But one of my employees, let's call him Al, is already at a standstill and has been for some time. I was wondering if you knew anything about the problem with trains coming in from Crawley. They seem to be delayed every day and, when he's not "working from home", poor "Al" struggles into the office between nine-thirty (if we're lucky) and a quarter-to-eleven. Al is our only employee from Crawley but if his experience is shared by other commuters, surely the drain in man-hours on the British economy from Southern Trains must be phenomenal. Is this something others in my position have brought to your attention and, if so, what course of action would you recommend we take?
A: Dear Paul, Thank you for this interesting question. I apologise for not having answered it sooner but the Olympics managed to disrupt even Campaign.
Oddly enough, no other readers have written to me about the persistent punctuality problems experienced by the morning train service from Crawley. So, at the risk of sounding misanthropic, an alternative explanation for Al's behaviour occurs to me.
Is it just possible, do you think, that Al is not being wholly open with you - and that his erratic clocking-in times owe at least as much to his own standards of personal discipline as to Southern Trains?
I raise this uncharitable thought because, as you may know, the most recent Public Performance Measure figures issued by Network Rail show Southern achieving a 91.7 per cent satisfaction level. It may be argued this period fails to include the autumn months, when the wrong kind of leaves on the line notoriously affect performance. But if we apply moving annual average, Southern still achieves a respectable 90 per cent, comfortably ahead of East Coast at 86.4 per cent and Virgin at 86 per cent.
So, before you write to the Treasury drawing its attention to the deleterious effect of Southern's incompetence on the nation's efforts to climb out of a double-dip recession, I suggest you have a word with Al.
Ask him, as a professional agency person, first to write a detailed report reconciling the above Network Rail figures with his own timekeeping over the same period; and second, to start keeping his own, audited Personal Performance Measure. It will be interesting to see, at the end of the next quarter, how Al's own figures and those for Southern compare. I would not expect there to be a significant discrepancy.
As the chief executive of a company in the creative industries, you may find this specific lesson in man management of general value.
Q: Dear Jeremy, Ever since some anti-social yobs sprayed their "tags" on our reclaimed London stock brick wall, I've had a visceral loathing of graffiti and all who perpetrate this vandalism. I've also developed an intense dislike of anyone who seeks to promote graffiti as an art form - too many art critics and public galleries, for a start, whose actions merely encourage deluded youth to think that defacing both public and private property is in some way OK. Now we've just won a major new piece of business and the client wants us to continue with its execrable campaign for an upmarket brand that features Banksy, the nadir of the genre. Should I get Brian Sewell in as a consultant to try to persuade the client that associating his luxury brand with vandalism just isn't appropriate?
A: Calm down, dear. If you're going to enjoy being an advertisement agent, and if you're going to go on being good at it, you'll have to rein in your personal prejudices. What you yourself approve of and what may be in your clients' long-term interests may not always coincide. You need to preserve an icy-clear distinction between the two.
Your visceral loathing of graffiti was provoked by personal experience.
It's entirely possible that, sooner rather than later, your feelings will be shared by a sizeable proportion of the population - particularly, perhaps, those in the market for upmarket brands. I hope you've got some up-to-date and sensitive qualitative guidance to help you here and ideally even a bit of trend data.
If it's beginning to look bad for graffiti, you should warn your client of the potentially adverse consequences of continuing with this campaign. You'd be irresponsible not to. But that's quite different from warning him off the use of graffiti because of your personal visceral loathing of it.
And if you think I'm saying that personal principles have no place in an adman's life, you haven't been listening.
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Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via firstname.lastname@example.org or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.