Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Dear Jeremy, I'm a marketer whose chief executive has just gone into the press praising our advertising for turning around sales of our flagship brand.

Yet I'm one of those marketing directors who isn't on the board and who is well below procurement in the internal pecking order. I feel I'm fully justified now in fighting for a place in the boardroom. What do you think?

A: The late and wonderful Stephen King, whose collected writings are now available in book form*, memorably placed account planners on a spectrum. It ranged from Grand Strategist at one end to Advert Tweaker at the other. All roles had their value - but the closer you were to being a grand strategist, the more valuable a planner you were likely to be.

The same sort of scale can be applied to marketing directors. There's a vast discrepancy between the theory of marketing and the practice of marketing and it shows no sign of shrinkage. This is the theory: "Marketing is much broader than selling, it isn't a specialised activity at all. It encompasses the entire business" - Peter Drucker. Every other respected marketing guru makes the same point: marketing is what should infuse and inspire the whole organisation: from investment policy and R&D onwards. But in life, it doesn't. In life, marketing is just about getting rid of stuff. When a company can't get rid of enough stuff quickly enough, it doesn't start making different stuff; it hires a new marketing director. And the new marketing director isn't allowed to suggest that the stuff they make isn't good enough stuff - that's none of his business. So he hires a new ad agency.

On the spectrum of marketing directors, you'll find Grand Strategists at one end and Advert Commissioners at the other. There are very few Grand Strategists. This is not entirely their fault. They are not expected to contribute to Grand Strategy. They're expected to get rid of stuff - either by disguised price cuts or by commissioning new ads.

And it stands to reason (doesn't it, chairman?) that a chap whose only responsibility is to commission some new ads from time to time hasn't earned a place in the company cabinet. (When they've done a decent job, just give them a bit of a puff in the trade press; they'll be pathetically grateful.)

So I'm sorry to have to tell you that, far from advancing your career cause, your hugely successful advertising campaign will have set you back severely. Now everyone knows where you sit on that spectrum; and it's nowhere near the right place.

Q: Dear Jeremy, on the basis that soon EVERYTHING will be digital, how long before that word drops out of adland parlance?

A: By all that's sane, logical and business-like, that word should never have crept in in the first place. Even when nothing else was, digital was never the right word for digital. We might as well have been buying analogue all these years. "And the winner of the best 30-second analogue for farinaceous foods is ..."

Given its evident inadequacy, you'd think we could confidently predict its rapid replacement by a better word soon; a word that actually had something to do with what it was. You'd be wrong.

That hustling, bustling world of advertising, that world of the young and irreverent, heedless of history and impatient for change; that's the world that, for at least 87 years, has gone on referring to something called below the line. Nobody knows what it means or why it started. It has dangerous overtones of snobbery and for generations has impeded the adoption of blindingly obvious integration. Yet this meaningless, mischievous phrase lives on; and so, I fear, will digital.

Q: A young opportunist writes: Jeremiah, Campaign's just picked me as a "Face to Watch". How do I cash in on this? Should I demand a pay rise? Talk to the national press? Tout my wares elsewhere? Or just be happy that my gran's finally got something to be proud of?

A: The Guardian, you may remember, once ran a Young Businessman of the Year Award. Of the first ten winners (and I speak here from memory) three went to prison, four went bankrupt, two fled to Northern Cyprus and one is now employed as a Junior Bursar at a prep school in Wales. Thrusting young tycoons began offering huge sums of money to be tippexed from the shortlist.

Tell absolutely no-one about this deeply unfortunate occurrence and you may just get away with it. Otherwise, it's probably Australia.

*A Master Class in Brand Planning: The Timeless Works of Stephen King. Ed: Judie Lannon, Merry Baskin. John Wiley

"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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