A: You've just hired a business development director, haven't you? Or perhaps you call him a CMO, because that's what clients have. Your new-business record of late has been what you call patchy and everyone else calls pitiful. So you've hired someone to fix it, with an incentive package based on the acquisition of incremental business, irrespective of quality.
Because your CMO knows nothing about advertising, he can't help you do what you ought to be doing - and that's produce such noticeable and efficient advertising campaigns that you automatically get on people's shortlists. What your CMO knows about is the shiny stuff. Already he's persuaded you to e-mail prospects with a cod version of The Huffington Post and start Tweeting, despite the fact you've nothing worth Tweeting about. His leave-behinds, at just over £6,000 a copy, have already saved three print studios from closure. Now he wants to decorate your entire building with the prospective client's logo.
Your new CMO is firmly of the opinion that you can tell a book from its cover; but that's because he's never managed to get any further himself.
The sort of stuff your CMO is persuading you to do is just fine; but only on two conditions. One: if it fits and enhances your house style. And two: if your house style is a deliberate retrofit of the flaky and flamboyant ways of the 70s.
At enormous expense, you're building a reputation for your agency that's neither accurate nor attractive while at the same time failing to get any better at doing what clients pay for. The clients you do win will be flaky themselves. That won't matter to your CMO: he'll hit his targets. (I expect he calls them KPIs.) It will matter a great deal to everyone else.
Q: I want to get rid of my advertising agency as they have lost their way in recent months and simply aren't delivering. However, the chief executive is my best friend and I know that this will permanently damage our friendship. How do I go about reviewing and getting rid of them without losing my best friend?
A: Thank you very much. This question presents me with a welcome opportunity to adopt a tone of sonorous superiority.
Surely you've always known that you shouldn't do business with best friends? Surely friendship, if truly deep, should be able to withstand the all-too predictable fracture of a commercial contract? Surely you must realise that, if indeed you lose your friend forever, his friendship must have been rooted from the start in the shallow sands of profit and ambition?
Surely you accept that, as a paid employee of your company, you have no right to put personal relationships before corporate achievement?
There. I did enjoy that. Nothing better for self-gratification than a little bit of sanctimony from the moral high ground. And now an answer for the real world.
You've obviously given your mate plenty of warning. You've told him more than once that his agency is failing to deliver and he's clearly done nothing about it. So do exactly what you've got to do and do it straight.
Don't let it leak to the trade press. Tell him, in person, in his own office, that you're putting the business up for review. Show him the draft press release, which pays generous tribute to his agency's work. Under no circumstances witter on about how difficult all this has been for you. Shake hands and leave.
Call him at home later that evening and invite him and his wife to dinner the following Saturday. Don't mention work: then or ever again.
He will know exactly what you haven't said. If he's a proper friend, he'll grab gratefully at this clear separation of roles. If he isn't, he won't; so you can stop feeling bad about him.
Q: A marketing director writes: "My ad agency seems pathetic. It keeps winning awards for stuff like pop-up shops for homeless retailers rather than servicing my account correctly. Should I fire them?"
A: The fact that your agency keeps winning awards for pop-up shops is utterly immaterial. That's not why they seem pathetic - so stop looking for excuses. They seem pathetic because they are pathetic. Why do you hesitate?
- "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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.