On the Campaign Couch ... with JB
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I am a junior account executive at an agency where I have worked happily for a year.

One of my accounts (a food brand) has just appointed a new marketing director (let's call them Smith). This is bad news for me; Smith used to hold the same role at another food brand and that food brand was the client of my former agency. That might have been an advantage, had I not been the team assistant on the account that once spilt orange juice all over his trousers in a meeting (he was not sympathetic about it). Do I fess up to my boss that when our new client meets me, he may want to call a review?

A: If you don't sort your thinking out soon, you'll go on being a junior account executive for a great many years to come.

Of course Smith was not sympathetic. It is impossible to be sympathetic when a lot of sticky orange juice (I bet it was the expensive kind with bits in) is spilt all over your trousers (I bet it was mostly over what we must delicately call the lap) in the middle of a meeting at which your juniors are also present (and I bet at least one of them sniggered). Under such circumstances, the person in receipt of the orange juice has a far stronger claim on sympathy than the immature idiot who spilt it.

As an aspiring advertising person, you should have a better understanding of human nature than you seem to possess.

Being a marketing director, Smith naturally has a keen sense of his own importance. This is confirmed on a daily basis by the demeanour of his suppliers: they find his opinions shrewd and his jokes humorous and don't hesitate to show it. Yet Smith also prides himself on his lack of pomposity; on his ability, despite his importance, to be a regular guy. The orange juice incident took place more than a year ago. None of those who witnessed it, other than yourself and Smith, are still around. As you should have seen for yourself, far from presenting a problem, all this presents you with a fantastic opportunity.

You will already know Smith's subordinates well. Inevitably, you will discuss Smith's imminent arrival. Over a drink one evening, tell them about the orange juice incident - only marginally edited. Tell them what happened - and how Smith reacted. He would have had every reason to have been outraged: to have publicly taken it out on you, the luckless team assistant responsible, and demanded your immediate dismissal. Instead, to everyone's intense admiration, Smith had laughed it off - and made the senior agency person present promise not to impose any sort of punishment on you. The whole episode had served to boost Smith's reputation within the agency to new heights.

Then suggest to his subordinates that, prior to his first visit to his new agency, they might like to remind Smith of the orange juice incident - and of his memorably praiseworthy reaction to it. (They'd probably do so anyway, but better be safe.)

Then prime your own boss. On Smith's first meeting with his new agency group, your boss should say admiringly: "I understand you once saved young Bristow's career - something to do with orange juice, wasn't it? He's never forgotten it."

In the long history of mankind, however unfounded and however undeserved, no human being has ever been known to renounce a compliment. Smith will look pink and pleased and say it was nothing, really ...

He may even put a friendly arm around your shoulder.

And he certainly won't call a review.

If you want to get ahead in advertising, I suggest you brush up on your psychology.

Q: I've told my creative director not to bother entering anything for Cannes next year. Us Brits could barely "buy" a gold Lion this year and it seems our style isn't to Cannes juries' liking any more. Well, sod them. Let's do our own creative thing and not worry what the rest of the world thinks of us. Do you agree?

A: Oh, I do, I do.

In 2011, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity attracted 28,828 entries. If you fail to enter next year, they won't notice.

Your creative director will be unable to hire anyone good.

Your most inventive creative team will call their agent.

Two celebrity marketing directors will drop you from their longlists.

The trade press will accuse you of chucking your crayons out of the pram.

And you will be able to congratulate yourself on having taken an immensely courageous decision. (In the Yes, Minister sense, of course.)

"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