On the Campaign couch: Is our family ban on electronic devices fair?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch: Is our family ban on electronic devices fair?

My husband has imposed a family ban on electronic devices for our summer holiday.

He imagines us all reading and playing games together. It means I won’t be able to keep on top of my e-mails or my social media feed. Any advice?

Your husband is clearly one of those tiresome men who likes to see himself as The Head of the Family; a Man of Decision who believes in a bit of Good Old-Fashioned Discipline. The really exasperating thing about such people is that they insist quite needlessly on absolutes when a bit of give and take would achieve exactly the same desired effect but with none of the resentment. 

It’s entirely reasonable to set some sort of limit on holiday device time – but an outright ban simply guarantees that your family will spend the entire holiday seething with frustration and hostility and longing for it to end. 

Look your husband in the eye and re-establish yourself as a human being of equal status. Announce that every member of the family, including your husband, will be allocated a daily ration of online time – with a worthwhile prize for whoever undershoots the most. This could be the making of your marriage. 

I’m holding a pitch for my (quite big) creative account this summer and the chief executive of one of the pitching agencies has asked us to change the date of their presentation because it falls in the middle of his family holiday. Is this a sign that I should cross the agency off the pitchlist?

Marketing directors come in two sizes: big and small. This has nothing to do with the marketing budgets they control and everything to do with their personal characteristics. If you’re not sure to which category you belong, your question will help you find out.

The sole purpose of this review is for you to find an advertising agency that you believe might make a real contribution to the success of your business. That’s why you and your advisors invited this agency to present to you; on the evidence of their record, you thought they could be the ones to help you. So what’s changed? The only thing that’s changed is this chief executive’s request that the date of the presentation be changed. 

"Outrageous! Who do they think they are? How dare a would-be supplier be impertinent and disrespectful enough even to suggest such a thing? Of all the qualities I look for in my suppliers, absolute commitment to my cause comes top. This request tells me all I need to know: strike them from the list immediately!"

That’s certainly one response; and one that might give a brief boost to your fragile sense of authority. This will teach ’em who’s boss all right! But it’s the action, I think you’ll agree, of a quite small marketing director.

Alternatively, you’ll see this same request in a different light. Here’s an agency chief who’s already admirable for what he hasn’t done.

He hasn’t invented some spurious conflict with an international client summit in Beijing. He hasn’t subcontracted responsibility for this presentation to a subordinate. He hasn’t abandoned his family in the middle of their all-important summer holiday. Instead, knowing full well that he could be jeopardising his agency’s chances of winning your business, he’s told you the truth.

This suggests that his agency is run by someone of integrity and professional confidence. You will find those reassuring qualities in an agency you would hope to trust. 

So, unless it’s logistically impossible, you agree to his request and rearrange the date of the presentation. What’s more, you don’t do it grudgingly, making it only too clear that, simply by making the request, the agency has raised serious doubts about its level of interest. Instead, you do it with good grace – and when you first meet the agency CEO, you show genuine interest in his holiday. And because you’re an intelligent marketing director, you’ll know that, by now, so appreciative are they of your magnanimity, the agency’s determination to earn your business and serve you brilliantly will be all-consuming. 

If it later turns out that another agency beats them to it, you’ll have lost nothing. And if, by chance, they win, you’ll start with a foundation of mutual trust and understanding that would normally take the best part of a year to establish.

So which kind of marketing director are you?

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE