Industry sage Jeremy Bullmore wins Advertising Association’s top individual award

Actually the biggest surprise about this is that Bullmore, one-time creative director and chairman of JWT and then a long-serving director of WPP, hadn’t won the Advertising Association’s Mackintosh Medal years ago.

Bullmore, who’s also well-known for his brilliant agony aunt columns in Management Today and Campaign, presided over JWT as it lost its seemingly unchallengeable position as the number one UK agency in the 1980s.

To make matters worse it was supplanted by the upstarts Saatchi & Saatchi who then compounded their crime (in the eyes of the agency establishment anyway) by opening an office in JWT’s bastion of Berkeley Square, Mayfair and plastering a bloody great Saatchi & Saatchi logo over it despite only occupying two floors in the building.

But Bullmore, born in 1929, came from a more polite era when gentlemen didn’t pinch other gentlemen’s accounts and account representatives at JWT (or J. Walter Thompson as it then was) were furnished with a list of fine vintages so they didn’t embarrass themselves in front of the client, who had also probably been to a public school and had a good war as well.

JWT London also had an intellectual streak, exemplified by Bullmore’s predecessor Dr John Treasure, majoring on research and, to an extent, the behavioural psychology then prevalent in the business.

This intellectualism suited Bullmore down to the ground, he has always been fascinated by the apparently mundane business of selling. One of his many publications is called ‘Why is a good insight like a refrigerator?’ In another, for WPP, called ‘Polishing the apples’ he pointed out elegantly and clearly why consumers bought the answer to their needs, not the product.

Which pretty much explains what modern advertising is about.

Bullmore always makes you smile and you are ridiculously pleased to be invited to share the joke with him.

Ages ago when I left Marketing Week my former colleagues organised a surprise party and prevailed on Bullmore to present me with something or other. At the time he was one of the biggest cheeses in town so they assumed we were pals, or at least knew each other.

Up steps Jeremy. “Hello Stephen,” he said, “so nice to meet you.”

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.