CLOSE-UP: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

My agency prides itself on long client relationships built on great work, hard work and only moderate client entertainment. I have learnt with dismay that, in spite of the recession, competitor agencies have been holding lavish parties with C-list celebrities (The Hamiltons, Frank Bruno, etc) and class A substances to try and lure my clients. What, if anything, should I do about this?

Every now and then, thoroughly decent marketing companies hire shits.

I used to be deeply puzzled by this but I think I now know why. It stems from the ambivalent feelings many main boards still harbour towards their marketing departments.

There's widespread agreement that decency should be welcomed and rewarded in production, finance, human resources and investor relations. But decency in marketing (and perhaps in procurement as well) is held to be something of a liability. What's the use of playing with a straight bat when all your competitors are challenging the rules and terrorising the umpire?

Desperate times - and we're still in desperate times - demand desperate measures. If you're facing a multimillion-pound libel suit, who do you hire to undertake your defence? The silver-haired gent from central casting who treats all female prosecution witnesses with an Edwardian courtesy; or the silver-tongued bastard who reduces them to rubble?

So when a top marketing vacancy occurs, the CEO says to his chairman: "I'm taking on Gerald d'Amande. He's got a well-earned reputation as a rattlesnake and in my view that's exactly what we need right now." Only rattlesnakes such as Gerald d'Amande would be remotely interested in meeting Christine Hamilton.

So keep your nerve. Sooner or later, his CEO will tumble to the fact Gerald's social activities are seriously impairing the company's hard-won reputation. (Judicious use of trade press diary columns could well expedite this process.) Gerald will be fired; and with any luck, just before he's fired you.

Whatever you do, don't ask him round for a snort or two to meet Major and Mrs Thing from Millionaire. That's the quickest way to lose both the business and your self-respect.

I'm an account director on two of my agency's most important accounts. However, I increasingly find myself being asked to help out with new business and PR. I wouldn't mind this, but no allowances are being made for this extra workload and I'm worried that it's stretching me too thin. I'm sure, though, that this extra responsibility will lead to better things, so is it worth persevering with?

Watch it. Creative people and planners are open in their contempt for account persons' cravenness and caution; but creative people and planners are very seldom held solely responsible for the loss of a client - and account directors are.

If either of your two important accounts should leave the agency, nobody will leap to your defence. Do not expect your CEO to say: "I accept total responsibility for this tragic loss. It was I who persuaded Nigel, against his professional judgment, to take on these additional assignments." Even if the loss of the business is triggered by your client's acquisition; or by a megamillion-dollar accounting scandal; or by an earthquake in Guatemala: the responsibility for that loss will settle round your shoulders like a shroud. And there it will stay until the end of time.

People pretend otherwise: but that is the truth about accounts and account directors.

So watch it.

Is it time for advertisers to take new media seriously again?

I'm not sure that advertisers have ever taken new media seriously.

Some of them toyed around with a few digital things and several hundred agencies claimed to have produced the first truly interactive commercial and then (completely irrationally) the dotcom crash was thought to have let them off the hook.

Nobody will take new media seriously until they stop being called new media and are seen to be media.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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