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

Q: My agency has just done an office refurb and the results are beautiful. The problem is that my office is ENORMOUS. This is really embarrassing because just outside my palatial space there are about 20 people crammed into an open-plan space that looks like a call centre.

Although I am a department head, I would prefer to have something a little less ostentatious in these tough times. I am worried that it sends all the wrong signals, and people will become hostile. Can you help?

A: Enormous offices look enormous only when they're empty. You should install a second desk, cover it with research documents and empty tape boxes and put a sign on it saying VISITOR.

Q: Every now and then an important client lets me know that one of their children wants to get into advertising. Often the child in question is well educated, one thing leads to another and before you can say nepotism they are working for us. So far so good, everyone is happy, but then things take a turn for the worse. What is one to do? Please skip the lecture about not taking them on in the first place.

A: This is all you need to do.

Draft a Highly Confidential e-mail to your human resources director listing your five most valuable under-30s. About your client's underperforming offspring you should write: "Nigel is an exceptional talent and must be retained at all cost." Arrange for this e-mail to be misdirected to your least favourite rival agency on the same day that you pay fulsome tribute to Nigel in a press release announcing your latest new-business success.

Finally, prepare and rehearse those words of deep regret that you will need to call upon when accepting Nigel's bumptious resignation.

PS. Don't forget to check that the rival agency already has a conflicting account.

Q: A copywriter (male) at my agency is having an affair with an account director (female). He has produced a great campaign for one of her clients.

During its production there have been the usual negotiations/arguments about the work which she has staunchly defended. Needless to say, the client is blissfully unaware of the relationship - he may otherwise have interpreted her views as those of a love-befuddled girl, rather than the rigorous professional that she undoubtedly is. The commercial is about to be shot and, given that it involves five days on location, she has asked whether or not she ought to come clean or remain celibate throughout a long and tedious shoot. What should I tell her?

A: I don't think the wider world fully appreciates the intensity and complexity of the demands made on top advertising executives. Some envious commentators still seem to believe that advertising's big bananas are grossly overpaid; but surely no compensation could be too great or reward too lavish for one such as yourself when faced with management challenges of this magnitude?

Right. Enough of the adolescent irony.

Just why you allow clients to attend location shoots I'll never understand; but it seems you have so you're stuck with it. Just tell the girl to keep out of the copywriter's bed for five nights; wait till the ad's signed off and on-air; then tell your clandestine couple that you'd like to be the first to inform their client of their close and developing relationship.

If, as is entirely likely, one of them expresses extreme alarm at this suggestion, you will know all you need to know. The end, if not nigh, is getting on for nigh. Your problem is in an advanced stage of self-destruction.

If, on the other hand, they clutch each other's hands and flush prettily, then move one of them off the account at once and invite the client to a celebration party.

(Your company pays you good money to work this sort of thing out for yourself, you know.)

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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