Q: I have spent the past few years desperately trying to ingratiate
myself with a well-known media auditor in the hope that he will put my
agency on his pitchlists. However, he seems to have mistaken my
professional unctuousness for genuine friendship and has asked me to be
godfather to his first-born. How do I maintain good relations with this
man without murdering my reputation by accepting his invitation?
A: The trouble with people like you is that you never put yourself in
other people's shoes. Here you are, fretting about yourself, and not
giving a second's thought to this well-known media auditor.
If you had, you'd have seen at once that he was simply putting you to
On your own admission, you have, for the past few years (my italics),
been subjecting this luckless executive to sustained professional
unctuousness (my italics again). And yet you're surprised that he still
hasn't put your agency on his pitchlists. Personally, I'd have been
astounded if he had.
What he's saying to you now is this: 'Do not think that I have mistaken
your desperate, ingratiating professional unctuousness for genuine
I am a well-known media auditor and I am not that daft.
'The only reason you feign affection for me is for crass commercial
purposes. I now challenge you to prove me wrong by agreeing to become
godfather to my first-born.
'Put up or shut up.'
Seen in this light, your course of action becomes clear.
'Nigel,' you say, 'I am hugely flattered. I am also torn apart by
conflicting loyalties. I would dearly love to accept the honour you
extend to me - yet I owe it to my people to remain open to do business
with you. And I know that a man of your integrity could never bring
himself to include the godfather of his first-born on a pitch list. I
respect you for that. So thank you so much for thinking of me and here
is an engraved silver christening mug for little Marcus.'
Then get off his back for a bit.
Q: Roland Davies writes from Hamburg: I am the co-owner of a small
advertising agency and at the moment we are on a new- business drive.
The problem is that in previous years I used to work for the big network
agencies and the driving was done by other people. I know that getting
new business is all about getting off one's arse but should that take
the form of cold-calling clients, sending clients spec campaigns,
joining the right club or all three plus some more getting off one's
A: Dear Roland, thank you for your kind enquiry. You're absolutely right
to recognise the need for determined activity but absolutely wrong in
the activities you suggest. Cold-calling, spec campaigns and greasing up
to potential clients on social occasions all transmit the worst possible
signals: last-ditch desperation and disregard for principles.
Like my correspondent above, you have failed to put yourself in the
shoes of others. Most potential clients will be mildly dissatisfied with
their existing agency. They will certainly be interested in anything
new. But it is absolutely essential that they should believe they have
discovered you for themselves (they can never convincingly claim to have
discovered any of the established networks).
Your strategy, therefore, must be the ultimate in stealth marketing.
It will demand at least as much time and money and a great deal more
The aim: for you and your work to be widely talked about while never,
never talking yourself. The making of Macy Gray should be your
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
Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London
W6 7JP. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.