Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I have been the chief executive of a well-known agency for almost a decade. However, following a restructure I find myself in a head of Europe role and feel I have been sidelined. I have talked with other agencies about all the top jobs in the industry, but have failed to find anything that can match my current, rather generous salary. What's the best plan of action?

A: Imagine, for a moment, that you have agreed to interview a young MBA with no experience of anything. He tells you that the lowest annual salary he would contemplate accepting is £35,000, that he would expect to be assigned to at least two major client accounts immediately and be given ultimate responsibility for one of them within a year.

If you were possessed of celestial saintliness, this is how you might respond: "Listen very carefully to what I am about to say because it will serve you well for the rest of your life. The first thing you will learn about advertising is that a successful advertisement presents the benefits of its product to the reader. A job application is also an advertisement.

If you are ever to be employed, think not what your employer must offer you, but of what you might offer your employer. By all means come back to me when you think you know - but for now, good afternoon."

Now let's return to you. I find it curious that, after years in the advertising business, you should need reminding of your own advice. You clearly believe that a ten-year stint as a chief executive entitles you as of right to a top job and a generous salary. Not once in your self-obsessed question do you pause to wonder what you're good at; how you might earn more for an employer than you would cost; what you might offer.

By all means write to me again when you think you know - but for now, good afternoon.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I've recently discovered that one of my agency's oldest clients has appointed a rival to carry out project work. Nothing has been said to me, and the client says he wants to continue our relationship. I feel somewhat let down by his behaviour. What should I do?

A: You should stop feeling aggrieved.

If this is the first time that one of your agency's oldest clients has appointed another agency for project work, you can count yourself lucky.

The longest and most successful of tenures never earns an agency the divine right to get its hands on all the goodies.

And the fact that your client ducked telling you about it could mean different things. You think it's evidence of ungentlemanly behaviour on his part. I think he simply dreaded a scene, with you all red-eyed and reproachful. I bet I'm right.

When clients start dreading going into their agencies, trial separations are seldom far behind. He now has a nice, new, eager young agency as a point of comparison.

If you go on being aggrieved, slowly and imperceptibly, with both sides disinclined to speak about it, you and he will drift apart.

So cut out the self-pity. Double your efforts on the work you do. Quiz your client on his new agency: anything you can learn from them? And be ready to act as reserve if his new project stumbles. They often do.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I'm the "new" new-business director of a fairly recently merged top-ten London advertising agency that has had a recent turbulent time management change-wise. I'm under extreme pressure from my fiery chief executive to bring new clients in but we're struggling to win anything (not helped by the very low morale of the agency). Recently we got on to a large pitch and the reason for losing has landed at my door - supposedly we didn't interpret the pitch brief correctly? Any advice?

A: London seethes with resentful new-business directors whose job specifications have been imprecisely agreed. There should be no ambiguity: are they to be judged on pitchlist inclusion or conversion? If the latter, five out of six are destined to fail every time.

Equally, don't distance yourself from the pitch team: "Well, I've done my bit, guys. Now it's up to you."

Do your best to persuade your management and a few intelligent potential clients to ditch the absurd convention of the theatrical pitch. This is madness: to spend an intense six weeks in creative solitude; then to assault the client with 45 minutes of breathless, unfamiliar certainties; and then to expect a standing ovation and a signed contract.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4683. Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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