A: It was Jacques Seguela who called his autobiography Don't Tell My Mother I Work in Advertising: She Thinks I Play Piano in a Brothel.
Gallic irony or not, it's deeply irritating, cutesy stuff, this; not least the implication that playing the piano in a brothel is a disreputable way to make a living. What is it, I wonder, that makes 90 per cent of advertising people so cringingly self-deprecating about the job they do? (The other 10 per cent claim that advertising is the mainspring of the economy and that without it, the free world would fall into totalitarian hands by Friday week. I cannot make up my mind which of the two groups is the sillier.)
Are you really opposed to your daughter becoming an art director or is this affectation? Has your chosen trade been regularly roughed up by some land-locked headmistress on parent/teacher day? Or are you terrified your daughter will find out how much fun you've been having?
Tell her the truth about the job: good bits and bad bits. Encourage her to take it seriously. Warn her against preciousness. Give her a pencil-box with Form Follows Function written on it in pokerwork. And tell her how lucky she is to have talent.
Q: I don't enjoy client entertaining. I enjoy my job and I'm told I do it well and I'm not a cold fish. The older I get the more difficult I find it to hide my distaste for false bonhomie etc. In your long and illustrious career you must have employed some techniques to get you through evenings with important but tedious people. Any tips?
A: People who are both important and tedious are also invariably in love with their own opinions. You do not need bonhomie, false or otherwise, to keep such people happy. You need a wide repertoire of nods (easily mastered), a fixed expression of intense interest and a remarkably small vocabulary. I once made "Astonishing ... three times? ... that's amazing! ... you really should write all this down, you know ... what happened then? ... and how did you get started? last for four hours, 25 minutes. He later wrote to say he'd never enjoyed an evening as much and had been greatly stimulated by my views. The final trick is to put the nods, expression and vocabulary on autopilot so the mind can hibernate. They never notice.
Q: I'm in a quandary with one of my clients - they won't pay for any of our scripts or ads to be storyboarded or drawn up. Fair enough, you may think. But my client doesn't "get scripts and rough layouts. They need highly finished visuals to understand the work, but they won't pay for those visuals to be done. If the circles I'm walking in decrease any more, I'll bump into myself. What shall I do?
A: Somewhere on your staff you will have a mesmeriser. Mesmerisers are creative people who can take a page of crassly written dialogue and a single prop and weave from them an irresistible concoction of delight and persuasion. Your client will be mesmerised.
Take care, however: the best mesmerisers are incapable of distinguishing quality from total crap. Do not let total crap fall into the hands of your mesmeriser.
Q: I'm trying to stick a knife in my CEO. How do I make it look like a pat on the back?
A: I know precisely how; but it is an immutable policy of mine to withhold help from shits.
- 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.