Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Dear Jeremy. Help. I've just left advertising for a job as a marketer and realise it's not as easy as it looks.

Any tips for someone who knows plenty about advertising but actually (I realise) very little about the business of manufacturing, packaging, distributing and selling things?

A: I was once, at some industry function, introduced to the chairman of a very large company indeed. Anxious to ingratiate myself with this powerful person, I made appreciative noises about one of his marketing directors with whom we'd worked closely and well for many years. The chairman's face clouded over. "Humph," he growled. "He'd be a bloody sight more useful if he spent less of his time with J Walter Thompson and a lot more with Tesco."

Advertising people love marketing people who love advertising. When you work with such people, it's easy to believe that all a marketing director has to do is inspire some mould-breaking, epoch-defining, gong-scooping ad - and everything else will fall into place. Distribution doubles, sales soar and the marketing director in question gets 17 head-spinning job offers. Presumably that's what you had in mind when you made the reckless decision to cross to the dark side.

You were very innocent - and you haven't much time before your innocence is noted, very possibly with terminal consequences. If you try to wing it, you'll be dead in the water.

So come clean immediately. Claim a level of ignorance even deeper than the truth. Ask if you may spend at least a month as a humble assistant to each of the following: the head of R&D, the top research chemist, the sales director, at least one regional sales director, the production director and the financial director. Go on the road and get to know the factory backwards. Study The Trade as if for a degree. Read the books and mug up on case-histories. Decline, politely, all invitations from your advertising agencies - particularly the one you've only recently left. There are even some conferences you might find instructive.

After all that, you should just about be fit for purpose. It's more likely, however, that you'll be pining for advertising again. Proper marketing demands grown-up people who don't mind getting their hands dirty. I wonder if you're one of them?

Q: As a new-business director, I can tell you it's dog eat dog out there. Waiting for business to come your way is not an option. But I don't want my agency to come across as desperate or lose an account because we encourage our clients to consolidate and they decide to pitch? Can you be too pro-active?

A: Of course, you can be too pro-active. That's what this word "too" means. It means excessively. It's easy to be excessively irritating, excessively attentive, excessively demanding, excessively hospitable, excessively sycophantic. Worst of all, is to be excessively self-interested.

What's impossible, however, is to be excessively considerate. If there was ever a time to put yourself in your clients' shoes, to look at life through your clients' eyes, to understand your clients' angst, that time is now. Coming up with wily ways to do constructive things before you've even been invited to do so will never seem desperate.

And if you truly, deeply believe that it could be in your client's interest to consolidate, then you better say so. If you don't, the other company's agency will suggest it to the other company - and you'll be left with no business, no reputation and a lot of self-loathing.

Q: An upcoming campaign that our agency has created for a popular FMCG brand features what is, in my opinion, one of the most annoying jingles you've ever heard. But I will admit that it's incredibly catchy, and although I think people will hate it, they'll find it hard to get it out of their heads. The brief was to raise awareness of the brand, so should we be confident that our client will be happy with it?

A: Here are four people who've recently recorded above average awareness scores: Bernard Madoff, Josef Fritzl, O J Simpson and Hazel Blears. None of them will be celebrating.

Your brief was easy. Just let it be known on the internet that your brand is in part made from Mexican pigs and you'll achieve quite high awareness levels - and at a low cost. But I don't suppose your client would be happy. Awareness in itself is a pointless and hazardous objective. It's great to be famous - but what should your brand be famous for? That's where the skill comes in.

- "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.