Opinion: On the Campaign Couch with JB

Q: When making an ad related to the World Cup, how do I best achieve standout among all the clutter?

A: Oh, gosh! How I do admire a person who thinks ahead! Remind me of your question some time in 2009 and I'll see what I can do. Meanwhile, record everything. There are a great many how-not-to ads appearing daily at the moment which, three-and-a-bit years from now, will prove hugely instructive in themselves. And there might even be one World Cup ad which, four years later, you might feel you could legitimately - how shall I put this? - pay homage to.

Q: The agency I work for wants me to gain management experience by moving to run our Swiss operation. Is this the end of the road for me or the start of a glittering career?

A: Let's start by doing something radical. Rather than think about you, let's think about the Swiss. How do you suppose they'd feel about this?

I paraphrase, obviously, but I suspect their reaction would go something like this: "They're sending over some monolingual adolescent Albion so that he can practise on us for a couple of years before he gets moved on to somewhere important." You may therefore expect the Swiss, a cultured, multilingual crowd, many of whom have achieved high honour in respected business schools, to greet your arrival with a certain caginess. They'll be far too courteous to obstruct your efforts deliberately, of course - but given that you'll be unfamiliar with the clients, the media, the language, the local customs, the regulations, the dress codes, the restaurants, the competition, the trade press ... they won't really need to. Bringing Samantha with you and instructing everyone to speak English at all times would certainly simplify things from your point of view but has been known to fail. On the other hand, if you can learn French, German and leadership in three months, then go for it: you're clearly unusually able. It's entirely your decision.

Q: A recently appointed agency chief executive writes: Dear Jeremy, I've inherited a creative director whose eye for good work and a well-written line is legendary, but whose people skills are, frankly, appalling. He is surly, unsupportive, uncommunicative and, unfortunately, quite brilliant. I'm at a loss how to deal with him. How do you tell a 45-year-old "genius" that he needs to go on a management training course?

A: I have, in my time, come across charming, articulate, considerate, ingratiatingly supportive creative directors who, in bird-watching terms, couldn't tell a tit from a turkey. They've been highly valued by their chief executives but for all the wrong reasons. It is, I suppose, theoretically possible to encounter such a person who is also quite brilliant and whose eye for good work and a well-written line is legendary; but mostly people have to settle for one or the other. No, not quite true: some people have to settle for creative directors who are not only surly, unsupportive and uncommunicative but also unbrilliant. That's as bad as you can get.

So looked at like that, you're a good deal better off than most. Consistent brilliance - when integral rather than sprayed-on - is as rare in our trade as a new idea. Sending him to charm school will either castrate him completely or drive him into the arms of a competitor. How would you feel then?

Q: My company recently decided to call an ad review. The annual spend is in the region of £30 million. I went to visit a longlist of eight agencies, but was surprised by how junior some of the people fielded to handle the early stage of our pitch were. Am I being self-important, or would a well-run business field its top brass for a chance at a £30 million account?

A: Traditionally, of course, clients complain that senior management figures are all over them until the moment the ink's dry, never to be seen again.

Maybe these agencies of yours are over-correcting. It's also possible that you're using the word junior while actually thinking the word young.

Believe me, I know the feeling.

Then consider. If every week 20 clients draw up a longlist of eight agencies, the top brass of any attractive agency might be required to pour coffee and radiate informed enthusiasm more than 50 times a month. Exhausting.

Meanwhile, there are real, paying clients to be nice to as well.

Despite all this, you're right, of course. There are quite simple ways for senior agency management to make their personal interest known and they all should have done so. I just hope this doesn't prompt you to visit another eight.

- "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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