Q: I got absolutely wrecked at the pub last Friday and I'm almost
certain I told my managing director he was a complete tosser. I'm not
sure if he remembers this fact, although he's been looking at me rather
strangely. Is he plotting some sort of revenge?
Do not jump to conclusions. Managing directors are often profoundly
insecure people. They are secretly astonished to have been made managing
director in the first place and their insecurity levels are regularly
topped up by reports in the trade press of competitive managing
directors abruptly deciding to spend more time with their families.
That your own managing director is one such is confirmed by the fact
that he wants to be one of the boys - believing, poor sod, that buying a
couple of rounds in the pub will secure his popularity.
So do not feel fearful. What happened last Friday is this: your managing
director, who has long suspected himself of being a complete tosser, was
much impressed by your perspicacity, honesty and courage in saying so.
He is looking at you strangely because, surrounded as he is by cringing
sycophants, he now respects you.
Seen in this light, you are, of course, in an extremely strong position.
From now on, he will be craving the smallest word of encouragement from
you. The faintest hint of your approval will see him flush prettily with
pride and gratitude. But watch out for two things.
Be very sparing with your words of commendation: overdo it and he'll
start to despise you again. And under no circumstances allow yourself to
be talked of as his successor.
Q: William Eccleshare writes:
Dear J, I'm confused. In the UK we've always been told that it was Lord
Leverhulme who said that he didn't know which half of his advertising
was wasted. In the US there seems to be an equally strongly held belief
that it was John Wanamaker who had first coined this epigram (a recent
Ad Age described it as his 'century old dilemma'). I seem to remember
you once writing that there was no evidence that either had originated
it. Did anyone ever actually say it? Should they have? Does it really
mean anything? Should we care?
Dear William, thank you for your kind enquiry. The Unilever archives
reveal no evidence whatsoever that the first Lord Leverhulme expressed
this lament; which is just as well for his Lordship's posthumous
reputation since the remark is inane.
I once proposed to the Market Research Society that it could put his
dilemma to the test once and for all. All they had to do, I pointed out,
was to persuade an advertiser to undertake a rigorously conducted
expenditure experiment. It should take their annual advertising
appropriation - of, say, pounds 10 million - and divide it in half. It
would then spend the first half, exactly pounds 5 million, in exactly
one half of the country; and the second half of its budget, again
exactly pounds 5 million, in the other half of the country. At the end
of the year, if the apothegm was valid, sales in one area would greatly
exceed those in the other. To their lasting discredit, the MRS declined
to shoulder this important task.
That the remark lives on at all is wholly attributable to the venom of
financial directors who use it to bait their marketing colleagues in
board meetings. If there is evidence that its originator was, in fact,
John Wanamaker, it would be an unwise American who took pride in this
Winston Fletcher believes it to have been said by a third person
altogether. Or not.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director
of Guardian Media Group and of WPP, and the president of NABS. He 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. Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road,
London W6 7JP. Or e-mail email@example.com.