A: You are right to be concerned. I can remember only one other senior advertising person whose invitations to lunch and dinner were consistently spurned by clients and he's now importing llamas. In order to clear this matter up once and for all, I suggest you conduct an experiment that will enable you, as researchers say, to eliminate the variable. In this instance, of course, the variable is you.
Draw up a list of ten clients who have rejected your overtures in the recent past and instruct two of your senior colleagues each to extend an invitation to five of them. Log the results. If more than seven of the ten not only accept but also show up on the day, you will have answered your own question decisively. It was not conscientiousness that held back your clients; it was the thought of spending another two hours with you. To find out more about llamas, contact Blackmore Vale Alpacas on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I am always being invited out to lunch or dinner by my agencies. When will they realise that once a year is enough and the rest of the time I am too busy for three-hour gossip fests?
A: Just what is it about some clients that you can't seem to come out and say what you think to your agencies? You wait seven weeks before letting it slip that you can't stand their new creative proposals. You tolerate a bumptious MBA on your business for well over a year rather than hurt his utterly impermeable feelings. And you still haven't told them that you're happy enough to have a lunch around Christmas time but anything more you consider an ethically suspect waste of time. Craven bottling-up of this kind leads to inevitable disaster. You can track its consequences week after week in the trade press: yet another legendary client/agency relationship mysteriously implodes in a dust storm of bewilderment and recrimination.
So here's a New Year resolution for you. Send the following e-mail to your agencies' CEOs.
"Dear Nigel/Petronella. 1. I do not like your creative proposals. Please submit new ones. 2. Gavin displays the bumptious inexperience commonly found in 22-year-old MBAs. Please remove him from my business. 3. I look forward to lunch with you and the team in the second half of December. Please extend no social invitations to me before then. 4. As long as our relationship is based on fearless honesty, I expect to find no reason to review it. 5. Thank you - and a happy New Year."
Q: A recent pitch consortium included companies with the names Mother, Naked, Cake, Saturday, Poke and Circus. Do you think this has any effect on the credibility of the ad industry?
A: It is perfectly possible that, over the next ten years, Mother, Naked, Cake, Saturday, Poke, Circus, GumDropZ and haveabanana will demonstrate the analytical skills of McKinsey, the business skills of WalMart, the imaginative skills of DreamWorks, the financial skills of Berkshire Hathaway and the management skills of BP.
Should this be the case, their existence will indeed have an effect on the credibility of the ad industry: they will enhance it immeasurably, even to the levels it enjoyed only a few decades ago. Advertising agencies will once again be seen to bring a divine combination of beady analysis and liberated imagination to bear on their clients' businesses. I've yet to be persuaded, however, that in order to achieve such a performance you need to be called GumDropZ.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. He welcomes questions via email@example.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.