Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm quite close to the account director who looks after my brand at my agency. He's just asked me to be godfather to his first child. Would this be inappropriate?

A: Yes. Inappropriate is a wonderfully imprecise word. It excuses you from providing a reason for your decisions. You can decline to donate to charities, interview colleagues' sisters' teenage children, buy another ISA or be part of a discussion panel on juvenile obesity - all on the grounds that it would be inappropriate. It's seldom challenged. In your case, however, you need to be clear exactly why becoming your account director's first child's godfather would be inappropriate.

You say he looks after your brand. Well, it's probably not your brand, but your company's. And you're paid to make that brand flourish. There is almost certain to come a time when you believe the brand needs a change of agency or at the very least a change of account director. Or worse - you don't, but your board does. At once, a difficult decision becomes doubly so. Defend the agency and you'll be thought to be putting a personal relationship before the interests of your company. Fire them, and your godson's father will look at you with bewildered, wounded eyes.

But mainly it's inappropriate because it's not fair on the child. It deserves a godparent whose relationship with its father isn't complicated by other interests and who's likely to be around for the long haul. And that's what you should say, nicely of course, to your account director.

It is, I'm afraid to say, either insensitive or devious of your account director to have suggested it in the first place.

Q: Dear Jeremy, my creative director is adamant that we should enter an ad for a big awards scheme that is not the version that the client approved and ran. He said no-one would notice and that this was the only way we'd stand a chance of winning. My chief executive has set the agency a target of improving its position on the Gunn Report and promised bonuses if we do so. Should we scam?

A: How do you feel about drugs and sport? Do you think it's fine as long as you don't get rumbled? Or do you, while hoping not to sound too Blimpish about it, believe that the taking of performance-enhancing drugs: a) destroys the whole, glorious point of competitive sports; b) means that a great many honest, gifted and dedicated people will be denied the legitimate glory they'd otherwise achieve; c) breeds cynicism, not least in the young; and d) creates an "if-that's-the-only-way-and-everybody-else-is-up-to-it-then-why-the- hell-not" culture that spreads to other activities?

Your creative director has said that no-one would notice and that this was the only way you'd stand a chance of winning: almost word for word, expletives deleted, the advice of any bent coach.

Setting targets is always dangerous, whether for waiting times in A&E or M&A deals. It distorts behaviour, not always for the common good. But all your chief executive has to do is make it clear that, if any of the work that earns Gunn Report points is other than client-approved, the bonus deal is off: even if there was quite enough straight stuff to have otherwise earned it. If your chief executive is disinclined to add this rider, consider your career options.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I'm a young creative breaking into advertising. Can you reassure me that creativity is still the lifeblood of the industry and that the balance of power has not shifted to, say, account management or media?

A: Yes and no. Yes: I can reassure you that creativity is still the lifeblood of the ad business (as long as you understand the full meaning of creativity). And no: I can't reassure you that the balance of power still lies with creativity. But then it never has and nor should it.

When agencies work best, creativity is not confined to a department. The best agencies are creative throughout. Everyone is inventive. Clients want teams: who between them plan rigorously and intuitively, administer imaginatively, give birth to persuasive expressions in all or any media - and thereby make those clients more famous, more trusted, more chosen and more rich. All this tends to get forgotten because much of the creativity of a good agency remains utterly invisible to the outside world. Only the ads themselves appear above the surface so only the ads themselves attract attention.

The last thing clients want is power struggles between turf-obsessed account managers, nerdy planners, metric-mad media persons and creative drama queens. Learn to appreciate the difference between advertising and ads and you'll have a much longer and happier working life.

"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@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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