Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm a client worried about this issue of integration. I thought it was fashionable to integrate, so when I had the chance I put all of my digital media and creative into the same agency.

Now I hear it's fashionable to integrate all your media - online and offline - into a single media agency. So should I dis-integrate my digital account to integrate my media one? I'm a very confused client.

A: You're not the only one to be confused but you may be one of few to admit it. But if you're trying to follow fashion, you're asking for all the confusion that's confounding you. To remain sane, and in control, all you need do is remember that, whether you like it or not, integration happens. Somewhere out there you have an audience - and they are the ones who do the integrating. They don't call it that and they don't even know they're doing it. You do it, too, with other people's communications. It's instinctive and it's how we form opinions about things.

If you want your audience to be as confused about your brand as you are about integration, you'll spray out incompatible signals and let them try to make sense of things. If you want them to feel confident about your brand, you'll see they're fed carefully co-ordinated clues, from all media at all times. The only decision you need make is: who's best qualified to help you do this? It's nothing to do with fashion.

Q: I'm a talented young graduate but my agency doesn't seem to think they need to pay me enough to live on. I soon won't be able to afford the baked beans to put on my toast of an evening. Should I take a stand, or just park my talent elsewhere?

A: Agencies are usually quite good at recognising talent. The trouble is, not everyone who feels that their talent is going unrecognised is actually talented. I wonder if you are? I'm prompted to ask because of your apparent need to remind the world that you're a graduate. This is neither a wise nor a talented thing to do.

As I think I've mentioned seven or eight times before, from the moment you've secured a proper job in advertising, your degree is at best of no importance and at worst a handicap. Particularly if you keep reminding people about it.

There's one other characteristic of agencies that you might find helpful. They're all secretly convinced that all the best young talent is tucked away in other agencies. And so it has frequently come about that two competitive agencies have quite unwittingly exchanged young executives of exactly equal experience and competence, with each of them awarded a salary rise of more than 20 per cent. (No headhunters were available for comment.)

So don't just sit there grizzling. Offer yourself to the agency of your choice. They will be quite ready to believe that your existing agency is far too dim to spot your astonishing potential. I just hope it exists, that's all.

Q: A determined scriptwriter writes: Jeremy, I noticed the BBC is set to run a US series set in advertising's glamour days of Madison Avenue in the 60s. Do you think UK advertising in 2008 has enough substance to warrant a half-decent TV drama?

A: Interesting that you use the word substance. Advertising offers unlimited substance as raw material for TV drama. Without straying from reality, advertising permits scriptwriters to involve supermodels and international tycoons, vast sums of money, world-famous film-makers and photographers, spin doctors and ambitious politicians, awards presentations, international rivalries, intensely competitive pitches, defections, plucky little start-ups, legal challenges, mad clever people, media exploitation, high-technology, corporate social responsibility, recreational drugs, a young mixed-gender workforce, an alert trade press, vast work/life balance problems and an end-product that's familiar to every single person in the country.

It's true that doctors and detectives don't feature prominently in the advertising world - but you'd think that the above would provide more than enough substance for a half-decent TV drama, wouldn't you?

And yet, on all the evidence to date, the only people to take advertising at all seriously - and by no means all of them - are the people who work in it. To the rest of the world, advertising remains irredeemably frivolous. Perhaps it's just as well.

So I think we're doomed to feature only in the occasional and misguided comedy. This will revolve round the launch of a hilarious new product (probably a dentifrice with unintended viagran properties) and the invention of slogans. Nobody will watch it.

- "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.

Topics