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

A: Caspar Thykier writes: I've just started an agency with four

others. A new FTSE 100 client has approached us and says he'll give us

the business if we can crack the brief for the company's Christmas card

and fast. The client wants the card to wish everyone a merry Xmas,

launch their new range of mobile phone jingles, and change people's

perceptions of Christmas to stop them thinking of it as a white

Christmas to a blue one, to tie in with their new Corporate Identity.

How do we break the news that Christmas is meant to be a time of giving

and goodwill?



A: Dear Caspar, thank you for your kind enquiry. I can understand the

hunger for business felt by any new agency but your continued interest

in this particular client smacks of desperation. You should have more

confidence in yourselves. It may be, of course, that your knowledge of

the reality makes confidence impossible; in which case, you must pretend

to be confident.



As a start-up agency, you have one never-to-be-repeated advantage over

your stodgy and established competitors: you can behave as if clients

need you more than you need them. So take your prospective client

through his Christmas card brief, pointing out in icy detail its many

faults and foolishnesses. Explain that, if his corporate brief were to

be anywhere near as muddled and self-serving, he would be wasting your

time and his money - of which the former is the more valuable. Then, as

you hand him his coat in reception, give him, with the compliments of

the agency, a specially designed Christmas card of exquisite simplicity.

You'll almost certainly win his business; at the very worst, you'll win

a hot reputation.



PS. If you don't have an art director capable of coming up with a

Christmas card of exquisite simplicity, your lack of confidence is fully

justified.



Q: Simon Marquis writes: What do you think modern Christmas card

etiquette should be? Sending clients unwanted cards smothered with

signatures of people they never meet seems daft, but then failing to

send any greetings at all seems a bit churlish and unseasonal. Your

counsel please, Your Guru-ness.



A: Dear Simon, thank you for your kind enquiry. You're right: year after

year, dozens of otherwise level-headed media companies send out cards

signed by the following: nine Vicki's, four Vicky's, six Nick's, seven

Lindsay's, Si, Lou, Jon and Gracie, 12 Amanda's, one Nigel - and a Patti

who puts a little heart-shaped dot over her final "i". It's either the

case that all agencies are staffed by exactly the same people or some

enterprising stationery supplier is now offering pre-signed cards as a

value-added service.



You could perfectly well get away with sending none. People only realise

they haven't had a card when they notice that somebody else has. By

sending none, you neatly avoid this divisive possibility.



But as a sensitive, cultured media person you will wish to do more. So

ask Vicki (or Jon) to go to the Royal Academy and/or the National

Portrait Gallery and buy a great many postcards of paintings by the most

obscure artists. Any suggestion of seasonal relevance should be avoided.

Now add mystic inscriptions.



Here are three for your starter pack: "as darkness lifts ...", "when

shall we weep ...?", "alone together ..." And sign them, "simply Simon".

Your reputation as a sensitive, cultured media man will be greatly

enhanced. Almost certainly.



Q: Martin Bowley writes: Please can you help me. I've finished writing

most of my Christmas cards but am stuck on how to address my old mate

Dominic Mills. Any advice?



A: Dear Martin, thank you for your kind enquiry. I suggest you write:

"Dominic - many congratulations on that award to you and everyone else

at MindShare. Seasons greetings, Martin."



He'll spend all year wondering what you said in the card that went to

Proctor.



- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director

of Guardian Media Group and WPP. He also writes a monthly column for

Management Today. A compilation of his business advice, Another Bad Day

at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced £5.99. Address

your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com, or Campaign, 174

Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.



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