Fawnbrake Founder, and IPA Excellence Diploma in Brands co-Chair, Amelia Torode shares her memories of 'adland's great philosopher' Jeremy Bullmore who recently passed away aged 93.
Jeremy’s desk was always messy.
Perhaps that’s unfair. It would be more correct to say that Jeremy’s desk was always busy rather than always messy. At any rate, Jeremy’s desk was always covered in stuff: piles of books, with hints of coloured Post-It notes and book-markers peeping out; papers, so many papers, his own papers and notes, and those of others, and magazines like Campaign, WARC’s Market Leader and always sections of newspapers.
A desk that encapsulated the mind of JB - busy, interesting, diverse, intelligent.
I feel extraordinarily lucky that I had so many opportunities to spend time with Jeremy from my first nervous encounter with him as a university student back in 1996, applying to join the WPP Fellowship which he and Eric Salama had designed, to my last which was his 90th birthday.
Over the years, Jeremy moved from being my official work WPP mentor to a friend and North Star. Having read the eulogies being posted about him online, it is obvious that he was a North Star to many, offering both guidance and grounding to people, whether or not they had ever met him.
Precisely because words mattered so much to him, trying to find the right words to describe Jeremy and his impact is hard, as getting them wrong would be to do him a disservice.
So I’ll try my best to find the appropriate words to explain Jeremy, the lessons we can learn from him and why I think he was such a great (ad) man. Firstly, Jeremy treated everyone with courtesy and respect because he was interested by people - the coatcheck woman at Scott’s, the Ukrainian waiter at the Arts Club, the Maitre D at Wild Honey, journalists, clients or CEOs, Jeremy would ask and listen and remember. Stories and ideas fascinated him. "To be a success in advertising", he told me once, "you need to be the kind of person who finds something fascinating in every single section of the Sunday papers, even if you think you have no interest in something like Motoring."
Jeremy was as sharp and insightful as a surgeon’s scalpel, digging deep into questions and ideas and never letting up until he was satisfied. Throwaway comments, platitudes or sycophancy were all dissected. He simply wouldn’t let anyone get away with flabby thinking. Many times I left a Jeremy lunch, cringing with embarrassment about some flippant remark or lazy assumption I had made, convinced that I’d never be invited back, but I always was. Forensic examination was his way, and it meant that every conversation with him left you clearer and brighter than before.
Perhaps what really made Jeremy such a truly great (ad) man was his unflinching generosity. His Farm Street office door was always open, his lunch "dance card" as we used to call it, always had space regardless of your age, seniority and he always engaged with any letter, email or message. This deep generosity came from his respect for others. Jeremy never winged anything. From undergraduate recruitment talks at universities, to planning department lectures or major industry events, Jeremy took time, structured his thinking, developed and then wrote down his view. He would share his time and was always happy to help others. His Ask Bullmore column in Campaign and Dear Jeremy agony uncle column in the Guardian were hugely popular and he loved writing them. Questions he was asked included, "Are the tables turning on my prospects as a man?", "Is it worth going to Cannes?", "How can I stop the CEO talking about himself in the third person?". His advice was always intelligent and honest, helping countless navigate the tricky world of work and the oddities of adland in particular.
Jeremy was old, but also ageless - which is why I am perhaps still in shock about his death. He was such a part of my life in advertising. My world is a little duller without Jeremy, and our collective world of advertising is less bright. And although he is gone his thinking remain. I hope that his passing will be the catalyst for those who haven’t read his work to open one of his books, or download a talk.
Jeremy, thank you so much for your generosity of spirit, your forensic intelligence and your passionate interest in everyone and everything. Wherever you are now, I am raising a glass of chilled Picpoul to you with huge love. I and adland will never forget you.
Amelia Torode is a Founder of Fawnbrake and co-Chair of the IPA Excellence Diploma in Brands.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.