A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch: am I ready for a promotion?

How do I know I'm ready for a promotion?

I’ll keep this simple.

Most people who know they’re ready for a promotion aren’t. They’re so busy working out how to get promoted that they quite forget to do the job that, had they done it well, would have led to their promotion. Most people who know they’re not ready for a promotion are. But those in charge of promoting them think that people who don’t think they’re ready for promotion lack the personal drive and confidence to cope with the extra demands that promotion would make on them, so they don’t promote them. People who continually push for promotion have ideas above their station and get shoved back into their box, while people who never push for promotion aren’t fully committed to the company and like to get home for the children’s bath time. 

Many people think that the best way to achieve promotion is to swap companies but it’s wise not to swap companies more than five times in two years. Remember that standing still while everybody else surges forward isn’t called demotion but that’s what your friends will see it as and exactly what it will feel like, because that’s what it is. 

In real life, you’ll know you’re ready for promotion only when you’ve been doing the new job for a year; and not always then.

Hope that helps.

I’m a marketing director and the agency I work with received a low score in the Campaign School Reports. Should I think about reviewing?
Try turning your question upside down. Suppose you’d been getting increasingly dissatisfied with this agency for more than a year; that you’d held a formal review with its chief executive and left him in no doubt, in writing, that standards were unacceptable; to which he responded: what did you expect, given the parsimonious fees your procurement people had forced on him? 

And then along comes the Campaign School Reports, fairly glowing with gush and promoting the agency from a score of eight last year to one of nine this year. What’s your reaction? 

In the light of your question, I assume you call your marketing team together, all of whom shared your opinion of the agency and a few of whom have accused you of being too soft, and say: "It’s now entirely clear to me that we have gravely misjudged our talented friends at GumDropZ. As you know, Campaign magazine is deservedly known as the Bible of Adland and its rating of this agency must certainly be accepted as being better-informed and more authoritative than our own, who have worked with them for only five years. 

"Now that I’ve read this report, I can see that they’re an agency of quite exceptional ability and therefore propose that we entrust them with our entire brand portfolio while doubling their fee, which I now recognise as having been derisory. We may count ourselves lucky that they have graciously persevered with our business for as long as they have." 

Only if you find the above response entirely rational should you call a review. Unless, of course, you’ve been fed up with them for years, in which case you should have fired them ages ago.

Are off-site days a waste of time, have you found? Our agency seems to get very excited during the day but then nothing seems to happen afterwards.
It’s a very long time since I’ve been on an awayday but what I chiefly remember about them is a joyous sense of unreality. There we were, in some agreeable hotel, being encouraged to think irresponsibly. And so we did. We had hilarious thoughts and unworkable thoughts and fantastical thoughts. And no-one was allowed to say anything negative about anything.

But the trouble with thinking irresponsibly is that irresponsible thoughts rarely, if ever, transfer usefully to real life – where responsibility and practicality have the tiresome habit of reimposing their implacable disciplines. 

Playing tennis without a net is supposed to be liberating. It isn’t. It’s like that siren aspiration "complete creative freedom". The only lasting joy in our trade comes from using our wits to conjure up an elegant solution to a dauntingly matter-of-fact brief. And we’ll never do that in an agreeable hotel thinking irresponsible thoughts.