the moment, your exhilarating challenge is this. When you can no longer pin your consumers to the wall and fire relentless exhortations at them - can you and your agency master the art of welcomed seduction?

Q: Three years ago, I was transferred over to Singapore to look at product development in Asia, with the promise that after that time, I would be offered a job back in the UK at a similar level as when I left (I was a senior brand manager). Now my time is up, but my company has decided they want me to stay out in Asia, albeit in a different role. My wife is insistent that we come home and I have to agree with her as our children are approaching school age. Is there any way I can make my bosses stick to their original promise?

A: There are always ways of making bosses do things but it's never worth it. Bosses will always win in the long run. That's the whole point of being a boss.

Three years ago, you struck a deal with your company and a deal with your family. Now your company wants you to stay and your family wants you to come home. Your company is trying it on. They hope that your fear of losing your job (or what they prefer to call your loyalty) will tip the balance in their favour. It mustn't. You must honour the commitment you made to your family and tell your company very politely that you'll be going home.

It's easy to be brave on other people's behalf, but I promise you: they'll buckle.

Q: I'm a marketer that is looking to put my advertising account up for pitch. There are a couple of agencies that immediately impress me but I am concerned that some are currently without a chief executive. I don't want to appoint an agency without knowing who heads it, but I also don't want to exclude anyone purely on this basis. What do you suggest I do?

A: Many agency chief executives do more harm than good. Agencies that continue to be impressive even when without a chief executive clearly enjoy strength in depth. Chief executives only pretend to be immersed in your business; in fact, they just bone up on their notes in the back of the car.

All probably true: but you're right to wait and wonder. The time to pounce is when an already impressive agency has just appointed a new chief executive.

They'll be fanatically keen to land - and then service - their first, personally attributable, piece of new business. You'll be amazed what they'll do for you.

- "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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