Q: I am working my way up the slippery agency management pole but
have had to turn down two recent offers to go on golfing days, one with
a client and the other with senior agency management, because I don't
play. I know that the real business is done on these days. What should I
A: I hope you won't mind my saying this, but you sound a bit of a creep;
and a creep, what's more, of limited imagination. The scene you describe
is lifted straight from the worst kind of sitcom. You actually admire
these golfing super-bores and long to join them, not because you like
golf but in petty pursuit of career advancement.
There was once a time when agency account people were wonderfully
There were portrait painters of private means; lawyers on an open-ended
sabbatical; Armenians of mysterious origin who spoke five languages
fluently and occasionally English; bookmakers' runners and the
In the good old days, client people and account people were never, as
they are now, depressingly interchangeable. Clients may have hugely
enjoyed the company of their agency counterparts but would never have
employed them: far too colourful for the Great West Road.
I'd like to believe that you could help start a renaissance of the
colourful account person. It's high time it happened and it would
certainly grant you escape from your self-inflicted predicament. But I
sense from your question that it is quite beyond you to be interesting -
so either jack it in altogether or take golf lessons.
Q: What the hell is a GRP and could someone explain it to me in plain
English. While you're about it, what does Media Neutral mean?
A: It is not at all advisable for marketing people to understand their
own jargon. I would be happy to explain a GRP to you but it would in no
way improve the quality of your life. You'd soon be challenging people
in meetings, slowing everything down terribly and earning a reputation
as a pedant.
I don't know what Media Neutral means either, but I use the phrase
frequently and have never felt handicapped by my ignorance. I think you
should stop being quite such a perfectionist.
Q: An old agency colleague of mine, now a client, says she can't give me
her business because it would ruin our friendship. How can I convince
A: For an agency person, you seem very naive. This former colleague of
yours is clearly lying. Her reluctance has nothing to do with your
friendship; it's just that she knows your agency too well.
She knows that your international president would instruct you to resign
her account the instant a juicier assignment became available. She knows
that your executive creative director maintains his fragile self-esteem
only by hiring lickspittles. She knows that your internal
cost-accounting system is by far your most creative product. Above all,
she knows you.
Against all this, consider her alternative. Fawning invitations from
agencies she has long admired; speculative campaigns, produced on time
and for no money; and the chance to work with people who've never
witnessed her inability to judge creative work or her paso doble at the
last office party.
No argument exists that would persuade this person to bring her business
to your agency. If you have ruled out bribery as an option, you should
cut your losses and look elsewhere.
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.