Many many years ago when I was a naive young thing sitting in my ivory tower at university I found a copy of Campaign in our careers service library. I had been thinking about brands and brand image standing, as you do as a student, in a queue at the supermarket. I had been looking at people's baskets and was trying to work out what kinds of people I thought that they were without looking up at them! It sounds like an odd game to play, but it was eye opening to me in terms of the power of brands.
On the front page of Campaign was an article by Martin Sorrell talking about how ad agencies were losing the war for smart young graduates - who he said were choosing better paid careers in banking and management consultancies rather than advertising. So I wrote him a letter and told him to put his money where his mouth was and give me a placement at WPP. To cut a long story short, I didn't get a placement but I did get a job.
I was in the second year of the WPP Marketing Fellows in 1997. And I was enormously lucky to have Jeremy Bullmore allocated to me as my mentor for the 3 years of the Fellowship. Since graduating from the Fellowship Jeremy has become a proper friend and essential confidante.
I was asked to say a few words at the Advertising Assocation dinner in his honour last week as he recieved the Mackintosh Medal. I thought that I would share with you the speech that I wrote and the advice that JB has given myself and other Fellows over the years.
I think that I’ve got a pretty raw deal here tonight if I am honest with you.
Firstly I’ve got to talk about a subject that everyone in the room knows about.
In fact many of you have probably known Jeremy for longer than I have done, so you probably know more about the subject than I do.
Added to that, I’ve got to stand up after a talking heads video by the great and the good from around the world. Some of the most eloquent speakers you are ever likely to hear. So any attempt at erudite humour, or sparkling wit is going to sound a bit turgid in comparison.
Finally Martin who spoke directly before me was the person who hired me out of university - my first boss. Absolutely no pressure then.
So I won’t tell any of you about Jeremy’s enormous generosity of time and spirit. I won’t tell any of you about his modesty or his insight or his razor-sharp wit. And I wouldn’t dream of telling you about his kindness and thoughtfulness because - (a) you all know about that already and (b) I am in danger of making him out to be as sickly as the Werthers Original grandfather from the adverts, which as you all know couldn’t be further from the truth.
I wanted to share three quick stories with you tonight which I think sum up some of the best Jeremy Bullmore career advice he has given myself and other WPP Fellows over the years
I think that many of us here tonight consider Jeremy to be an un-official kind of mentor. I was lucky enough to be allocated Jeremy as an official mentor when I was awarded a WPP Fellowship back in 1997. Over the years Jeremy has helped me to understand and navigate this fabulous and sometimes tricky world and in the process has become what I hope is a genuine friend, although I am constantly reminded of my place in life’s hierarchy as I am known in Farm Street as “Amelia 2” (“Amelia 1” being his hugely talented daughter)
It was in my first year of the Fellowship that I became fascinated by this thing called the internet and it was thanks to Jeremy that this fascination began. “Just find something that you do that no-one else knows who” JB had advised me during one of our early mentor sessions. So I looked around at the folks at 40 Berkeley Sqaure and I “taught myself” the web as the only other people who seemed interested was the IT department. Coming up to the end of my year at JWT I was again with Jeremy to try and work out where to go to next to learn more about this new area. I was full of questions to ask him - which agenices, which countries, which people? Having listened to my digital babbling, JB remarked: “You’ve always got me here for advice, but just remember that no-one cares about your own career as much as you do.” I remember feeling a bit put out, as though it was a kind of rebuke but it was actually the best careers advice I had ever been given. The knowledge that actually the only person who has control over your own professional destiny is yourself was a great wake up call.
The second piece of advice that has stuck was actually to another Fellow, but its advice that I have since taken to heart. The Fellow in question had recently graduated from the Fellowship and was looking for some guidance from Jeremy. She outlined a number of big sounding job offers that she had on the table and asked for his opinion. JB listened quietely and then gave the following advice: “When faced with a number of different opportunities always take the one that is most terrifying. At the very least you’ll learn what humility tastes like.”
Finally a tale told to me by a Fellow here tonight: “Early on I went on one of those university milk round WPP presentations, it was Oxford I think. JB came along. All the Fellows, in our varying degrees of cockiness, were intending to busk our parts of the presentation. Jeremy however came with a typed speech that he had written specifically for the occasion. As respectful of the undergraduate audience as he would have been a room full of CEOs. He delivered it in his own quiet way, and there was compete silence in the room as everyone leaned forward to listen. It was a lovely example of JB being “humile” - even though of all people, he needn’t be.”
So three lessons for professional development - self reliance, bravery and humility. Three pretty good rules to live by I think.
It’s a huge thank you from myself, your mentees here tonight and all the others around the world who couldn’t be here tonight. Between all of us you have forced your way through countless bottles of white wine and fish and chip lunches. The impact on your cholesterol must have been dreadful. The impact on all of our careers profound. And for that I just want to say thank you again.
The WPP Fellowship was a fantastic experience for me and totally shaped my career. I wouldn't hesitate ot recommend it to any graduates out there looking for their first job in the industry! There would be no way that at such an early stage in a career that you would have access to people like Jeremy, Jon Steel and Martin. It really is brilliant.