A: I was a little puzzled to begin with, not being at all sure why you'd dragged the escalator into all this, but then I quickly spotted just how wily you were.
If we first establish the number of agencies with escalators (just under a few, by my reckoning) and then, within that number, establish the number of agencies with escalators so old that they need modernising, we can narrow the identity of this tight-fisted bastard down to one. A good start, if I may say so; but not in itself a boost to your career prospects.
Your MD may not read this column: a great many people don't. But you may very well find that his attention has been drawn to your question by those who do. And just as you have made it extremely easy for us to identify him (I don't think I'm giving too much away by outing his gender), so you have made it extremely easy for him to identify you. You may therefore expect to be summonsed any minute now.
So what you will want to know next is this: what facial expression should you adopt when entering his office?
Let me recommend a conspiratorial twinkle. (Run through a range of alternative twinkles in the loo first, and settle for the one that most effectively signals matey affection. Avoid cockiness and triumphalism.) This will give both of you the chance to emerge from this now very public stand-off with something approaching dignity: he to settle your retrospective wage bill and you to pass the whole thing off as the sort of jolly jape that agency people have long been renowned for.
(Do not, however, forget that if your MD has indeed had his attention drawn to your question, he will also have read this answer.)
Q: Why do so few advertisers have board-level marketing positions?
A: Examine this question through the eyes of a chairman. If you make a damn fine product, then word-of-mouth ("worth a bloody sight more than any fancy advertising campaign, if you ask me") will do the rest. Taking on marketing people is as good as saying your product needs marketing. Go a step further and put one of them on the board and you've publicly conceded that you're having real trouble getting rid of the stuff; and that getting rid of the stuff has now become as important as making it in the first place.
Furthermore, marketing people are profligate. They want to spend more on advertising and price promotions than the entire company spends on raw materials. What's more, the last time they presented the advertising to the group board, nobody round the table had the faintest idea what was being advertised and the company secretary thought it was rude.
Senior marketing people do, however, have a role. They are everyone's favourite scapegoat. When sales are down for the sixth consecutive quarter (and you know you're still making a damn fine product), it's perfectly clear to everyone what's gone wrong; so all you have to do is fire the marketing chappie.
Not so easy, though, if he's on the board. Doesn't do to fire chums. More expensive as well.
Far better to keep them in their place, don't you think?
- 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 email@example.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.