Q: I have a very dear client who has become a born-again Christian.
After a few glasses of wine at dinner he invariably becomes affectionate
in a deeply Christian way and expresses his delight that our friendship
will be eternal when we meet in Heaven. Do you think, for the sake of my
conscience, that I should let him know I am, in fact, Jewish or should I
let sleeping gods lie?
I'm sure it's my own lack of imagination, but what I want to know is
this: when a born-again Christian, after a few glasses of wine, starts
becoming affectionate in a deeply Christian way - precisely what takes
place? Are we just talking words here? Does he just mumble, in his
vinous but deeply Christian manner, about your rendezvous in Heaven? Or
does he speculate about the nature of that yearned-for rendezvous? And
does he, I wonder, become increasingly specific and decreasingly deeply
You may find these questions prurient: what business is it of mine, you
might think. Well, you started this - and on the basis of what you've
told me, I can't for the life of me work out why your conscience should
be troubling you. You're keeping a valued client happy, having the
occasional good meal with someone who's dear to you, and - with an
absolutely clear conscience - putting the whole thing down on
So what's bugging you? I suspect it's because you know very well that
the only reason your very dear client is very dear to you is because
he's a client. So imagine, for a moment, that he isn't. How do you feel
now about another long, deeply Christian evening with a rambling old
Never underestimate the influence that a generous advertising budget can
have on your affections. As long as he's a client, go on holding him
dear. The moment his company fires you, tell him you're Jewish. And if
he demands to know why you never mentioned it before, tell him it's a
very recent thing: you're born-again Jewish.
Q: We're a small shop down by the river and deadly keen to make a go of
things. Trouble is, we're finding it awfully difficult to get the trade
magazines to take us and our work seriously. Do you think if we ran a
press campaign for one of our clients with the word 'bollocks' in it, we
might have some luck?
You show excessive timidity. If that's the best you can come up with,
prepare for a long stay down by the river. Draft a press release now
explaining that, in the interests of creativity and senior partner
involvement, it's been a deliberate part of your growth strategy to stay
small. You're going to need it.
It clearly won't come easily to you - but what you must strive for is a
reputation for heroism. The trade press - and certain attention-seeking
clients - are much taken by heroic little agencies. Heroism in an agency
can best be demonstrated by doing all those things that the big,
multinational agencies are too craven or too greedy or too bureaucratic
It means refusing to pitch for Nike because of sweatshop allegations
(no, you idiot - you don't have to be invited in order to refuse). It
means resigning your biggest account on a point of creative principle.
It means giving every member of your staff an equal share in your
business. It means employing Tony Kaye.
If you still think that using the word bollocks in a press advertisement
is evidence of a fearless, fifth-wave agency, abandon all ambition
Jeremy Bullmore is a 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 email@example.com.