CLOSE-UP: ON THE CAMPAIGN COUCH ... WITH JB

Q: Many of the people I started out with in advertising have become quite wealthy. Some of them famous and wealthy. I have not. Can you think of a lie I can tell them to make them think I'm happy and not jealous? Which I am.

A: You should adopt a home for orphans in Papua New Guinea. Whenever you meet your rich and famous friends, wait until they've finished their witty description of Cheltenham week before showing them the pocket album of photographs you carry with you.

Some of the photographs should depict your good self, surrounded by tiny, impish, patently adoring New Guineans. Allow yourself a facial expression of dreamy contentment. Your rich and famous friends will become strangely quiet; and while not exactly envying you, will realise that you and they have somewhat different priorities.

If a lie is your preference, and the thought of frequent flights to Papua New Guinea deters you, simply ask your favourite studio to mock up the album. Should you choose this route, however, expect your jealousy to be replaced by an equally acute sense of guilt.

Q: Why do the creative department and the planners hate each other so much?

A: For the answer to this one, we need to turn to one of our greatest philosophers. Sir Karl Popper famously illustrated the fundamental asymmetry between validation and invalidation. You may posit the theory, said Popper, that all swans are white; and you may continue to observe white swan after white swan for the rest of your life; but this does not entitle you to claim that your theory has been validated. With every white swan logged, you may simply entertain your hypothesis with a slightly higher level of confidence.

Rather, said Popper, in the search for truth, you should seek not to validate but invalidate.

You need only to observe just one black swan - and your treasured hypothesis is comprehensively, unarguably, brutally demolished.

To the dispassionate scientist, in the pursuit of truth, such a revelation brings joy of a transcendental purity.

Creative people, however, are not dispassionate scientists. When account planners, signally failing to disguise their delight, report on yet another black swan observed, on yet another campaign idea killed in its infancy, creative people seldom experience a sense of joy. In a perfect world, they would express profound gratitude to their planners for such enlightenment. In the real world, they prefer to hate them.

Q: I'm not the biggest spending company in my sector but have been a consistent spender over the years and I feel loyal to my agency. I have the sense that they are making overtures to one of my bigger spending competitors. What should I do?

A: I'm always astonished that clients should be unwilling to discuss such matters openly. Is it that you believe your agency to be such frail and sensitive seedlings that to express such a suspicion would cause them to keel over with an attack of the vapours? Or that they would be so deeply affronted by your lack of trust that they would resign your account immediately on a point of principle? Please remember: you are the client; you hold the cards; and, even more importantly, you hold the chequebook.

Tell your most senior agency contact that you wish to be taken out to lunch. (On no account offer to be host: Nigel will immediately become defensive. It is universally recognised that clients pay for lunch only when about to break bad news.)

With grave geniality, tell Nigel that the word on the street is that his agency is courting your bigger spending competitor.

Do not ask for a response; simply establish that, should this rumour ever be substantiated, and long before the big spender had been safely landed, you would have transferred your account to GBH, an agency that you've long admired. And yes, thank you: you would very much like another glass of wine ...

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. A compilation of his business advice, Another Bad Day at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced £5.99. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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