On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

I run a small but perfectly formed agency where we pride ourselves on our relationship with our clients. I am under pressure from backers to grow our client roster and have been invited to work for a small but growing political party whose view of the world is completely at odds with my own. Should I just take the business and accept it’s part of bigger agency life or listen to my gut?

I sympathise with your dilemma but not with your use of the first person singular. You’re disinclined to take on this small but growing political party because its view of the world is completely at odds with your own.

It’s obviously difficult to run an agency on the basis of daily referendums but, when faced with a controversial potential client, it’s always a good idea to consider – and, if necessary, consult – the views of your staff. And those of your existing clients as well.

Party political clients are unlike any other: irrespective of budget, they can dominate an agency in both workload and reputation. Not a lot happens for much of the time – though senior people, you included, will be expected to be available night and day, seven days a week when the leader calls.

Then comes an election campaign – and the agency instantly loses control of its own logistics. Excellent account people, responsible for the agency’s major bits of business and who weren’t that keen on taking on the party in the first place, now find they’re without a team. For a week or two, total meltdown.

Even if, come polling day, your client does surprisingly well, it won’t end up in government; your agency will have lost whatever identity it might have enjoyed; and you’ll have lost a lot of money and a few priceless colleagues.

You’ve got much better reasons for passing up this high-profile new-business opportunity than your own personal political prejudices – even though they happen to converge.

There has been a reshuffle in the office and, after three months in my new job, I’ve been given a promotion. This has not gone down well with colleagues who have been at the company longer. Should I just tell them I’m amazing so they can just get over it?

I suppose it depends on how you see your future with this company – or any company, come to that. You may be entirely happy with the thought of being the permanent outsider: nobody’s best mate, universally unpopular, totally dependent on performance for survival, with no reservoir of affection to help you through when fortune seems to have abandoned you.

If your role model is Kevin Pietersen, then you’ve got it made. Tell them you’re amazing – while making it clear you know they’re not. Tell them to get over it. Stalk into the nearest office with a door – and shut it behind you. If you’re happy with all that, then go right ahead – and good luck.

You won’t want to be told what you’ll thereby miss – but I’ll tell you anyway: it’s soft, soppy stuff, mainly. Being almost as pleased when others get it right as you are when you do. Knowing you can admit to being without an idea in your head and confidently expecting productive abuse. Covering for Belinda’s hangover. Sharing extremely silly jokes.

But enough of all that… As an amazing person, you’ve got better things to think about. You, for example.

Is it true that good content follows the ‘money, bunny, funny’ rule (big budget, anything with animals, anything funny)?

I’d never heard of this rule before and I hope never to hear of it again. Rules, like hypotheses, can be best tested by attempting to invalidate them. If you can’t, they earn themselves a certain cautious respect. If you can, ditch them.

Any competition to pick the world’s most admired advertisement invar­iably features Volkswagen’s "think small". Tiny budget, no animal, no punchline. Rule ditched.

On further thought, discrediting this feeble little saying may have a value. If it helps dissuade the second rate from warming up yet another mega-million dish of leftover cutesy creatures, the world will be a less polluted place.

‘Ask Jeremy’, a collection of Jeremy Bullmore’s Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10.Telephone (020) 8267 4919
Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE

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