Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: There's a really hot young creative I want to hire and put in charge of our creative department, but our agency policy is heavily steered towards succession management. How can I get this person in without angering the paymasters?

A: Since your paymasters are about to impose a total ban on new hirings, your problem will very soon cease to exist. But let's suppose you just manage to wriggle in before the gates clang shut.

There's a lot to be said for succession management. Admittedly, it doesn't grab the headlines - but management by headline has a very ragged record. The difference between promoting someone from within and importing someone from without is this. Both of them will have weaknesses; but in the case of the insider, you'll be fully aware of them and in the case of the outsider, they'll take you by surprise.

Can't you take on this hot young person in a slightly less exposed position and let him find his feet? Catapulting him straight into the top spot may make you feel virile - but I'm told you can now take pills for that.

Q: Do you think Labour's cuddling up to the creative industries will lead to a long-lasting marriage? Or will adland and the others get dumped if it becomes politically expedient?

A: It was Tony Blair, guitarist and prime minister, who invented the creative industries. Until 1997 they didn't exist. Many still doubt that they do. The then Secretary of State for Culture ("Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver" - Hermann Goering) was commanded to form a taskforce. Later came the Ministerial Creative Industries Strategy Group (you'll know it better as MCISG) to help ensure a co-ordinated response to the needs of these virtual industries. The Government defines them as "those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property. This includes advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film and video, interactive leisure software, music, the performing arts, publishing, software and computer services, television and radio."

At first glance, this may seem a reasonably homogenous group - but not at second. When was the last time advertising generated and exploited intellectual property leading to wealth and job creation?

Libraries and bookstores have a much saner approach to classification. You won't find books on advertising in the Arts section; you'll find them in the Business section: and that's exactly where they belong. But advertising people love being thought creative and positively adore being bracketed with Robbie Williams and Lord Rogers. (Though it's unlikely Robbie Williams and Lord Rogers positively adore being bracketed with advertising people.)

If the advertising trade wants to be cuddled up to by Government, it should want to be cuddled up to for the right reasons. Not because advertising is "creative", but because good advertising spurs invention, speeds up innovation, encourages competition, keeps down prices; and as an almost accidental by-product, makes a wonderfully diverse media menu available at an otherwise impossibly low cost.

The longer advertising chooses to keep company with the art and antiques market, the more vulnerable it will be. The company we should choose to keep is the company of businesses big and small, competitive causes and COI.

Q: I've just left the army after more than 20 years and was interested in starting a new career in advertising - I've been told in the past that lots of the best people in advertising are ex-army. I've sent out lots of feelers, but I'm finding it hard to even get to talk to anyone. Am I too old (I'm 39)? Or is the ad industry no longer interested in recruiting people from different backgrounds?

A: Soon after World War II, there were lots of former soldiers in advertising. One was the legendary Colonel Varley, founder and monarch of Colman Prentice & Varley, the agency that was not only revered for its own intelligence and style but also spawned Collett Dickenson Pearce. When I joined JWT, there were four holders of the Military Cross in positions of influence. They were all impressive and many more soldiers joined later: all officers, naturally. The agency business, and their clients, benefited disproportionately. Disillusioned barristers, academics, poets and civil servants were also welcomed. I'm sorry to have to tell you that this is no longer the case. Sorry.

- "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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