Dear Jeremy, I have just started a new job as a chief executive at an agency and I loathe the executive creative director. What shall I do?
It’s not clear from your question whether you’re new to this agency or just new to the job.
It makes a difference. If you’ve been promoted from within, you’ll have known all you need to know about this ECD before you accepted the job and should have sorted out exactly how you were going to deal with him/her. (I can’t go on with this her/him business so, for the sake of sanity, and on the basis that men are easier to loathe than women, I’m assuming he’s a him.) I’m also assuming you’ve been recruited from outside.
The first thing you’ve got to come to terms with is the most obvious.
If your agency can’t produce high-quality creative work, you’ll soon find out what it would be like to be the newly appointed manager of a pub that stocked no alcohol. Log fire, Sky TV, knockout barmaids, free Wi-Fi, quiz nights, air-conditioning, smokers’ haven, karaoke kit, homemade burgers and spotless gents: but no booze.
And no business.
So park your loathing for this ECD for a moment while you establish a few facts. How good has the creative work been over the past 12 months, as judged by: all clients, other agencies, your existing staff, the trade press, intermediaries, awards juries – and your good self?
Perversely, you should hope for a verdict of unblemished mediocrity. You’ll know exactly what you have to do – and you’ll be comforted to know that your loathing of the ECD had nothing to do with it. He had to go because he wasn’t any good.
It’s far more likely that the verdict will be patchy. There will be a few quite excellent pieces of work and lots and lots of ho-hum. So now you need to look for patterns: what (and who) do the good pieces of work have in common; and the bad? Find out from the respective suits and planners involved who, creatively, actually did what as opposed to who, hierarchically, took the credit.
You’ll now know just about all you need to know. If it’s evident that the ECD had minimum influence over the starry stuff while being quite content to let unedited quantities of dross be recommended to clients, you’ll be in possession of two important pieces of information.
You’ll know that your ECD, irrespective of personality, is professionally inadequate and will have to go.
And you may even have identified his successor.
If, on the other hand, it’s clear that the ECD is capable of excellent work himself but allocates his time and talent entirely selfishly, you’ll have to stop and think.
Never ditch top talent, however obnoxious, until you’ve found someone who’s at least as good and rather more personable. (They do exist: Tom Rayfield – who, sadly, died on 25 April – was a successful creative director in three agencies, and was endlessly inventive and totally tantrum-free.)
I’ve discarded the possibility that the standard of your agency’s creative work over the past 12 months has been consistently outstanding. If it had been, you wouldn’t have been brought in from outside.
Dear Jeremy, Which political party produced the best general election campaign?
None. They were all worst. Except the Scottish National Party, which was, by a wide margin, the least worst – but that’s because it was fighting a different battle from the rest of them.
The Tories, as brand leader, persistently committed the fundamental error of naming and belittling the challenger brand. If Hertz had devoted as much effort to slagging off Avis as Cameron did to slagging off Miliband, Avis would have been number one by now. Wisely, the Tories eased off towards the end; but, by that time, they’d almost turned Miliband into a significant figure – a feat his own party had failed to achieve.
If we’d been spared the entire election campaign and simply been asked, a month ago, with no advance warning, to go out and vote the following morning, the result would have been identical. It’s possible that turnout would have been down. But, then again, it’s possible that turnout would have been up.
The only real, national gain: serious prospect of cross-party constitutional convention.
Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via firstname.lastname@example.org or Campaign, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE