Q: I'm a client and my new campaign has just been banned by the TV

regulators for being offensive and misleading. I signed off the work but

had some reservations, which I expressed at the time, though admittedly

not very loudly. Should I take full responsibility or make my agency


A: Clients need to make up their minds early on in life which kind of

client they want to be: absolute bastard or agency groupie. There are no

half measures. You show every sign of wanting to be an absolute bastard

but not quite having the bottle for it. As a consequence, you come

across as feeble: a view your agency will certainly share.

You say you expressed some reservations, though not very loudly. Bastard

clients don't have to express things loudly in order to be obeyed.

Having expressed these reservations, you then signed off the work.

Bastard clients have the welcome virtue of consistency: they'd never

express unease and then wimpishly ignore their own misgivings.

If you want, however belatedly, not only to earn the respect of your

agency but also to relieve them of uncertainty, now's your


The true bastard wouldn't hesitate. Don't go into detail; don't argue

the case; don't concede the smallest jot of responsibility. Just make

them pay.

The alternative is to settle for a lifetime career as an agency groupie

- thus sacrificing the respect of your main board for an infinite number

of agency lunches. It's not a bad option for the unambitious.

Q: We recently pitched for a piece of business to be told we hadn't won

it as the client had seen a better creative idea. Fair dos but bugger me

we've just seen their new campaign up on the hoardings and it's all but

the idea we presented. What should we do?

A: Smile.

Q: I'm a relatively junior creative and worked on a pitch over the

weekend at home. My mum looked at my work and said it was a load of old

nonsense. She came up with an idea that was not only clever but my

creative director patted me on the back for producing a "pitch winner".

I'm not worried about nicking my mum's idea but do you think "real"

people know more about ads than we do?

A: Real people are even less able to make good advertising than creative

people. Both, however, suffer from a variant of the same disease: they

base all their ideas on other advertising.

Real people base their ideas on pre-war advertising and therefore favour

puns. So it is that, come spring, hundreds of real people send you the

same unsolicited idea for the lawnmower account you haven't got: CHOOSE

THE THORNTON ROTO-VAC - A "CUT" ABOVE THE REST! (Real people also favour

inverted commas: they are thought to help the slower-witted "get


Creative people, on the other hand, base their ideas on the most recent

D&AD book they can lay their hands on. Both real people and creative

people draw comfort from the misconception that, since their ideas look

like advertising, they must be good advertising.

Which brings me to your mother. Since your creative director applauded

it, it is inconceivable that your mother's idea was of the pre-war pun

variety: unless, of course, he took it to be a hilarious example of

post-modern, retro-neo-irony. The more likely explanation is that your

mother's idea accidentally echoed a recent award-winner. (The third

possibility, that your mother's idea was a genuine original, I dismiss

on the grounds that your creative director would certainly have failed

to recognise it.)

So it was probably a one-off fluke. But just in case, give her another

couple of briefs, anyway. If she keeps coming up with the goods, you've

got it made, man.

PS. With winter coming on, make sure your mother has a flu jab and keeps

well away from draughts.

- 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


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