I suggested that, until he learned to write succinctly, he'd never be a senior copywriter - and challenged him to rewrite his letter in 100 words or less. His prize: a comfy-grip pen with chain for secure attachment to his desk. I'm delighted to report that he has succeeded triumphantly - in only 70 words. So for the first time in the history of this column, the answer comes before the question.
Q: Dear Jeremy, due to the political beliefs of my creative director, I write all my copy by hand. However, he keeps pinching my pens. A corn on my finger forces me to use pricey comfy-grip pens, which I cannot afford to keep replacing as I am poorly paid. He's a great CD and I don't want to alienate him by confronting him. Should I start walking to work? (Please send me a Jeremy Bullmore comfy-grip pen with chain. Thanks.)
A: His pen, with chain and screw eye attached, has already been despatched. His anonymity was preserved. He may yet become a senior copywriter.
Q: Andrew Cracknell writes: Dear Jeremy, one of the many unsolved mysteries of the debate of the past 20 years on "Integration" is the question of which of the suppliers should be the ringmaster. Ad agencies, branding agencies, customer relationship agencies - all claim the high ground. But what do you think of the view that the PR agency, in holding the overall brief for the complete public face of the company, should be the body to monitor and co-ordinate all communication with the outside world. If they were up to it. And in the light of your answer, what do you think of England's chances in the Ashes?
A: Dear Andrew, I'm sorry you asked this question since I do not know the answer to it. For proof, read on.
You're right: dozens of different would-be ringmasters vie for the high ground. Any agency claiming some strategic/planning capability (which means all of them) is theoretically qualified to act as master-integrator.
But most of them, of course, have a dominant skill, which makes their allegedly disinterested advice suspect. This is what clients hear: "What you need is more TV advertising/interactive/buzz/direct marketing/sales promotion. Now, what's your problem?" The strategy-only specialists are not so handicapped; but since they have no dominant skill, are incapable of delivering the killer execution. And that, of course, is what every right-minded marketing director is looking for. The IPA archives, exhaustive though they are, contain no examples of Brand A consumers defecting en masse in favour of Brand B as a consequence of being captivated by Brand B's inspired selection of communications channels. There's another candidate, too: the client. There used to be wise and wonderful people called Advertising Directors. They were seldom itinerant mercenaries; they were long-term brand guardians, steeped in the lore of their own companies and skilled in extracting the best from their agencies. Nobody talked about integration but that's what the best of them did without knowing it. Today, they'd have to be called something a bit more portentous, of course - Brand Gestalt Guardians, perhaps, or Consonance Custodians - but I think they'll be back. In first-generation companies, this is what the Founder does.
Where will it all end? If you were to prompt me to tiptoe hesitantly towards a tentative hypothesis, I'd suggest with some diffidence that, more than in the past, clients will perhaps put their trust not in any particular kind of company but in an individual; and that that individual may be found in any of the major disciplines - including PR - or indeed in the client's own company. Or not, of course.
It follows that we may look forward with confidence to one extraordinary Test Match victory - made possible by one extraordinary Botham-like individual performance; and for the rest, slaughter.
Q: How can I rise up the ranks but AVOID working on pitches?
A: It's no more difficult than becoming a world-famous heart surgeon while avoiding blood.
Q: I am a chief executive at a large ad agency and I'm absolutely terrified of my PA. What should I do?
A: Promote her. (Alternatively, should I have made politically incorrect gender assumptions: him.)
- "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@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.
This article was first published on Campaign