This week sees the relaunch of Campaign magazine, the advertising industry organ, under the stewardship of its new editor, Claire Beale.
As deputy editor, Beale has written some waspish pieces about me over the years, so I've been looking forward to the opportunity to get her back by declaring her new Campaign a failure. Last week's completely inscrutable dog's breakfast of a press ad announcing the revamp had me lacing up my kicking boots. But, rather gallingly, the new Campaign is rather good.
Where the old magazine had long been floundering in a kind of nether world between frivolous backbiting on the one hand and pomposity on the other, Beale's Campaign is, on the evidence of the first issue, a far more serious, even-handed and thoughtful affair. This serious stall is set out in the front-cover photo of David Bell, the chief executive of the US-based holding company Interpublic and possibly the most serious man in adland. (Check out the tie he's wearing; it costs more than your car.)
The new design is sharper, more businesslike and less comic-like; the paper it's printed on is thicker and whiter; and the use of colour throughout succeeds in making even the most serious material bright and inviting, a trick that comes together well in the features.
There's an extensive new media section (Beale is a former media editor, and her love of the subject shows), an international section entitled The World, and a five-page bit called The Work, which features the latest print and TV advertising from the UK and elsewhere. Here, among the credits, there is recognition at last for the role of the planner in advertising, a bizarre oversight that has been going on far too long.
Private View, the section in which a leading advertising person criticises the week's ad output, remains. But from now on there are two "private viewers" per issue, one from adland and a "civilian". This not only provides an educational insight into how non-advertising people view what we produce, but it also affords those might suffer from an insider's bias (a weekly occurrence) a second and impartial opinion.
Less desirable, and one of the few remnants of Campaign's backbiting heritage, is the reappearance of the A Punter Writes... column under the heading Speaker's Corner. This, written anonymously, gives people without the guts to stand by their opinions the opportunity to throw mud. Such people should be given nothing but a Chinese burn.
Finally, the new back page most resembles the back page of The Daily Telegraph. Gone is the flabby, unfunny old diary. Now, in the top right-hand corner, there are brief but surprisingly well-turned pieces on prevailing business issues. Beneath this section are the new business rankings, no longer confined to the leading ad agencies, but including media agencies and direct marketing agencies. Finally, on the left is Hotline, moving from its usual place on page two. This contains a dozen or so mainly ad-industry news stories (mostly the product of press releases) of the kind that would have made up the body of the old Campaign.
This back page is the new Campaign's philosophy in microcosm; less gossip, less space for ad agency-related spin and puff, more business insight and an eye on the progress of all areas of the communications industry. Campaign will continue to annoy and delight adland in equal measure, only now it seems set do so against a much broader spectrum of people. And to do it far more elegantly.
Because Campaign has always enjoyed a privileged position as the only game in town, the one and only "school noticeboard" where UK ad folk can go and see what's going on, it has become a bit lazy, particularly in the past few years. This new, grown-up rethink of a fading institution turns things around. Though I'm fresh from a kicking in Private Eye's Ad Nauseam column, and now risk their Order of the Brown Nose, congratulations are in order, even if delivered through gritted teeth.
Psycho or CEO - can you spot the difference?
In New York last week, leafing through a business magazine, I came across an article which so touched me that I rather anti-socially tore it out. It's about the crisis gripping American business after the collapse of vast corporations like Enron, WorldCom etc. It highlights particularly the appalling behaviour of their CEOs.
In a clever passage the author, Jem Bendell, writes: "They use superficial charm, manipulation, intimidation, and violence to control others and satisfy their own selfish needs... They lack conscience and feelings for others, cold-bloodedly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest guilt or regret. That was Professor Robert Hare. No, he was not trying to describe a CEO, but talking about psychopaths."
The University of Vancouver's Dr Hare, Bendell tells us, is a world expert in the study of psychopathology, adding, "Perhaps he could be an expert on the modern CEO? When asked, Professor Hare did say that if he could not have secured access to prisons for his research, he would have tried a stock exchange."
Phew! It makes you glad that you're working in the ad business in dear, civilized old Blighty. I mean, "superficial charm, intimidation, and violence", "selfish" "violating social norms and expectations". Surely no CEO remotely fitting this ugly bill could get on in the UK ad biz...Reuse content