CLOSE-UP: ON THE CAMPAIGN COUCH ... WITH JB

Q: I am deeply unpopular within the advertising industry as a

result of a series of ill-advised public relations gaffes. How can I

redeem myself?



Whatever you do, refrain from writing lengthy apologia or blaming your

poor press on other people's irony deficiency. You will never be

believed, simply because nobody will want to believe you: we're all

enjoying your discomfiture too much.



Instead, take pride in your new high profile. Many of your competitors

have been striving for such prominence for years without success. See

this as an opportunity to become progressively more offensive.



Hire Max Clifford. Go on the Today programme and slag off both the

Advertising Standards Authority and David Abbott. Write a piece for the

Daily Mail describing your three-day week, your seven-figure salary and

your his-and-hers personal trainers. Take a full-page house ad,

depicting yourself naked, and proclaiming your kind of advertising to be

the new Christianity.



You'll soon be the most famous adman in the world and clients of a

particular inclination will beat a path to your door.



This won't, of course, restore your popularity within the industry, but

there's always been a place for an agency which is both immensely

successful and universally despised.



It's called brand positioning.



Q: I am an account director and have recently been put in charge of the

agency's biggest account, with instructions to keep the client happy at

all costs. However, the client has begun to make advances to me, which

are unwelcome. How can I let him, or the agency, down gently?



I could have wished for more detail. You do not tell me, for example,

whether you and the client are male or female, or if you're one of each,

or two of a kind, or married or partnered or none of the above.



For the purposes of this answer, therefore, I've had to make some rather

pedestrian assumptions. I'm taking it that your client is male, married,

with small children; and you are female and unmarried. I leave it to

your own ingenuity to modify my recommendations in the light of any

deviation from this pattern.



The first thing you must do is get your agency to organise a client

family day. Christmas time would have been ideal, but any school holiday

will do. If you have a major toy account, you should be doing it

anyway.



Get your chief executive and his/her wife/husband to write a letter to

all clients at their own lovely homes. The envelope should be addressed

to Mr and Mrs, thus ensuring that it's opened by Mrs.



The letter expresses regret that so little that modern parents do in the

line of work is ever known to their children and offers this modest

corrective: a warm welcome at the agency for the whole family, with

games and jellies and a live demonstration about making an ad for TV in

which the kiddies themselves can actually participate.



Your client will be most reluctant to accept but his wife will insist.

Within minutes of their arrival, you will have swept their children into

your caring, sharing orbit. See that they star in the commercial and

give them the video to take away. By the time they pick up their Smartie

bags and leave, you and your client's wife will be best friends.



From there on in, it should be a doddle. And however disappointed he

might be by this turn of events, he knows that she'd never forgive him

if he wanted to change agencies. Or even account directors.



Jeremy Bullmore writes a monthly column for Management Today. A more

serious look at problems in the workplace, it both inspired and

complements On the Campaign Couch. Bullmore is a former chairman of J.

Walter Thompson, a director of Guardian Media Group and of WPP, and the

president of NABS.



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