On the Campaign couch

I am the most creative person I know – always have been – yet my brilliance continues to be overlooked at my agency. The same thing happened at my previous two agencies. How can I escape this failure to get the recognition I deserve? I have set myself strict targets and they are not being met.

Your frustration is totally understandable. You have my heartfelt sympathy. It’s quite absurd that a person of outstanding brilliance should go unrecognised by no less than three different agencies. Agencies long to hire brilliant, creative people and often pay large sums of money to acquire and retain them. How can it be that they continue to overlook you?

But when I stop to think about it, I can see that it’s possible. If your brilliance has never been recognised, it presumably means that the fruits of your brilliance have never been published; which, in turn, must mean that no-one’s in a position to evaluate them. Or, rather, the only people in a position to evaluate your work are your good self and those responsible for approving or rejecting it.

It’s clear that your own view of your work differs from that of those to whom you’ve submitted it. You know it’s brilliant; others disagree. So your work doesn’t run. And so nobody else has the privilege of seeing it.

So let’s move on to motive. Agencies are intensely competitive; they long to be seen to be producing brilliant work. Why, I wonder, should three of them fail to acknowledge yours?

Perhaps it’s envy. Perhaps the sheer, breathtaking originality of your work makes the work of your peers and superiors seem drab and pedestrian. They simply can’t live with the prospect of an open comparison. So they turn it down.

It’s a possibility, certainly. Creative people, in particular, are known for their insecurity and resentment of others. ("Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies" – Gore Vidal.)

But there’s a problem. There are plenty of creative directors who entirely properly see their role not as principal author but as editor, improver and inspirer. Any brilliance that emerges under their overall stewardship will be at least as much to their credit as to the credit of the originator. Such creative directors long to discover and promote the brilliant; and, indeed, they often claim to have done so when they haven’t. They should be drooling over your work.

So I’m reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the reason your brilliance is so consistently ignored is that the advertising business is largely made up of second-rate people who would have sent Picasso packing. They’re constantly urging each other to break the rules, challenge the orthodox, push the envelope and shatter the mould – but it’s clearly all talk. When someone like you comes along and actually does all those things, they’re just too thick to appreciate it. It’s increasingly clear to me that you’re just too good for this murky trade that masquerades as creative.

There’s a very simple way to test this proposition. Hand in your notice immediately. My very strong instinct is that it will be accepted with alacrity; which, in itself, of course, will totally confirm the wisdom of your decision. You will finally have made your point – and I hope it brings you lasting satisfaction.

Which is more important – winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the Grand Clio or a black Pencil at D&AD?

Each of these is more important than the others and vice versa. This is not as glib as it sounds. You need to ask: important to whom? When you win the Palme d’Or, it’s far more important than a Clio or a black Pencil for the simple reason that you’ve won it and nobody else has. ("It is not enough that I should succeed – others must fail" – Gore Vidal.)

Is it maudling to worry about whether you’ll have an advertising epitaph (let alone wondering what it will be)? I spend hours sat here, doing just that.

The adjective "maudling" doesn’t exist. Maudling was a Chancellor of the Exchequer sacked by Thatcher. Maudlin means to be drunk enough to be emotionally silly. As it happens, Maudling often was. Why don’t you just get on with your work?

‘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, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE

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