Ask Bullmore: Are the tables turning on my prospects as a man?

Ask Bullmore: Are the tables turning on my prospects as a man?

Campaign's agony uncle answers your career dilemmas. This week, a young man wonders if the tables are turning in light of initiatives championing women.

Dear Jeremy, International Women’s Day and the plethora of initiatives championing women have left me rather depressed about my prospects as a young man. Are the tables turning?

Oh, wow. I don’t suppose you have any idea just how many biases, prejudices, unquestioned assumptions and hidden insecurities you’ve managed to bundle into this sad little question. Let me unpick a few.

You take it as established fact that, until now, as a male, you’ve enjoyed an unfair advantage over women of equivalent abilities. Except that you clearly didn’t think it was in any way unfair. The birthright of the male animal, perhaps?

You implicitly concede that any career success you may have enjoyed so far has been in part thanks to an accident of gender. You have so little faith in your own inherent skills that, if stripped of this unmerited advantage, you fear for your future. And your fear is not based on the belief that, any minute now, all women will suddenly begin to enjoy the unfair advantages that have hitherto been the prerogative of men. By asking "Are the tables turning?", you make it clear that if the established discrepancy simply begins to close – if men and women begin to be treated with absolute equality – you’ll be at a disadvantage. 

Given all the above, the brutal truth is that you probably will be. And that won’t be the women’s fault.

Now that you know what it feels like, you may have a better understanding of why International Women’s Day and all those other irritating initiatives were not only necessary but long overdue. (And International Men’s Day isn’t until 19 November.) 

Dear Jeremy, My advertising agency has just unveiled an expensive TV campaign it has made for my brand. But, as soon as I saw it, I realised it depicts women as clichéd stereotypes. It would cost a fortune to can it now but, not only do I find it personally offensive, it could attract criticism of my brand. Any advice?

It’s some time since I worked in an agency but, as I remember, it was the custom for clients to formally approve detailed scripts before they were committed to production. How easy it is to get out of touch: hadn’t realised that clients now saw commercials for the first time in finished form. 

You do, however, have a way out of this potentially expensive predicament.

I assume that the clichés are all in the pictures – and, as many famous experiments have demonstrated, it’s quite astonishing how precisely the same pictures can evoke totally different emotions when set to very different soundtracks. Depending on the music, the identical footage of a young couple walking hand-in-hand at twilight either tells you that they are deeply in love – or that he’s about to strangle her.

Ask your agency to amend the soundtrack – a relatively inexpensive business – so that the pictures are clearly seen to be ironic. 

Your brand will be widely praised for ridiculing stereotypes and your agency will win a Lion.

Next time, though, do please make sure you ask to see a shooting script before signing off the production budget. 

Dear Jeremy, My biggest competitor has just appointed a social influencer as a marketing director. Should I be worried?

No. But neither should you sneer. Just because most new job titles turn out to be as empty as they first appear doesn’t mean they all do. Register this appointment and keep a keen, respectful eye on your biggest competitor’s numbers. If you haven’t got a mole installed in its ranks, listen out for the gossip. 

I don’t think you’ll need a social influencer, but then I don’t suppose you knew you’d need a chief digital officer. (Which, on second thoughts, you probably didn’t.)

Dear Jeremy, How can I add authenticity to my brand?

Add! What a giveaway. "New Burgrips! Now with added authenticity!"

If you can’t find it in the brand’s history, don’t try to buy some in. It’ll be as incongruous as a copper kettle
in a sushi bar.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via or by tweeting @Campaignmag with the hashtag #AskBullmore

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