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

Q: I recently watched our agency reel. It was lively, modern and very cutting edge, full of young people's music and unshaven youths of both sexes. As chairman, should I admit I didn't get a single ad on there?

A: You will be comforted to learn that most of today's television advertising is unintelligible to most advertising people. But they all, like you, believe themselves to be alone and so remain silent; each convinced that their shameful absence of hip-hop acuity, were it ever to be revealed, would disqualify them for all time from both respect and further employment.

It is for this deeply human reason that the silent majority bites its tongue; and incomprehensible advertising continues to be received with grunts of simulated approbation.

Clients, too, and even consumers, have volunteered to join this mysterious conspiracy. To admit to any level of incomprehension is to admit to being terminally uncool.

Optimist though I am, I can see no immediate end to this deadlock. Even as a chairman (perhaps, particularly as a chairman) you are unlikely to carry enough individual clout to blow the whistle effectively - there are too many reputations at stake. And under no circumstances invite a research company to come to your aid. It is well known that all research companies are the dedicated enemies of creativity and that the 20 best-ever television campaigns all bombed in research and made it to the screen only because of the heroic courage of their respective clients.

My best advice is to wait in patient silence (and it may not take too long, the way things are going) for the television medium to self-destruct. You will then find the confidence to say: "I cannot read that poster

- with only the obvious risk of being thought middle-aged and myopic.

Q: Since 11 September my agency has suffered a whole series of account losses and now our largest remaining client has threatened to walk out the door, unless I sleep with her. If she leaves I'll lose my job, if I sleep with her I'll lose my girlfriend. The client also looks like a "before

picture in a Weight-Watchers ad. How on earth do I get out of this?

A: Given your ungallant reference to Weight-Watchers, I'm sorry you chose to refer to this woman as your largest client. Indeed, it's hard to read any part of your letter and retain the slightest sympathy for you.

Why should her appearance have any bearing on your predicament? How would you have responded, I wonder, had she made exactly the same demands of you but had been delicate and delicious?

But of course, she wouldn't have done. It's only because you flattered the poor woman and let her believe that you fancied her that you've landed yourself in this self-constructed cesspit.

I'm happy to say that I can think of no useful advice for you.

Q: My account is run by a rather good-looking guy. I understand the rules about crossing boundaries and all that but none the less I really fancy asking him out to dinner and all that implies. If I have him moved off my business will that clear the lines?

A: I'm sorry to appear impertinent, but are you by any chance - how shall I put this, exactly? - the proud possessor of what drapers used to call a fuller figure? If so, and by the most extraordinary of coincidences, you might find the earlier exchange, immediately above, both revealing and helpful. Drop the slimy bastard now.

Should you, however, be delicately proportioned, let me apologise for suggesting otherwise and return to your question.

You have two choices. You can say: "Nigel, I am asking you to be moved off my business because I intend to ask you out to dinner with all that that implies.

Or you can just ask him out to dinner and see what happens.

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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