Q: I once heard someone say the most profound change in the
advertising industry was the split of full-service agencies into media
and creative specialisms, a change more fundamental than the
introduction of account planning. What do you think have been the most
A: There was once a bunch of creative people who were being more than
usually bolshie about how tyrannical briefs crippled creativity and how
they were being drowned in data and all that. So we plonked a can of
engine oil down in front of them and told them to start writing a
campaign for it.
There were a few minutes of stunned silence and then they all started
bleating: "But what's in it, why is it better, who buys it, what's the
competition, what does it do, how much does it cost, how can we be
expected to ...?" By the time all their questions had been answered,
they'd completed the necessary first steps in account planning.
You can't make advertising without planning. What the formal
introduction of account planning did was give that fact new emphasis and
its best practitioners new authority and better training.
A far bigger change was the introduction of commercial TV in 1955 (see
last week). The bigger agencies, and a surprising number of clients,
soon came to believe that advertising and television advertising were
synonymous; a conviction which only now, after nearly 50 years, is
beginning to fray a little. Without this myopic misconception, the split
of agencies into media and creative specialisms would never have taken
Q: My star creative team keeps getting job offers from other agencies.
How can I keep them when we have implemented a pay freeze?
A: Are they really a star creative team? I ask because not all star
creative teams are. Some of them achieve star status through a
combination of plagiarism, scruffiness, unreliability, belligerence and
Their failure to get a single script on air in a full year is presented
as final evidence of their sublime gifts: certainly by them and,
occasionally (and more mysteriously), by their executive creative
director. So before you do anything rash, just check your conscience and
their record: does any or all of the above sound familiar?
If so, count your blessings. You are now in the most enviable position
that any CEO could hope to occupy. The star creative team tries to hold
you to ransom. The entire agency knows it. Breath is held. With
magisterial equanimity, you call their bluff. They bluster. You smile.
And when they finally throw their crayons on the floor and leave, you
will have: a) earned the astonished respect of the rest of the agency;
b) jettisoned two immensely expensive troublemakers; and c) lumbered a
competitor with a huge and unproductive addition to his cost-base as
For your sake, I hope with all my heart that your star creative team
But, of course, they may be. In which case (because all the real ones
are), they will be racked with self-doubt and riddled with
This is your opportunity. Remember that, to the insecure, money is
valued not for spending but for counting. Their salary is a notch on a
stick, it's their score, it's how they know you really love them. But
this doesn't mean you should thaw out your pay freeze: it means you must
use every bit of imagination and guile you can lay your hands on to
provide them with security substitutes.
Supply them with personal financial advisers. Support their partners'
good causes. Make them international vice-presidents. Take them to
dinner at George. Offer them a one-way, unconditional, ten-year
contract. At least once a week, tell them you love them. They'll still,
of course, have other conversations and they'll still want to tell you
all about them. But they'll stay, all right; they'll stay.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director
of Guardian Media Group and of WPP. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.