Q: Our client loves us but has taken against our sister creative
agency, which handed us the media business in the first place after
winning it full service. The client has now asked us to help him find a
new creative agency behind the back of our sister shop (which is,
incidentally, very snooty about the 'grubby' business of media). Where
should our loyalties lie?
A: Cast your mind back to 1864. It was then that media agencies in the
United States of America hit on an ingenious new tactic in their battle
to keep and acquire clients. Fierce competition had pared margins to the
bone, quantity discounts had reached Green Shield levels and the
delivery of just one more bang for the same buck would have led to
So what a few of the nimble-witted ones did was offer clients an
entirely free service. Not only would they select the magazines in which
they bought space, they would also provide the words and pictures with
which that space should be filled!
The full-service agency was born - and flourished. The first creatives,
far from feeling snooty about the grubby business of media, actually
owed their existence to media and felt deeply in their debt. It is only
over the past 120 years or so that this relationship has changed. As you
will have noticed, few creatives today, as ignorant of history as they
are of business, feel any deep-seated sense of gratitude towards their
I remind you of all this because it should give you new hope and
self-confidence. What happened once will almost certainly happen again;
indeed, there are signs that it's starting already.
So look your sister agency in the eye, tell them that your mutual client
is deeply unhappy and on the move, and offer, in both your interests, to
take over creative responsibility with immediate effect.
I cannot promise that this suggestion will improve relationships between
you and your sister agency. If you share a parent company, there will be
a good deal of sneaking off to the headmaster and complaining about your
ingratitude, incompetence and disloyalty. But the headmaster, having
investigated the facts and being keenly interested in the retention of
revenue, will certainly side with you.
It could soon be 1864 again.
PS. You must, of course, tell your client you're doing this. He'll love
you to pieces.
Q: I'm doing so much freelance work I think it's beginning to affect my
day job. Should I stop immediately or continue to catch up on my sleep
in production meetings?
A: Neither. You must contrive to get yourself promoted. It is one of the
curiosities of the agency business (and very possibly of life itself)
that the greater the distance between yourself and the workaday
manufacture of things, the more illustrious your reputation and the
bulkier your pay-packet.
You, naively, have allowed yourself to become valued for the ads you
write. In consequence, you are asked to write more and more but are
still broke. I urge you to leave such menial work to others and build
yourself a more lofty reputation.
Here are one or two tips which others have found efficacious.
Cultivate a reputation for the encouragement of young talent. If you
must still write, confine your writing to long-term vision statements.
Argue the case for new corporate culture paradigms. Learn to delegate.
Above all, master the practice of meaningful silence.
Before very long, I promise you, you'll be leaving the office at three
on a Friday and asking if anyone knows the name of a good financial
Jeremy Bullmore, former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director of
Guardian Media Group and of WPP, and the president of NABS. He writes a
monthly column for Management Today. A more serious look at problems in
the workplace, it both inspired and complements On the Campaign
Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London
W6 7JP. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.