Q: Having worked in a big agency for a number of years, I've
enjoyed my own office and my own PA. I've now moved to a much smaller
company where I work in open plan and am expected to look after myself.
I'm OK with the typing - well, as a woman, it's inbred, isn't it? - but
I'm having a hell of a time managing my own diary. In the last month
I've double-booked meetings, turned up on the wrong day, turned up at
the wrong place, not turned up at all. I've got this electronic
diary-thingy, where people just seem to be able to bung in meetings
whenever they feel like it, but I keep forgetting to look at it. It
buzzes to remind you, but of course that only works if you're actually
sitting at your desk. My home and social life are equally chaotic, as
not only did my old secretary sort it all out, I now can't do it myself
as everyone can hear my phone calls.
I even forgot my anniversary last week. Do you have any tips to help me
out of this chaos?
A: If you continue to strive for executive perfection, your case is
Deprived of a doting personal assistant, you will continue to
Not only that, but you will get so flustered by the constant buzzing of
your thingy and become so cringingly apologetic about your failings that
your already fragile self-esteem will evaporate completely.
So play to the legendary indulgence afforded by advertising people to
eccentrics. Bin the thingy. Keep no form of diary. Work at least as
often on Sundays as on Wednesdays. Wear a dressing-gown and slippers in
client meetings. Keep a ferret in your handbag. Compose gnomic
observations: "well, somebody's got to bury the undertaker" is a proven
You will soon find your prestige soaring to new heights and your most
obscure recommendations accepted on sight.
Q: Alastair J Christie writes: I am a recent graduate currently
hammering on agency doors for a job, rather than an experienced account
manager, but having seen the way the industry has been heading of late,
I thought I'd write to you with a matter that's been nagging at the back
of my mind. I find it a little strange to note that an industry whose
sole function is to increase their clients' business, is, well, losing
business at a rapid rate. Wouldn't it be sensible for advertising
agencies to, er, advertise more?
A: Dear Alastair, thank you for your kind enquiry. I'm sorry to have to
tell you this, and so publicly, too: but your question exposes your
immaturity in several ways.
Even if you were right in your belief that advertising agencies would
benefit from advertising themselves more, no self-respecting agency CEO
is going to accept such advice from an unemployed upstart such as
yourself. No wonder you continue to hammer on doors.
But you are in any case wrong. Advertising agencies have been taunted
for years for failing to practice what they preach - and they've asked
for every bit of it. Through a combination of myopia and stupidity,
they've never been able to concede that while all competitive businesses
benefit from publicity, not all will benefit from advertising. Agencies
themselves are one such. Apart from a few double-page spreads for
start-ups - all claiming to be a totally new kind of agency and all
abandoned after the second insertion - I can think of little serious
agency advertising and no example of a successful and sustained
Learn from the masters of the past. Don't waste money on
Write some best-selling advertising books; schmooze a few business
journalists; mastermind a political campaign that propels a woman into
10 Downing Street: that's the way to do it. Come up with a new idea
along these lines, Alastair, and your future's made. (But please talk to
- 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.