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@ haynet.com, or Campaign, 174
Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.