Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: The latest IPA Census shows again that adland is a young person's game. Where do all the seniors go?

A: Here are two published statistics. Total UK annual ad expenditure: £20,000,000,000. Total number of people working in UK advertising: 19,077. We should congratulate them. On the basis of these figures, they are far and away the most productive workers the world has ever seen. How do they do it? But, of course, you know the answer. Those 19,077 people are just the ones who work in IPA ad agencies. They represent a fraction of those who work in advertising. The vast majority of people who work in advertising don't work in advertising at all. Adland is a far, far bigger country than adland suggests.

There are tens of thousands of people in companies' marketing departments; and COI; and the sales divisions of newspapers, radio, cinema, television, magazines, the internet and outdoor; and advertising research; and production companies and artists and photographers and printers; and fundraisers; and advertising education; and advertising regulation; and the advertising trade press; and the direct marketing companies. Fifty-five people work for the IPA - and even they aren't included in the advertising industry figures. Most of the people who spend most of their working days involved with advertising would never describe themselves as working in advertising and absolutely nobody knows how many there are. All I can tell you with some confidence is that it's quite a lot more than 19,077. And not all of them are 26 years of age.

If you join an advertising agency straight from university, and continue to believe that advertising is simply about ads, by the time you're 40 you may well be wondering what you should do next. Your employer may well be wondering, too. Foolishly, advertising agencies no longer employ the statisticians, economists and philosophers who once gave them invaluable stability and staying power. Business acumen, acquired over time and of incalculable value to clients, is now sought elsewhere.

But things look a great deal rosier when you realise that adland isn't just adland and that a good grounding not simply in ads but in advertising - brands, persuasion, assembling a case, human nature, research, communications, media, people, that sort of thing - qualifies you for any number of interesting opportunities. You're not one of 19,077: you're one of several hundred thousand. And many of them are well over 40.

Q: My client is as timid as a new-born kitten when it comes to trying something new. I've so many great ideas and I need to convince them to trust my vision. What should I do?

A: One of the many things that make clients timid is being assaulted by their agencies with great ideas. The more you proclaim originality and call upon your client to exhibit his cojones, the more fearful he will quite understandably become.

There are two ways to overcome this problem. The first solution, which I recommend, is to build up an astonishing portfolio of utterly brilliant, sales-propelling, award-encrusted work - all done for other clients on other clients' money. A record like this can turn the most timid of clients into a tiger. I'm surprised you haven't gone this route.

Alternatively, precede the disclosure of your latest great idea with a 76-minute PowerPoint presentation. All the 117 slides should feature numbers, bar charts and equations. Your commentary should include the following words: precedent, regression analysis, econometrics, low-involvement processing, Harvard Business Review, Millward-Brown, metrics, effectiveness database, ROI, Plan B, accountability, neuroscience and fundamental-principles-established-over-70-years. And here are some words you must under no circumstances employ: original, breakthrough, mould, envelope, award, courage, guts, category-busting, Cannes, cog and gorilla.

He'll either buy your idea immediately or ask if you could make it just a touch more adventurous.

Q: I've climbed to the top of the tree in the ad industry and now I think it's time to bow out and make room for some fresh young talent. But before I put retirement plans in place, is there life after advertising?

A: Here we go again. I wonder what you mean by the ad industry? I bet you mean ad agencies. And ad agencies, though an extremely important part of advertising, are no more than a fraction of it. The tree you've climbed to the top of is but a humble elm in a forest of redwoods. Please read the first Q&A with some care. It should give you comfort. No need to reach for the cardigan yet.

- "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