Q: As chief executive of one of the biggest global media buying agencies I keep getting told to improve our strategic planning capability (whatever that is) because media is going to take over from the ad agencies at the top table. While I want to be taken more seriously by clients and make more money the whole concept of strategy and creativity is alien to me. What do you suggest I do?

A: As chief executive of one of the biggest global media buying agencies you will be unstoppably loquacious. You all are. Never remotely racked by self-doubt, you favour the double-handshake, tell jokes and laugh at them immoderately, leap on to conference platforms with more confidence than preparation, invent and disseminate gossip and have a regular table from which your high-decibel schmoozing can be heard throughout the restaurant.

And still you wonder why you're not taken seriously. However, all is not lost; nor need you punish yourself by trying to understand strategy.

I wonder if you remember pipes? Ask your parents about them. Pipes were smoking devices, usually formed from wood, with a bowl at one end for holding tobacco and a tube at the other for insertion into the mouth. Some pipe smokers smoked their pipes though the majority did not. The majority plugged, tamped, blew, sucked, scraped, lit matches and tapped the bowl very, very slowly. Sometimes they also tapped their teeth. High-level pipe-play can prolong a simple sentence of a few words into five or more minutes of exquisite, unconsummated anticipation. While saying little and doing less, world-class pipemasters acquire an impregnable reputation for strategic sagacity; both for themselves and their company.

Try second-hand shops or Burlington Arcade. All ambition demands some sacrifice.

Q: I work on the flagship account at my agency, the work is amazing, picking up awards all over, selling loads and is the one account everyone wants to work on. Problem is I have an extremely good sense of smell and the client has extremely bad halitosis. No matter how far away I stand, I can't avoid the stench. I don't want to come off the business, but I can't bear many more meetings.

A: The trick with this client is not to back away further from him but to induce him to back away further from you.

I wonder if you remember pipes?

It is still possible to buy a type of tobacco called shag. (Asking for it in the tobacconist will be your only serious hurdle.)

Unlike my correspondent above, you will, unfortunately, have to light your pipe: but once you've become a habitual shag-smoker, the distance between you and your client will not only be doubled but, as further insurance, your sense of smell will become permanently impaired.

You may also acquire an unwarranted reputation for sagacity (see above).

Q: My company recently appointed a new agency. Having made the appointment in no small part because of the girls in the new-business team, I was disgusted to then meet the account management team and realise that none of the girls would be dealing with our account day to day. My dreams of further liaison have been shattered. Do you consider that it would be unethical to call for a repitch at this point and do we have a solid case that the agency was guilty of some form of misrepresentation?

A: You're absolutely right: your agency's behaviour is outrageous. You should write a letter of complaint immediately. Do not beat about the bush. Your letter should begin: "Dear Nigel, I appointed your agency because I fancied the girls who presented and assumed they'd be available to me for carnal purposes."

For full effect, copy this letter to your CEO and the director-generals of both ISBA and the IPA. Agencies who behave like this are no better than pimps and deserve exposure. You may expect to become quite a talking-point throughout the industry.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. A compilation of his business advice, Another Bad Day at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced £5.99. Address your problems to him at, or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.


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