On the Campaign Couch...with JB
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign Couch...with JB

Q: I'm a (male) planner who's seriously considering going freelance. I'm fed up with not feeling valued by my boss and I'd like to work more flexibly. But the economic outlook seems precarious. Should I sit tight even though I'm miserable?

A: When people go on being miserable but do nothing about it, bad things happen. Miserable people not only do miserable work but they infect their colleagues with their misery. Misery is seriously contagious and everyone will know who the carrier is. Miserable people who just hang around being miserable sooner or later get fired.

Whatever you've been told, getting fired is always worse than choosing to jump: even if you've got nowhere to jump to. At the very least, choosing to jump is evidence that you're in charge of your own destiny. Hanging around until you're eventually fired is evidence of nothing so much as a sullen fatalism; with dire implications for both your self-esteem and your references. Severance money doesn't last long.

But just before you do jump, may I suggest that, as a planner, you do a spot of planning on your own behalf. Why are you not valued by your boss? What are you good at? Why do you want to work more flexibly? And why should a flexibly working you be attractive to potential employers?

On the meagre evidence of your letter, I have to say that you've given a great deal of thought to what you want for yourself and none at all to the needs and interests of any audience. For a planner, this is as elementary an omission as it's possible to make: it's about as crass as a consumer brand telling its potential consumers: "I need you to buy me because if you don't, I'll get de-listed by Tesco." If you're any good as a planner, you should certainly be capable of writing an effective marketing plan for yourself.

Shouldn't you?

Q: Dear Jeremy, I have been working at the same agency for the past ten years. We have just got a new head of department who does not seem to like me. What should I do?

A: I wonder how you behaved when this person first arrived. Specifically, how many of the following sentences have escaped your lips?

"As a matter of fact, we tried that a couple of years ago and it was a bit of a disaster, I'm afraid ..."

"I've been working with this client for five years now - and that's the way they like to do things, actually ..."

"Malcolm has always come to me direct - but from now on, I'll certainly ask him to copy you in if that helps at all ...?"

If you recognise one or more, then your new boss' coolness need baffle you no more. I'm not advocating abject sycophancy; just a hint of an acknowledgement that just conceivably one or two of his thoughts might even have a little something to commend them.

And don't ever remind him again that good old Guy used to buy drinks for the whole department on the last Friday of every month.

Q: A marketing director writes: Jeremy, I was invited to a recreational evening with my agency and was slightly alarmed by their behaviour and habits (both of which bordered on the finer side of the law). Should I take a firm approach with them? Or do I just turn a blind eye and hope it all "blows over", so to speak?

A: What, I wonder, are you worried about? Are you, in parental mode, concerned for their health and wellbeing? Or do you fear finding yourself in the Sunday papers?

Your only concern should be for the quality of your agency's work. If it's fine, fine. If it's not, put them on notice. It's at least as likely to be incompetence as loose living.

Q: The Advertising Association has launched a campaign to improve its standing with the public. Would a good starting place be agencies refusing to work on socially unacceptable business such as alcohol and high-interest loan companies?

A: Your suggestion is startling in the breadth of its ignorance. It would make not so much a good starting place as a guaranteed finishing place.

I'm afraid I haven't the patience to take you through the reasons in detail. Enough, perhaps, to remind you that competition in markets, as evidenced by advertising, is firmly in the public interest; that the public, rightly, does not regard alcohol as socially unacceptable; and that the Advertising Association exists to represent the interests of advertisers, agencies and media.

Please don't write to me again.

"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, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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