Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

By Jeremy Bullmore, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 13 November 2009 12:00AM

Q: Dear Jeremy, our star creative (who has undoubtedly helped turn around the fortunes of the agency) has become a bit taken with his own fame - awards, accolades and magazine photo-shoots are a weekly event these days.

As a result not only has he started making quarterly monetary demands (which is never change that would be found behind the sofa) but he's started making ridiculous demands such as having his own personal stylist, that we pay for, a dog in the office, and a dog walker that we pay for and a motorbike. Is he taking the piss?

A: This deluded person may well have helped turn around the fortunes of your agency but he's also got it heading fast for the rocks. By indulging his every demand, you're publicly endorsing his clear conviction that he's not only your agency's most talented employee but is also The Only One Who Matters. There has never been an agency in which only one person matters and there never will be. If you continue to provide him with a dog walker and personal stylist, prepare yourself now for the short path to company destruction that I describe below.

All your clients and potential clients will want exclusive attention from The Only One Who Matters. They will not work with anyone else. Why would they, when no-one else matters?

Because of time pressures, photocalls and raging vanity, The Only One Who Matters will fail to deliver on every other project that he undertakes; and because he's the only one who matters, you won't be able to replace him with anyone else. Disillusioned clients will begin to drift away. The Only One will tell everyone else that it's all the fault of feeble management: they haven't got the guts to fight for great work. Your seven best people, who along with The Only One were hugely instrumental in turning around your agency's fortunes, will all be wooed by headhunters smelling blood.

One by one, they'll be snapped up by grateful competitors. Three will take clients with them.

And it's at this point that you will have passed the point of no return. You will have left it too late to save your agency.

There's only one agency left in town who still believes that The Only One is indeed The Only One. Putting trade press headlines before sanity, they take him on. He publicly disowns your agency claiming that gutless management has left him no choice but to take his genius elsewhere. And the three people who between them could have reshaped and repaired your company have already gone. You are left with a wreck of an agency; an empty shell of an agency; a heap of demoralised rubble. You issue a press release claiming how recent events will dramatically enhance your agency's depth and quality of service - and even you find it pitiful.

I expect you know by now what I think you should do.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I work at a top London agency at a mid-management level and our boss has just announced that he's making a huge raft of redundancies. I have a horrid feeling that I might be for the chop. Is there anything I can do at this late stage to safeguard my future at the agency?

A: You should marry someone whose father is the chief marketing officer of the world's second-largest consumer goods company. He doesn't have to award your agency any business; the tantalising possibility that he might will see you safely through the longest of recessions.

Q: Dear Jeremy, we've hired a young account guy who we can already see is destined for greatness - the signs are all there. We're not the biggest or most glamorous of agencies, so how can I keep nurturing him and helping him fulfil his potential with us, without getting stolen immediately by one of the big boys?

A: If he's as good as you think him to be - in character as well as talent - don't shower him with disproportionate money. The best people don't like feeling they've been bribed to stay. Instead, help him with every form of personal and professional development. Consider him seriously for The International Exchange (known as TIE).

Leo Burnett, DDB, JWT, Mindshare, Ogilvy, Wieden & Kennedy and others have already sent people: it is an act of belief and trust without equal. In the words of Sir Chris Powell: "TIE is a terrific idea. It allows advertising people to use their skills to make the world a better place and gives them a chance to grow and broaden their experience." For more, see www.theinternationalexchange.co.uk.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4683.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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