Opinion: On The Campaign Couch... with JB

Two of my ad peers and I are set to launch a breakaway start-up. We have a trustworthy investor, a launch client and a good office space.

Crisis has struck, however, with the company name. Should we go with a fashionable one-word monicker, or stick with the tried-and-tested surname route? If the latter, what order do we list ourselves? Help.

Please proceed to the next question immediately. I'll then fail to answer both of them simultaneously.

Once upon a time, agencies started up because their founders wanted to do good ads, have fun and, maybe, make some money. Now start-ups seem to be full of get-rich-quick merchants who sell as soon as the first decent offer comes along. Is this just a sign of the cynical and money-grabbing times in which we live?

These two questions are, of course, linked. When I first read it, I found myself sympathising with the strong stench of disapproval infusing this one. Who could admire these get-rich-quick merchants, children of the cynical and money-grubbing times in which we live, ready to sell their fledgling creation just as soon as the first decent offer comes along?

Well, on second reading, I can. The more I think about it, the more reasonable it seems. It's not, of course, a very romantic thing to do. You forfeit any chance of becoming another David Ogilvy. You will have no place in advertising history. You will probably have reneged on implicit promises made to key staff and founding clients. You will be thought cynical and money-grubbing.

And yet. Advertising is widely held to be a young person's game. There are only 17 senior people in all IPA agencies over the age of 41. Pension prospects are grim and getting grimmer. So isn't it actually quite admirable for talented and courageous people to start a business, serve their clients well enough to build that business - and then sell?

They'll be financially secure for life and it's difficult to see who's been harmed in the process. And while it's entirely possible that a clumsy buyer will find his plump little purchase soon losing talent, business and allure - well, whose fault is that?

So we shouldn't condemn the get-rich-quickers - even if we continue to reserve our highest praise for the founders of dynasties.

And so back to Question Number One: what should you call your new agency?

It all, of course, depends on your strategy. Are you planning to fatten up your new agency by force-feeding it with indiscriminate business and denying it leisure time and exercise? Are you, in other words, looking for the quick sale? In which case you should certainly call it GumDropZ.

Such a move will not only give your company a spurious air of creative irreverence - in itself of some shallow value; but by keeping your names out of the headlines, it will also protect your future reputations.

If, on the other hand, you hope to found a dynasty, then plaster your own names proudly on the shingle. What else have you got to offer? How else can you pledge commitment? How better to stiffen your resolve and weather those inevitable hairy early days?

Your final plea: in which order should your names be listed? It's at this point, that you'll know for certain if you've picked the right partners or not. If you start squabbling about seniority, relative fame or the primacy of the alphabet, abort the venture now. It's doomed. But if you can agree that the only criterion that matters is euphony, you'll have it made. I wonder how Bernbach Dane Doyle would have done?

What do you make of the management theory that exists in some media companies that making an occasional and random sacking keeps the rest of the staff on their toes?

If I were running a company, this is the management theory I would nightly pray for my competitors to adopt.

To drive dogs mad, follow this simple procedure. Every day, for 20 days, sound a hooter and then give them a 12-ounce sirloin steak. On the 21st day, sound the hooter and give them an electric shock. Then give them another steak; then two electric shocks; then sound the hooter again and give them absolutely nothing. They will by now be whimpering wrecks.

The management theory you describe above will have precisely the same effect on intelligent people. To keep people on their toes (if you come to think of it, an uncomfortable and inefficient posture) you don't need random, mindless unpredictability. You need utterly predictable and consistent levels of challenge and reward.

But you knew that, didn't you?

"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10.

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Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.