Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Dear Jeremy, is the best approach to responding to a client's brief to show them what they want, then show them an alternative?

A: That's one way, certainly.

Client: "I take it you showed me the first idea first because you'd confidently assumed that I wanted something boring and predictable? Well, you came up trumps with the boring and predictable all right: you clearly found it extremely easy. Practice, I imagine.

"That you should have so misjudged me makes me seriously question your ability to judge consumers.

"You then insulted me still further by presenting me with a derivative and irrelevant exercise in agency self-indulgence - presumably in the belief that I'd be so bludgeoned by the boring and predictable that you could sucker me into approving an idea that might conceivably get you an Almost Commended in a Puerto Rican film festival but wouldn't shift a can of soup in a year of famine.

"For the ninth and positively last time, let me make myself clear. Please do not try to work out what I want. I do not know what I want. If I knew what I wanted, I wouldn't have to waste my time in meetings with idiots. All I want is for you to do what you promised to do when I appointed you - against, you should know, the unanimous advice of the rest of my board.

"I want you to present me with just one idea that captures and enhances the nature of my brand and propels it into the hearts and kitchens of another seven million people. When I see that, I shall want it. I suggest we meet again next Tuesday. At 9am."

Q: Dear Jeremy, what is an "obesogenic" environment?

A: Obesogenic means that what makes you fat. (Obese+ogenic as in carcinogenic - geddit?) Like eating too much and drinking too much and walking too little.

It's a fancy word, reasonably new and, like a lot of fancy new words, is designed to help us shift the blame for our own paltry failings on to some amorphous body outside our control.

Its conjunction with the word environment is the giveaway.

This is what Mrs Thatcher was getting at when she didn't actually say that there was no such thing as society. And what Stephen Sondheim was getting at when he wrote Gee, Officer Krupke in West Side Story.

ACTION (Sings):

"My father is a bastard,

My ma's an S.O.B.

My grandpa's always plastered,

My grandma pushes tea.

My sister wears a mustache,

My brother wears a dress.

Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess!"

A-RAB (As Psychiatrist): "Yes!

Officer Krupke, you're really a slob.

This boy don't need a doctor, just a good honest job.

Society's played him a terrible trick,

And sociologic'ly he's sick!"

It's now universally recognised that our intensely obesogenic environment can be attributed entirely to ads.

If all ads for food and drink were banned, everybody would become slim and lovely almost immediately.

Q: Recently, a client decided to go 'crowd-sourcing' and the winners turned out to be professionals. I thought the whole idea was to get ordinary people to create the ads, so what went wrong?

A: If you get the stuff you want, who cares where it comes from?

It seems to have gone unnoticed that crowd-sourcing was invented by Terry Wogan. For 60 or 70 years, give or take a decade, he never wrote a script himself. Nor did the BBC have to provide him with a scriptwriter.

Wogan relied entirely on LGC - or Listener Generated Content as he wisely didn't call it.

For several hundred thousand hours of broadcasting, he simply read out the e-mails his audience had sent him. He got the stuff he wanted.

When it comes to ideas, the difference between ordinary people and professionals comes down to money. Ordinary people are content that their ideas be aired.

Professionals prefer something a little more concrete.

There's no discernible distinction in quality. The only argument for commissioning professionals is that their strike rate is 1,000 times higher.

But if you've got 100,000 ordinary people working away for nothing, that doesn't matter very much, does it?

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4919.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.