On The Campaign Couch ... with JB

By Jeremy Bullmore, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 23 August 2012 08:00AM

Q: Can a micro-network of half-a-dozen offices really handle a global account, Jeremy? And, if so, why am I as a client paying for an agency with more than 150 offices?

On The Campaign Couch ... with JB

A: I hadn't realised that agencies these days based their fees on the number of offices they have around the world. Since the very beginning, agency remuneration systems have been bizarre, so I can quite see the attraction of an office-based tariff. At least you can count offices, which is more than you can say for value delivered. But I do wonder if you've got this entirely right?

If your global account is a single brand account, which primarily requires a single, strong, brand-defining presentation rather than a lot of local-nuance translations, adaptations, modifications and exceptions; and if your brand share and competition are more or less the same in all your markets; then I can see no reason why you shouldn't be just as well-served by a micro-network - or even a single unit, come to that. Your own people on the ground, if you have them, should be able to look after everything else.

And if you go from an agency with 150 offices to an agency with just one, it presumably should be quite amazingly cheap?

Q: My co-partners and I formed our agency close to a decade ago. It was a time when none of us was aware quite how successful we'd become, so no exit strategy was planned. Ten years on, I want out. But other partners are reluctant to let me sell, or to buy my shares. How do we address this issue and come to an amicable agreement on the future of the agency before rancour sets in?

A: You need to reduce the number of points on which amicable agreement is necessary to the minimum. Four would seem about right.

Agree on the appointment of an outside advisor - or on the composition of an outside advisory group. Agree to pay them. Agree how much to pay them. And agree to abide by their recommendations.

You'll hate parts of what they recommend and so will your partners - but not the same parts. And that's how you'll know that your advisors have got it about right.

Q: I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I don't lie, I'm not a sycophant and I don't dress like a Shoreditch wannabe. I'm just not right for this business, am I?

A: You're clearly a deeply disappointed person. And not that bright. For someone in advertising to define themselves entirely by what they're not is professionally dumb. If you regularly apply the same principle to your clients' products, your failure to scale the heights of your trade is unsurprising. "Burgrips' Mellow-Munchies aren't addictive, don't cause acid indigestion, and have never contained monosodium glutamate." Punchy, sales-compelling stuff, eh?

One of the many pleasing things about our trade is that true merit gets recognised. This is not because our masters are saintly egalitarians, dedicated to the unlocking of human potential from even the most unpromising of sources. It's because our masters work in a constant state of hectic competition and talent is their only competitive weapon. Not all those they promote are deserving; but there are very few deserving who remain unsung. It's in nobody's interest to keep rainmakers under wraps.

Your question also reveals an unattractive envy. You imply that those more successful than you owe that success not to their abilities but rather to their packaging. This must be comforting for you; you can delude yourself that your own lack of recognition can be attributed entirely to your dignified disdain for the superficialities.

What you need to do is try very hard to be extremely good at what you do. If you succeed, your contrarian lifestyle will, perversely, begin to work still further to your advantage. If you fail, you'll know once and for all that you're not right for this business; but not because you don't lie, do drugs or dress like a Shoreditch wannabe.

Q: My big-spending Russian client wants me to take him to an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout on his next visit to London. I can't bear boxing, let alone cage-fighting. How can I deter him from this particular night of schmoozing?

A: He doesn't want you to take him to an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout. He just wants to go to one. You're not part of the treat; just the necessary enabler.

So look online for a few specialist escort agencies. A Russian-speaking, female cage-fighting enthusiast shouldn't be beyond them. You might even get some credit for selflessly denying yourself the pleasure of the occasion.

"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4919

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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