Close-up: On the Campaign couch ... with JB

Q: I'm an account director in a top-ten agency. Last year I managed to get a production company to shoot a commercial for £10k. We didn't have much budget, you see, and they liked the script. Last week I took a £250k production budget to the same client for approval and he told me to go away and find someone else to shoot it for £10k. Help! A: You display an engaging guilelessness. A wiser, more battle-scarred account director would have paused and thought deeply before skipping off, puppy-like, to present his client with that ten-grand production estimate.

When you laid that estimate at your client's feet, you explained that such a bargain was possible only because of the brilliance of the script.

A year later you return with a second script and an invoice for a quarter-of-a-million pounds. It becomes immediately apparent to your client that he is being asked to approve a vastly inferior script and to pay twenty-five times as much to have it made.

Looked at like this, his response is not unreasonable: and it's all your fault.

I suppose you could try reminding your client that the average unit cost of the two commercials is a very reasonable £130,000 - but I'd hold the phone some way from your ear when you do so.

Q: I am a junior account person. Recently I went out with the client team and in a fit of drunken extravagance put the entire evening on my credit card. What is deemed as an acceptable amount to claim on expenses per month or should I just bite the bullet and put it all through together?

A: Since you will clearly remain a junior account person for some time to come, I suggest you pay it off at £50 a month for the next five years. Or was it more than that?

Q: The creative directors of the agency handling our account have broken away and launched a start-up on the expectation of getting our business. We have not discouraged them in this venture. However, we have since seen a presentation from another shop that knocks us out. Should we honour what some will see as our moral obligation or go with what we believe will be the best creative solution?

A: "We have not discouraged them in this venture." When slippery customers hope to duck responsibility for error while avoiding the outright lie, they instinctively reach for a double negative. Had George Washington been as slippery as you, he would have said: "With reference to the tree in question, father, it would be misguided of me were I to attempt to distance myself entirely from any association with its current condition."

You confirm your slippery status when you write, "what some will see as our moral obligation". Who is this some? And why don't you agree with them? And come to that, who is this we? Are you an editor or the Queen or something? You know perfectly well what happened. Over drinks one evening, your two creative directors started slagging off their management. You said: "Why don't you stop bitching and go it alone, then? We would not discourage you from such a venture" - or words to that effect.

They believed you. And they re-mortgaged their houses, told a few lies to their petrified partners, cancelled their children's holiday, burnt their boats with their long-standing agency, designed their own letterhead and signed a five-year lease on a property in Soho.

I wonder what double negative you plan to use when you tell these innocents that, despite your clear commitment, you're handing your account to an unknown agency on the strength of a single presentation? "We are, of course, not unaware that you may find such a decision not wholly welcome." But I'm sure you'll improve on that - you've had so much practice.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a director of WPP. He welcomes questions via campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP. "Ask Jeremy", a collection of his Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone: (020) 8267 4683.

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