Q: I am deeply unpopular within the advertising industry as a result of a series of ill-advised public relations gaffes. How can I redeem myself?
Whatever you do, refrain from writing lengthy apologia or blaming your poor press on other people's irony deficiency. You will never be believed, simply because nobody will want to believe you: we're all enjoying your discomfiture too much.
Instead, take pride in your new high profile. Many of your competitors have been striving for such prominence for years without success. See this as an opportunity to become progressively more offensive.
Hire Max Clifford. Go on the Today programme and slag off both the Advertising Standards Authority and David Abbott. Write a piece for the Daily Mail describing your three-day week, your seven-figure salary and your his-and-hers personal trainers. Take a full-page house ad, depicting yourself naked, and proclaiming your kind of advertising to be the new Christianity.
You'll soon be the most famous adman in the world and clients of a particular inclination will beat a path to your door.
This won't, of course, restore your popularity within the industry, but there's always been a place for an agency which is both immensely successful and universally despised.
It's called brand positioning.
Q: I am an account director and have recently been put in charge of the agency's biggest account, with instructions to keep the client happy at all costs. However, the client has begun to make advances to me, which are unwelcome. How can I let him, or the agency, down gently?
I could have wished for more detail. You do not tell me, for example, whether you and the client are male or female, or if you're one of each, or two of a kind, or married or partnered or none of the above.
For the purposes of this answer, therefore, I've had to make some rather pedestrian assumptions. I'm taking it that your client is male, married, with small children; and you are female and unmarried. I leave it to your own ingenuity to modify my recommendations in the light of any deviation from this pattern.
The first thing you must do is get your agency to organise a client family day. Christmas time would have been ideal, but any school holiday will do. If you have a major toy account, you should be doing it anyway.
Get your chief executive and his/her wife/husband to write a letter to all clients at their own lovely homes. The envelope should be addressed to Mr and Mrs, thus ensuring that it's opened by Mrs.
The letter expresses regret that so little that modern parents do in the line of work is ever known to their children and offers this modest corrective: a warm welcome at the agency for the whole family, with games and jellies and a live demonstration about making an ad for TV in which the kiddies themselves can actually participate.
Your client will be most reluctant to accept but his wife will insist. Within minutes of their arrival, you will have swept their children into your caring, sharing orbit. See that they star in the commercial and give them the video to take away. By the time they pick up their Smartie bags and leave, you and your client's wife will be best friends.
From there on in, it should be a doddle. And however disappointed he might be by this turn of events, he knows that she'd never forgive him if he wanted to change agencies. Or even account directors.
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.