On the Campaign couch: How can I build relationships with my colleagues outside the pub?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch: How can I build relationships with my colleagues outside the pub?

I'm having trouble getting to know my co-workers outside the office because I don't drink.

Dear Jeremy, I started at a new agency recently but I’m having trouble getting to know my co-workers outside the office because I don’t drink, so I always miss their after-work hangouts. I haven’t told them I don’t drink because my reasons for that are personal. What should I say to them instead and how can I build a good rapport with my colleagues outside the pub?

As an advertising person, you should be practised at putting yourself in other people’s shoes. So try putting yourself in the shoes of your new colleagues.

Here you are, new on the block, shunning their company, never in the pub, no idea why. Must be a bit of a loner or maybe feels superior or both. Either way, not one of us.

By failing to tell your new mates that you don’t drink, you’re simply fuelling speculation – and most of it, given that it’s mischievous, inventive agency people doing the speculating, is going to be unsympathetic.

They can hardly be blamed for thinking that you don’t want to go to the pub with them because you don’t want to go to the pub with them. You don’t have to say why you don’t drink. It’s none of their business – and they’ll soon stop wondering. Just tell them you don’t.

A friend of mine who didn’t drink spent a lot of his time with his mates in the pub. But he didn’t say: "Oh, just something soft for me, please. Maybe just an apple juice or something…" That would have sounded thoroughly wet and wimpish. Instead, he’d invented a complicated cocktail for himself and on which he insisted. As far as I can remember, it was based on dry ginger and needed a splash of lime, three ice cubes and exactly seven drops of Angostura bitters in a pint mug.

Quite irrationally, the fact that his usual took twice as long to concoct as anybody else’s gave it a kind of spurious manliness. He was certainly one of the boys.

One of the major clients at the agency I work for is a brand I don’t fundamentally respect or believe offers a good product. How can I reconcile myself with this?

I’m sorry to have to say this, but you’re in the wrong trade. Advertising has no room for people who mistake their personal preferences for objective truth. That’s one of its less acknowledged delights.

You can’t enjoy working in advertising if you’re a snob: cultural or otherwise. I expect your response to my response will be: "No wonder advertising is held in such contempt when its practitioners are prepared to flog anything as long as they get paid to do it." To which my response is: "Why don’t you try being inquisitive rather than censorious? It’s much more fun."

Presumably, this product that you cannot bring yourself to respect is bought and used and bought again by many thousands of grown-up people. When you’ve worked out why, you’ll not only be a better advertising person, you’ll also be a more enlightened (and likeable) human being.

I’ve been asked to speak on a panel of men about the importance of women in advertising. It will require my wife, who is also in advertising, to leave early from an important pitch to collect the kids from nursery. Should I do it?

No. You should write a note, to be read out by the chairman of your panel, that says: "Sorry I can’t be with you this evening but my wife, who also works in advertising, is taking part in an important pitch so I’ve happily agreed to collect the kids from nursery."

Actions being a great deal more convincing than words, this should make your position absolutely clear. PS Please don’t think that I didn’t realise that you invented this question.

As a senior creative at an independent agency, I cannot understand the injustice of clients who only give us 15 minutes to present. How can I change this?

Your competition will also be given just 15 minutes to present. As a senior creative at an independent agency, you should leap at the chance to outwit them. To be successful, you’ll have to be unusually creative. Perhaps that’s why you’re so indignant?

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham, TW1 3SP.