Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I manage the PR for my agency and I have constant calls from the three main industry magazines, who always want the lead story. How do I ensure that I give equal coverage to each magazine, even though only one can run the story at each time?

A: You might as well write: I manage business development for my agency - how do I ensure at least one new-business win every week? Or: I'm an executive creative director - how do I win more awards than anyone else?

It's what you're paid for, ducky.

Q: Take one look at the shelves in a newsagent and you'd be forgiven for thinking the middle and top shelves have merged into one. And what about some newspapers - namely the Star and the Sport - which splash with "crotch shots" every day? Sex obviously sells. So why don't mainstream advertisers buy pages in Razzle, Club, Hustler and the like?

A: Thank you. This is an interesting question. When people say that sex sells, they seldom differentiate between sex selling sex and sex selling, for example, a denture fixative.

Certainly, sex sells Razzle. That's what Razzle's for. But here's a funny thing. Of all the millions of copies sold of Razzle, Club, Hustler and the like, how many have you spotted being read in public? Exactly. People are judged by the company they keep; and for all the new permissiveness, most people prefer not to be seen reading Razzle. There may be other reasons, of course, behind this preference for privacy - but top-shelf sex remains in the tacky/furtive quartile of your media planner's Boston grid.

Brands, too, are judged by the company they keep. That's mostly what qualitative media planners go on about. However competitive the readership figures and space costs may be, denture fixatives, detergents, fast-food restaurants, people carriers and COI see no commercial advantage in associating themselves with the tacky and the furtive. So they choose not to.

Interestingly, of course, one of the reasons why these publications remain in the tacky/furtive category is the absence therein of ads from respectable, mainstream advertisers.

Q: One of our very senior clients insists on getting so involved in the advertising process that the work is suffering as a result and, as the agency, we're getting the blame. What do you suggest?

A: If you're being blamed for advertising that your very senior client has been deeply involved in, then it seems unlikely that the person doing the blaming is the very senior client. I can therefore only suppose that the very senior client is getting involved in the advertising process against the wishes of a more junior client whose judgment in these matters you believe to be superior.

Should this be the case, you must enter into a benign conspiracy with your junior client. He must tell his senior client that he is giving the agency far too much help, thus making it impossible to subject them to the stringent performance review that modern business practice demands.

From now on, the agency must accept sole responsibility for the advertising development process; they can no longer rely on the senior client's vast experience to see them through.

I agree. It probably won't work. But if you've got a better idea, let me know.

Q: I am a copywriter. Me and my art director are a massively awarded partnership who do everything together. But I hate him. What can I do?

A: You can thank your lucky stars. You'll enjoy a much longer and more productive partnership than if you were deeply and uncritically in love with each other.

Q: What is the meanest thing you've ever wanted to say to someone, but couldn't?

A: There was once a large person whose views I thought facile. It occurred to me one day that he was a useful reminder of the difference between bulk and substance. But, of course, I couldn't say it.

Q: It seems as though our once strong and well-regarded agency is currently going to hell in a handbasket. Staff are leaving at a rate of knots and merger rumours are rife, while the MD does little to counteract this apart from happily insisting that all is well. Should I jump ship?

A: Yes. Rats get no credit for staying on board. They get drowned.

- "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.