CLOSE-UP: ON THE CAMPAIGN COUCH ... WITH JB

Q: One of my clients is threatening to take his account to another agency. I have some incriminating photographs of him in flagrante. Should I use them to keep the business (albeit with an unpleasant atmosphere)? Or should I pass them on to the new agency and be grateful to be free of the adulterous lothario?

A: Let me respond to your deeply tacky question with two of my own. How did you come by these photographs? And how would you use them if you decided to do so?

First: if you paid money for these photographs (or better still, actually took them yourself), you emerge as a great deal more despicable than your transgressing client. If this were to be widely known, in what way do you believe it would improve a) your professional reputation, b) your career prospects, c) your new-business record and d) your wife's opinion of you?

Second: if you do decide to resort to crime by blackmailing your client, you may wish to minimise the risk of your own incarceration; so what is your strategy? Until your client has seen at least some edited highlights, you clearly have no leverage. And as soon as he has seen them, he's got to fire you: you've left him no choice. Adulterous lothario he may be, but it passes belief that he's as stupid as you are. He'll look you straight in the eye and say: "Your move, I think." And it will be.

So what do you do then? Invite the inevitable consequences outlined above? Or creep away sheepishly? Either way, you're dead.

You suggest, as an alternative, that you might pass on the photographs to his new agency. Another great idea. At one stroke you reveal to a key competitor that you collect incriminating evidence against your clients while being too incompetent to know what to do with it.

You've lost it, boyo. Just burn the snaps and get back to business.

Q: As a highly paid employee of a large multinational agency, the downturn is giving me long, work-filled days followed by long, sleepless nights. No-one, it seems, is safe from the dreaded brown envelope. And despite firm reassurances from my colleagues, I feel awfully vulnerable. Should I volunteer for a salary cut and grab some shut-eye? Or, should the terrible day arrive, take redundancy on the chin?

A: How many times, I wonder, in your long and distinguished career, have you warned your clients (entirely disinterestedly, of course) against the dangers of price promotions? "It's like this, Nigel," you've said.

"Successful marketing is all about making brands wantable. And wantable brands are confident brands. If you start cutting prices, what sort of signal do you send to the consumer? What your brand is saying is this: 'I know you don't really rate me but you're probably the sort of philistine who puts price before quality so now that I'm 15 per cent cheaper, you might be tempted after all ...'"

"What's more, Nigel," you've said, "once you embark on a price-cutting strategy, you're stuck with it for all time. Getting people to start paying more for something they didn't much want in the first place is the hardest trick in marketing. No, Nigel: if you want your brand to be more wantable, you shouldn't be thinking of price promotions. Instead, you should invest in value-adding advertising - and as it happens, I've brought a few ideas along with me ..."

Tomorrow morning, repeat the above to yourself in the mirror. Cutting your own price won't make you any less vulnerable.

Being more valuable just might.

Q: My agency is consistently disparaged by Campaign. Any wins we have are invariably headlined: "Previous agency loses account." How do I get the esteemed journal on my side?

A: You are suffering from what we psychiatrists call selective perception. Campaign discriminates against all agencies quite indiscriminately.

- 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.

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