On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

As a woman who works in advertising, I’m enormously glad that the fashion for multiple kissing at meetings is fading. At its peak, it used to take as long to do the hellos and goodbyes as it did to have the meeting. The trouble is, we are now in a situation where multiple kissing is reserved only for special people or occasions. Tomorrow, we have an end-of-year meeting with our biggest client – there will be nine of them, eight of whom I barely know. Kissing? Multi-kissing? All of them – or just Rick the pervy chief executive? Help!

I’m afraid there’s not a lot I can do to help you with tomorrow’s meeting since tomorrow is already at least the week before last and probably 2012. How did it go, I wonder?

Having a serious cold is of occasional use but unconvincing as a permanent stratagem. I don’t know if it’s possible to acquire halitosis deliberately – but even if it is, the benefits would seem unlikely to outweigh the disadvantages. Halitosis that you could turn on and off at will could be a popular handbag item – it would allow you to discriminate between those whose kissings you could tolerate and those whose kissings you couldn’t.

And that, of course, is the real problem about multiple kissing: does it have to be all or nothing? Or can you discriminate by rank: chief executives, chief marketing officers and above, for example? Or by length of acquaintance – so that the brand manager finally gets one on his second anniversary? Or by budget?

The best solution I know was perfected by a stylish lady I once worked with. At the beginning and end of meetings, she’d touch both sets of fingers to her lips, then throw her arms wide in a gesture of embrace and croon: "Mwah-mwah to you all, darlings!"

Are you stylish enough to get away with that, do you think?

Dear Jeremy, I’m a planner, I have a blog and I’m also a keen Tweeter. In fact, some of my best work has been in creating and building my personal brand online. However, the agency for whom I work has asked me to make it clear that the opinions I espouse are my own and not those of the agency. But if I agree to that, surely my blogging will no longer be billable against key clients on my time sheets. What do I do?

Though your question appears to raise digital-age questions, I think we might achieve a little clarity by rewinding to analogue days.

If you’d been a planner in 1990, with a growing reputation and a gift for writing, you might well have been offered a regular column by a trade magazine. The proposal would have entailed no anonymity: your byline would have featured both your name and your agency’s.

I don’t think it would have crossed your mind to accept that invitation without first discussing the implications with colleagues – and, in particular, with your chief executive. You would have recognised the possible benefits: a higher profile for both you and your agency; and also the possible unintended consequences: your own personal opinions being seen to be at odds with those of the company as a whole or those of a client.

And I don’t think you would have been outraged by such a consideration. I don’t think you would have accused your management of censorship or of being the thought police if they had asked you to bear these potential problems in mind and, in specific cases, even to discuss a particular point of view before sending it off for publication. An agency, after all, is a brand; and, like all brands, becomes weakened when its communications confuse and contradict each other.

So it seems to me entirely reasonable for your agency to ask you to make it clear that the opinions you express in your Tweets and your blogs are your own – and not necessarily those of the agency as a whole. If there’s a real difference in kind between an attributed Tweet or blog and a conference speech or a magazine piece, I haven’t yet worked it out.

What amuses me, however, is that your objection to this reasonable request is not that it’s an outrageous violation of your personal liberty and right to free speech, but that your time may no longer be billable; in other words, you may no longer charge your company for the pleasure of writing a blog.

Since you openly boast that some of your "best work has been in creating and building your personal brand online", what makes you think that you ever should have been?

"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