Q: I've been put in charge of organising the agency Christmas bash

(surprisingly the budget is even higher than last year). The brief from

my MD was two words. Be original. We're a top shop and have been there,

done that and bought more than the T-shirt. Help!

A: Your managing director is an idiot. You may decide not to tell him

so, but he is. Between now and Christmas - unless you've all learned to

walk on water - your agency will be laying off people. Some of them will

be good people with mortgages and families and self-respect. When

Christmas comes, do not expect a bonus to come with it. The year 2000

was a ridiculous year - a giant, quivering, luminous aberration of a

year - with everything showing double-digit dynamism.

It should have been seen as a warning; instead it was taken as a

well-deserved prelude to an even headier 2001.

If you follow your MD's instructions - and spend more money on a

Christmas bash than you did in the bloated year 2000 - you will pull off

that rare achievement for an advertising agency: a negative return in

morale for every pound squandered.

Accept that part of your brief that demands originality. Decline the

invitation to be profligate. Test the inventiveness of your agency by

challenging them to mount the first-ever agency Christmas bash for

£5 a head. Remind them of Ernest Rutherford: "We haven't any money

so we've got to think." If they don't respond with ideas and enthusiasm

(and a bottle or two) then they ain't the shop you claim them to be.

Q: I've taken to cutting the M&S labels out of my suits and claiming

they're from a little bespoke shop just off Piccadilly. The thing is

nobody can tell the difference. Appreciating this is a sad thing to do -

what does it say about the idiots who are forking out £500 or so

for a known label?

A: You've obviously never read any menswear advertisements. If you had,

you'd know that expensive clothes are good value for money not because

they're better than cheaper clothes but because they bestow immediate

self-confidence on the feeblest of wearers. It is that secret knowledge

of irrational extravagance that imparts guts to the gutless and spine to

the spineless. Men who choose known labels speak with authority, command

deference and earn both professional advancement and the rapt adoration

of beautiful women. It is an established fact that account executives in

expensive suits win 56 per cent more new business than those who buy

their suits from M&S before removing the labels. I know this to be true

because it says so in the advertisements.

If you don't believe me, tell me this. Are you next in line for CEO? Can

you always get a table at The Ivy? Have you had to go ex-directory to

foil your stalkers?

See what I mean? You're not just sad; you're silly.

Q: I suspect my agency of leaking the news of their account win to the

trade press. Should I confront them about it or just ignore it?

A: Neither. Just tuck your suspicion away at the back of your mind and

wait. If you're right, then you have grounds for questioning your choice

of agency; not because they've leaked some news but because they're

childish enough to believe that the act of leaking will endear them to

the trade press. The opposite is true.

The trade press needs moles, certainly. It also distrusts and despises


Childish agencies play silly games: with clients, the trade press and

their competitors. Having pulled off some particularly puerile ploy,

they'll roll up their trouser legs and dance round the agency bar

braying "nah nah ne na nah!".

With your company facing the most difficult trading conditions for ten

years, is this the kind of professional help you're really looking


- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director

of Guardian Media Group and WPP. He also writes a monthly column for

Management Today. A compilation of his business advice, Another Bad Day

at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced £5.99. Address

your problems to him at campaign@, or Campaign, 174

Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.


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