Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Dear Jeremy, in a recent interview (by Nic Howell in New Media Age), Alex Bogusky said: "A huge hero of mine is Howard Gothidge, who was an advertising guy in San Francisco in the 50s and 60s. He would use coupons to create conversations with consumers." What on earth does he mean? Green Shield Guy.

Dear Guy, I don't know who's responsible for the typo - you, Nic Howell, Alex Bogusky or New Media Age - but the name's Gossage.

Howard Luck Gossage (1918-1969), "the Socrates of San Francisco", got into advertising late and died early. He'd done a lot of varied stuff first - he was 36 before he found himself working for an agency - and was convinced that most advertising people were too narrow-minded, too specialist in their approach. He believed that the best creative work was done by those with experience of other cultures, other countries and other trades: generalists or "extra-environmentalists". He was certainly one such himself.

It's mainly the internet that's prompted renewed interest in Gossage. One of his fundamental convictions was that all good advertising should involve its audience; should invite and welcome participation. And that, of course, is what the internet tries to claim as its exclusive property.

As for these coupon conversations, they're not as daft as they sound. They weren't "ten cents off your next purchase of Ivory Soap" coupons: they were find-out-more coupons or send-for-free-booklet coupons. Gossage knew that the best communications weren't one-way only. The moment that a member of his audience had "replied" - had taken some action as a result of the ad - a kind of conversation had begun; and one that could usefully be further developed.

Howard Gossage preached and practised integration, interactivity and CRM decades before any of those mind-numbing terms had been perpetrated. That's why he's such a source of enlightenment today: he doesn't just put his finger on what's important; he does it with such clarity that you immediately understand why it is.

You should be able to get a copy of The Book of Gossage, by and about Howard Luck Gossage, from Amazon.

Q: My agency has come a close second on a couple of big pitches lately and, at the time, I just couldn't work out why. However, it has since come to my attention that the rival agency that beat us to the wins had been pulling every trick in the book "post pitch" to make sure the decision went its way. Maybe I'm being naive, but what sort of thing could/should I be doing after the final round of pitching to help grease the wheel? Am I missing an important trick here?

A: I'm afraid I can't help you myself. In my day, post-pitch follow-ups would consist of a formal letter thanking the prospect for having so graciously attended; a vast book containing hard copies of the 400 slides used in the 50-minute presentation; photographs and biographies of the presenters (including those of the media director who sadly had had to be dropped at the last minute because the planner had over-run again); and occasionally - and daringly - a branded agency HB pencil. This last was thought by some to be bordering on a bung, but I don't remember one ever being returned. Nor could I swear that it ever clinched the business.

But from what you imply, things have moved on a bit from there.

You say that it has come to your attention that a rival agency has pulled every trick in the book in order to snatch the prize from your deserving grasp. So, what were they? If you don't already know, find out. Use all your contacts with the pitch consultants and friendly clients. Dig deep, dig low, dig dirty. Once you have full knowledge of these dastardly ruses, you have power in your hands.

The secret is not to employ them yourself; dear me no. The secret is to transform your current reputation as sad serial losers into winners of high principle.

In your follow-up communication, to the main board, you offer your prospect 24/7 access to you and your team but make it explicitly plain that you will in no circumstances initiate contact or in any other way seek to influence any members of their adjudicating panel: you're sure they would agree that such practice would be totally inimical to a company of such high standing as theirs. (By way of illustration, you might care to itemise some of the many ways in which you will not seek to influence them; which, by chance, might curiously resemble the dastardly ruses hitherto favoured by your rivals.) - "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@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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