A: AJP Taylor once said that there were only two kinds of people: ambitious people and vain people. The distinction he made between them was this - ambitious people have only to see a ladder to want to climb it, hardly bothering to wonder where it leads. Vain people, on the other hand, want only to do things very well indeed, whether or not others notice and whether or not it might lead to recognition or advancement. Though he made no value judgment in favour of either, Taylor claimed to be firmly in the vain category. You, clearly, are not.
You know yourself to be ambitious - but ambitious for what? Your principal ambition seems to be the realisation of an ambition - which is about as vacuous an objective as wanting to be famous for being well-known. In the unlikely event of your acquiring a high profile, what would you do with it? If you had a trace of vanity, you'd want to be known for being good at something. Instead you attempt in your weaselly way to appropriate credit for work done by others.
People who are driven by ambition while neglecting to acquire ability are often surprisingly successful - but never for longer than three weeks.
When they're finally made managing director, the game is up. So forget about profiles and tactics and concentrate on being good at something.
Remember that famous old saying: "Advertising's worth doing when you've done something worth advertising."
Q: I'm from the old school of advertising life - long lunches, villas in Cannes for two weeks - you get the picture. I've just had a roasting from our network head office and have been told I need to make massive cuts. How can I do this and keep my daily table at The Ivy?
A: You can't.
Q: I am the marketing director of a small retailer and my company's advertising is handled by a small regional agency, the owner of which just happens to be the best friend of my boss, who owns my company. We're about to embark on a major expansion programme and are upping our adspend to match. I'm concerned that my current agency is not up to the job. Should I risk my own position by fighting for a review?
A: To call a review when you're on the brink of a major expansion programme is to guarantee chaos and confusion. Your current agency, which seems to have served you well so far, will panic. Instead of telling you what they believe you should do, they will try to pre-guess what the other, bigger agencies will tell you. So just at the time when a bit of grass roots understanding and honesty is what you need, what you'll get is a slice of superficial, second-hand sophistication. The other, bigger, agencies will divide their presentations into two halves. The first will be a thorough analysis of your marketing strategy to date; this will be accurate and intelligent enough to give you serious heebie-jeebies about continuing it. The second will be an inflexible recommendation for a replacement - so radical in approach and media selection that no trace of your company's hard-won reputation remains discernible.
All this will have taken ten weeks; at the end of which you will be a great deal less confident than you were when you first began to lose confidence in your current agency.
Pay your current agency more, and tell it you trust it and expect it to deliver. And don't say: "Because otherwise ... It will know all that.
- 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 campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.