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

the test.

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


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