A: I sometimes think of conducting an analysis of the careers of star creative teams. Using Campaign as a reasonably reliable source, and awards as a slightly dodgy index of success, I would track ten named creative pairs over ten years and probably almost as many job changes. And this is what I would discover: the success of any star team is dependent at least as much on their current agency as on the team itself.
You know perfectly well what you ought to do. You didn't hire a creative team: you hired an agency. It has given you exemplary service and provided you with a brilliant campaign that has more than paid for itself. Your two young creatives were chosen by that agency; trained by that agency; and were given planning and account handling support by that agency. So buy your pair an extravagant lunch, wish them all the luck in the world and keep them on your Christmas card list.
Q: I'm the chief executive of a large media owner, which is going through rocky times. As such we've had to impose pay-freezes and make redundancies. Because morale is so low the board has decided that it would be nice for the junior members of staff to see me wandering around the office and asking polite questions, to show how caring the company is. The problem is I'm rubbish at small talk, especially with a bunch of pimply 20-year-olds. All I can think of, and depending what day of the week it is, is "How was your weekend? and "What are you doing at the weekend? Any tips?
A: First tip: no self-respecting CEO should accept advice from his board when it is so patently fatuous. I can think of no more effective method of further eroding morale than an out-of-touch chief executive padding disconsolately round his key departments asking questions that might well be thought prurient were they not so obviously inane.
Second tip: whatever the state of your business, morale is likely to remain low as long as you regard your people as a bunch of pimply 20-year-olds and make little effort to disguise it. Who hired them, pray?
Third tip: if you want your staff to believe you care about them, you will need to present them with evidence. In the absence of money, time comes a good second. Prepare your people for better days ahead by giving them individual and generous dollops of time, training and professional counsel. (The personal characteristics you reveal in your letter suggest that you would be well advised to delegate these duties.)
Q: Sagaren Pillai writes: My attention has been drawn to a recent glowing review of a masterpiece I created while on freelance duty. My delight turned to disappointment when I noticed somebody else's name credited to my creative work. Humiliated and angry, how do I explain this to an interviewer now that I'm back on the job trail?
A: Dear Sagaren, thank you for your kind enquiry. Retrieve the glowing review devoted to your masterpiece.
Then dig out the payment slips received from the agency where you worked as a freelance.
Finally, detach this page from Campaign. Make several photocopies of all three. At your next interview, conceal your anger and humiliation. Simply present both your masterpiece and your supporting evidence; then express your determination to produce work at least as good for an honest company.
Please let me know how you get on.
- 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.