On the campaign couch ... with JB
Q: I need to fill an executive creative director hole in one of the higher-profile agencies in our network.
The choice is between an extremely talented creative team and an extremely talented lone creative. Which set-up do you think ultimately works better in that role?
A: Look around long enough, and far enough back, and you can find convincing evidence that all set-ups can work and that all set-ups haven't. I'd like to know more about this talented, lone creative. They come in two flavours: the brilliant, instinctive, solo author; and the inspiring, delegating, standard-setting, credit-sharing, omnipresent influence - who works more like an editor than a frontline creator. They can both be wonderful; but you need to construct the rest of the department quite differently around them. Agencies love starry, stand-out ECDs but sometimes put PR values before overall quality of output. There's a lurking paradox here: the bigger the agency, the greater the value of the inspiring, delegating, omnipresent influence; yet the more they yearn for solo, stand-out stardom.
Then there's this extremely talented creative team. Extremely talented creative teams should be producing extremely talented creative work: as much of it as possible. They'll want the most demanding briefs themselves and should probably have them. The last thing you should do is promote them to touchline status.
Co-executive creative directors can work - but only if the titles are there for display purposes only. It must be tacitly but universally accepted, not least by the pair concerned, that one of the co-creative directors is more equal than the other. Internally, right or wrong, there can be only one final opinion on creative work. Should you try to maintain the fiction of absolute equality of authority, the rest of the creative department and, crucially, account management will gleefully set out to divide and confuse.
I hope this helps.
Q: I've been offered and accepted a well-paid job at a media owner whose reputation is, shall we say, tarnished following a series of public scandals. I'm worried that I'll get shunned by friends when I tell them where I work. What should I do?
A: You clearly didn't accept this job for its immediate prestige. So the big question is this. Did you take it totally cynically? Or did you take it having satisfied yourself that this media owner had a fundamentally decent business and that you'd enjoy helping to restore both its fortunes and its reputation?
If the latter, then what the hell are you worried about? When your friends ("friends"?) make funny faces and turn their backs on you at parties, you'll be entirely happy to tell your real friends and your family (and not least yourself) that you're doing a difficult but worthwhile job. You may lose a friend or two who weren't worth having in the first place, but your self-respect will be intact.
Alternatively, you can snigger when these non-friends try to shun you. You can wink complicitly and tap the side of your nose with your finger. You can insist on buying three consecutive rounds because (tap-tap): "I sign off me own, y'know. That was part of the deal!"
Within a matter of weeks, you'll have lost every proper friend you ever had, replaced them with a small army of creeps and spongers, and consigned your career to irreversible oblivion. Which, if you really did take this job for the money alone, would be an entirely appropriate outcome.
Q: We've been told that marketing and advertising played a role in stirring up last summer's London riots. As a marketer that spends millions on selling my brand to young people, should I feel at all responsible?
A: It's likely that some of the goods that were looted in last summer's riots were selected because they were thought desirable. As a marketer, you were paid to make those goods desirable. Ergo, you were in part responsible for those riots. Say that quickly and it may even seem to make a certain soft sense. Then count to ten and start again. If that's the problem, examine the solution.
No goods, services or people may be presented as desirable in case those without are moved to acquire them illegally. Window displays are banned. Packaging is banned. Cosmetics are banned. Costermongers are fined if they polish their apples. Clothes are assessed by a state authority to ensure that their purpose is entirely functional: there's an annually agreed minimum skirt length.
I'm not encouraging you to be irresponsible; just reasonably comfortable about your place in the wider scheme of things.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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