Q: The marketing director of our largest client has been promoted overseas and his deputy appointed to replace him. His first act has been to ask me to replace the group account director - a prickly but brilliant person - with someone rather more congenial. If I agree to this, I know that the outcome will be a smoother relationship but inferior work. What should I do?
A: You need to have two conversations immediately - the first with your prickly account director and the second with your client.
You tell your account director exactly what her (his?) client has requested; and also that you have persuaded the client to give her a chance. 'But brilliant though you are,' you say, 'I don't think you'll make it. You still haven't learnt that it's perfectly possible to get good work through without turning every presentation into a resignation issue. In fact, Jan, I'll bet you a thousand pounds of my own money that you won't be running this account 12 months from now.' At this point, I promise, your account director's eyes will narrow with determination.
To your client you say: 'Look, Nigel, I've had a word with Jan. She told me something very interesting. The last thing she wants is to be disloyal to your predecessor, but she's always secretly rated you as the better judge of advertising. She'll be devastated if she's denied the chance to work with you.'
If you accept this advice, it will cost you a thousand pounds - and cheap at the price. But don't expect me to tell you where to find it.
Q: I think my client is seeing someone else. Should I confront him about it or just try to seduce him again?
A: I'm extremely sorry to have to tell you that, in advertising as in life, a person may be seduced many times - but never more than once by the same suitor. The thrill of appointing a new agency can be experienced again only by appointing another one. Any attempt on your part to re-seduce him will lead (as in life) to deep embarrassment and ultimate rejection.
Confrontation is not an option either. Confrontation (as in life) will simply drive your client into petty deceit. What you must do (as in life) is to become indispensable. Just make sure that, whenever he makes a presentation to his board, he has every fact and visual aid to hand. And at least one sensational sales figure. It may not be dignified but (as in life) it works.
Q: The agency is on fire and everyone except me has left the building. I've got a few seconds to get out. I've just grabbed the original artwork for a major print campaign that's about to be finished up - the artist made no copies and would never repeat his extremely expensive work - but I can see the agency goldfish in its bowl in reception. The water's getting warmer. I can't carry both to safety. What should I do?
A: You are clearly deranged. The stress of agency life has finally derailed you. Take a long break. If your nightmare scenario still persists, remind yourself that, in the cosmic scale of things, clients outrank goldfish.
Buy a humane killer - there are posh fly-fishing shops in St James's who will be happy to supply you - and chain it to the table on which the goldfish bowl stands.
Should your nightmare ever become reality, you will be able to despatch the goldfish, salvage the artwork and escape with your own life. I hope that this puts your mind at rest.
Jeremy Bullmore writes a monthly column for Management Today.
A more serious look at problems in the workplace, it both inspired and complements On the Campaign Couch. Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director of Guardian Media Group and of WPP, and the president of NABS.