Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: My agency recently picked up a new client with a spend of £50 million. It's a great win for us but the bastards will not verify the size of the account so it hasn't gone on to Campaign's new-business league. How can I rectify this situation?

A: It seems a bit of a pity to think of your clients as bastards before you've even started working with them. Normally new clients become bastards only after the marketing director turns out to be addicted to BOGOFS and the much-vaunted communications budget of £75 million is revealed to include store interiors and transport.

The importance to agencies of gaining new business has gone from the more-or-less reasonable to the distortingly potty. The ability to win new business is mainly evidence of an agency's ability to win new business - not necessarily a talent of great value to clients. The greatest of all accolades should be reserved for that agency that, at the end of a year, could open its independent client reviews to public scrutiny and show that each of its long-established 37 clients had given it an 8 or higher on a ten-point scale. Though come to think of it, such a revelation would inevitably lead to them being swamped by new business which would inevitably mean that the following year ...

I digress. Just stop fretting about the new business league and start delivering the promises you made in the pitch.

Q: Just under a year ago, I hired a managing director to great trade press fanfare for one of the divisions of my agency - his experience was perfect and he came across very well at interview. Now, however, I'm hearing that his abrasive management style and arrogant attitude are alienating staff, to the extent that one of our best creative directors is threatening to leave. The problem is that he's very popular with clients and great at new business - and I don't want to admit I've made a big mistake in hiring him. What should I do?

A: It's not often that being popular with clients and great at new business is described as a problem. Do you, I wonder, put harmony before prosperity?

And is it at all possible that the greatest offence that your managing director has committed is to express public doubt, in forceful language, about self-indulgent creative work? Is that, perhaps, why your creative director has come running to mummy with tears and resignation threats?

An unworthy thought, I know, and probably inaccurate. But you and I have both observed how the protection of frail creative egos can begin to corrode an agency's essential honesty.

Before you de-hire this abrasive man, try encouraging his colleagues to be abrasive back. A bit of open fighting about quality and service, though disagreeable to sensitive ears, can be as effective as weight-lifting in building a muscular company.

Q: A marketing director writes: "Dear Jeremy. Relations with our agency have gone stale both on the creative and account management fronts and, by mutual consent, we've agreed to split and hold a review in which our incumbent will not participate. I've been reading about TUPE and, if my grasp of it is correct, my new agency will be legally bound to take on my old team. Doesn't that defeat at least part of the object of our review?"

A: You refer, of course, to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 (as variously amended) which implement The European Community Acquired Rights Directive (77/187/EEC as amended by Directive 2001/23/EC). TUPE is (or are) but one of a serious of related EC initiatives. Quite soon, any woman who remarries will be legally obliged to take the old husband with her and football managers will remain indefinitely responsible for star players despite having sold them. Still awaiting ratification is a scheme under which government ministers defeated in a general election will enjoy the automatic right to join the incoming party's cabinet. These all stem from the same source that proposed that the word failure should be replaced by the phrase deferred success and share the same noble objective: to eliminate the barbaric consequences of rejection.

Agencies needn't be affected. If all members of account groups work on at least three different accounts (which is what they should be doing anyway), TUPE won't apply - or that, at least, is the argument to put to the tribunal. Clients who misguidedly continue to demand full-time, 100 per cent, dedicated account groups will get what they deserve. They might as well go completely in-house and be done with it.

Meanwhile, I think you can safely proceed with your review.

- "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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