WPP has launched an online archive to celebrate the 67-year career of Jeremy Bullmore, following his decision to retire at the age of 93.
Bullmore is one of the leading advertising executives and thinkers of the last seven decades and the “Best of Bullmore” website brings together his writing, essays and columns over a remarkable span from the launch of commercial TV to the rise of social media.
He is best known for his 33 years at J Walter Thompson where he started work as a copywriter in 1954 and rose to become chairman of the agency which was sold to WPP in 1987.
He worked for WPP for another third of a century, including 16 years as a board director from 1988 to 2004, and found wider fame as a columnist and agony uncle for Campaign, Management Today and The Guardian.
Bullmore went on to become an eminence grise who continued to come into work in his office in WPP’s headquarters and wrote a thoughtful essay each year in the company’s annual report — most recently in April 2021.
Campaign has previously described Bullmore as “adland’s greatest philosopher” and “quite possibly the most admired man in advertising”.
Wunderman Thompson, the successor agency to JWT, has created the “Best of Bullmore” site for WPP. The History of Advertising Trust and Haymarket, the owner of Campaign, also provided content.
Caroline Marshall, the editor of Campaign from 1999 to 2004, managed the project in collaboration with Mark Read, the chief executive of WPP, and Chris Wade, the director of communications and corporate affairs.
Tess Alps, a non-executive director of Channel 4, former chair of Thinkbox and former PHD executive, and Read have written tributes, which have been published on Campaign’s website and will appear in the forthcoming Winter 2022/23 print issue.
“A creative but one who respects numbers and research”
Read said Bullmore is an example of the ad industry “at its absolute best”.
He said: “There’s his razor-like strategic mind, his wit, his ability to engage, enthral and entertain, his analysis of the industry without fear or favour. There’s also his generosity and the entirely selfless support, advice and kindness he has given to so many of us over the decades. As he retires, Jeremy represents our industry at its absolute best. We are so very lucky to have him.”
Alps described Bullmore as “a creative but one who respects numbers and research”.
Alps said: “Why wouldn’t you immerse yourself in the work of ‘advertising’s greatest philosopher’ especially when WPP has now generously created this rich archive that you can access for free? Some of us have been sipping at JB’s fount of eternal wisdom for so long that it’s quite hard to tell whether that was an original thought we had yesterday or whether JB quietly planted the seed in our brain in 1992.”
Marshall said: “Ever since I joined Campaign and asked Jeremy to write for the magazine, he has been a mentor and a friend. Whether you are in leadership or just want some life advice, his wisdom about brands and working in a service industry is here to inspire us all.”
Essential reading for generations of agency people
The Advertising Association and IPA also praised Bullmore’s contribution, which has included spells as chairman of the Advertising Association and non-executive director of Guardian Media Group. He also received a CBE in 1985 and the Mackintosh Medal in 2011.
Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said: “Jeremy is one of the most influential and widely respected people in British advertising. His Campaign column was essential reading for generations of agency people – entertainment, learning, insight and the best agony uncle the industry could wish for.
“He inspired us in so many ways from his various positions at WPP and JWT and did further honourable service at the Advertising Association for many years. Thank you Jeremy, for your incomparable contribution to our great industry.”
Paul Bainsfair, director-general of the IPA, said: “There is so much that one could say about Jeremy, especially given his long and fruitful relationship with the IPA.
“The thing that always springs to mind, however, is a memo he sent in 1965 to JWT’s TV producers. It recommends a young BBC designer who is starting out as a director and whom he believes they should work with – Ridley Scott. I love it because it shows that alongside his wisdom and all his great insights about advertising he was also great at spotting creative excellence.”
As part of WPP’s lasting celebration of Bullmore’s career, the company has turned his old office on the 11th floor of its Sea Containers headquarters into “the JB Room”, which is lined with shelves of his favourite advertising books and a selection of framed quotations from Bullmore.
Visit the Best of Bullmore website.