On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

Ever since our executive creative director took over the reins on the interior design at my agency, I feel like I work in a student house. I now sit next to a stuffed goat. He has just informed me that he has ordered a wigwam on eBay to put in reception. Shall I hand in my resignation now, or just have all the tat quietly removed when he’s next on holiday?

I can understand your unhappiness. I wish I could comfort you, but I can’t. You should be even more dispirited than you are.

Having a wigwam in your reception will not, of itself, propel your agency into administration. However, having an executive creative director who believes that having a wigwam in reception is evidence of an agency’s creative abilities undoubtedly will.

No: it’s even worse than that. Your executive creative director knows perfectly bloody well that having a wigwam in reception is evidence of absolutely nothing. He also knows that there are enough people around, including some clients and his own management, who are timid enough or gullible enough to believe that having a wigwam in reception is evidence of creativity – at least for long enough to take the heat off him for another six months. And that’s why he has ordered one on eBay.

But perversely, of course, for all those who understand this truth – and that will include most clients and the most valuable 20 per cent of the creative department – having a wigwam in reception is evidence of the precise opposite: that the agency is so wanting in creativity that it has resorted to putting a wigwam in reception.

Please read the following sentence five times and then commit it to memory.

The only evidence of an agency’s creative ability is its creative output: everything else is smokescreen.

If I were you, I’d replace your executive creative director with that stuffed goat.

Dear Jeremy, My agency co-founder recently announced he’s leaving to join one of our clients as a consultant (he has previous in this). I’m putting my best face on, though we are devastated and can’t believe he has betrayed people yet again. But the thing I can’t figure is the client’s mentality – what on earth is going on in their tiny mind? Why didn’t they call me?

Please correct me if I’ve got this wrong. You set up an agency with someone who had a known record of leaving previous agencies to work with clients: actions you describe as betrayal. You’re now amazed and devastated that this person has left the agency you set up together to work with one of your clients. Furthermore, you find it inexplicable that your client, to whom your ex-partner has now defected, failed to call you before taking on this consultant so that you could have reminded the client that your partner had a known record of leaving partners in the lurch and that he should think very seriously indeed before taking him on.

Is that about right or have I missed something?

If that’s about right, what I can’t figure is your mentality. What on earth was going on in your tiny mind when you decided to go into business with someone who already had a known record of leaving previous agencies in the lurch and who exactly was it you failed to call before you did so?By the sound of it, calling almost anyone would have been enough.

It was good to see Danny Baker following in the great tradition of radio presenters by resigning live on air. What’s the most public and impressive resignation that you have witnessed?

It wasn’t exactly a resignation. At one of the Creative Circle’s role-reversal seminars in Cambridge, a confident client was given a creative brief and left alone with his "group" for a day and a half. When called upon to present progress, he said: "For over ten years, I’ve been treating creative people with contempt. I now realise that I don’t have a creative bone in my body."

At which he burst into tears and went up to his room. I followed him shortly afterwards with a bottle.

It was brave and moving. I learned later that he was now getting exceptional work from all his agencies.

"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