Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Is marrying my creative partner a bad idea?

A: Creative partners are a bad idea - unless you have lots. Monogamy in creative teams sooner or later leads either to predictability or fission. Being married to your creative partner would make creative polygamy even more difficult. Unless, of course, having married your creative partner, you dropped them as your creative partner and just concentrated on the other bit - which is tough enough on its own, God knows.

In that case, of course, marrying your creative partner could be a very good idea.

Sir James Goldsmith once remarked that when a man marries his mistress, it creates a vacancy. When a person marries a creative partner, it should create two.

Q: Andrew Ingram writes: As I am sure you know, after all the disputes about which statue should stand on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, it has been agreed that not one but a series of statues will stand there. A director in a company I know has used this to try to explain to his staff why many previously permanent-seeming things can be expected to change and move about in the future. Unfortunately, his staff are privately using "very Fourth Plinth" as an expletive now, mainly to describe anything in the company which seems silly, unsatisfactory or poorly thought-out. I'd like to put a word of guidance into his ear. What would you advise him?

A: Dear Andrew, Thank you for this characteristic question. I greatly admire your friend's staff for being able to say "very Fourth Plinth". Whenever I've tried to say it out loud myself, I've attracted some very peculiar looks. This director's mistake is an unusual one. It's the accepted custom of company directors to use language so stale as to be empty of meaning. Nothing they say penetrates. It follows that nothing they say is remembered and so cannot be mocked. This entirely instinctive practice has protected company directors from disrespect for generations.

By reaching for vivid metaphor, your friend has quite unnecessarily exposed himself to ridicule with potentially disastrous consequences for his personal authority. If he wants to be seen to have prepared his people for a more flexible future, he should send them a 500-word, all-staff e-mail, headed: "Change - The Only Constant." They'll read no further.

The most help you can give him is to make sure he's learnt his lesson: no more evocative language, please.

Q: The marketing director of a global trainer brand asks: Jeremy: social networking. I don't get it. And I certainly don't understand why an "oh-so-trendy" digital media agency thinks a campaign in Facebook is going to "unlock all the secrets of my brand to an entirely new market". Should I tell them to toss off?

A: I congratulate you on your courage. Research shows that 94.5 per cent of those who don't understand social networking pretend they do. I have one confident piece of advice for everyone about all things cyber: keep an absolutely open mind about absolutely everything.

There's nothing remotely admirable about coming to hard-and-fast conclusions about anything until you have to. Over-exposure to political panel shows has led us to believe that absolute certainty about everything is evidence of intelligence and leadership. The only panellists who ever provoke a round of applause are those who are unshakeably certain on all subjects. I long for the panellist who says: "Tricky one, this. Could go either way. Have to wait and see, I suppose. Still ..." On a huge range of topics, that's the most intelligent, least dangerous view to hold. But such a panellist would never get applauded and would never be invited to join Question Time again.

Read The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen (Nicholas Brealey Publishing). Subtitle, How the democratization of the digital world is destroying our economy, our culture and our values. Keen is as certain that all things digital are vile and subversive as your trendy digital media agency is that Facebook will unlock all the secrets of your brand to a new market. They're almost certainly (only almost certainly) both wrong: but why fret? Keep it loose. Could go either way ... have to wait and see, I suppose ...

Just because you don't get social networking doesn't mean that there's nothing to get. Nor does it mean that there is. Be proud of your fierce ambivalence. Give Facebook a go. Find out whether all this talk about accountability turns out to be accountable. Or maybe not ...

- "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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