Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: My wife is about to leave me. She's sick of me working weekends and evenings. She's got a point - I fell asleep at the table on our wedding anniversary. As the managing director of a top-20 agency, how many nights a week should I be willing to donate to networking?

A: As the managing director of a top-20 agency, you'll have a deep understanding of brands. You'll therefore know that a brand that tries too hard, a brand that puts itself about ubiquitously, a brand that flatters its audience shamelessly, a brand that has a sale every three weeks with a price promotion in between; you'll know that this is a brand in serious trouble: a desperate brand, bought cynically for its price cuts but fundamentally despised. You'd never go out of your way to meet such a brand; the brand is already trying to force its unwanted way into your living room.

At least in our own small village, you too are a brand; but you don't seem to be a very confident one. You too are trying too hard.

From now on, limit your public appearances ruthlessly. Spend all your working hours on the work you do for clients. Ensure your best work is widely known and fairly credited. Supply the barest details for your A List entry. Contrive, invisibly, to have yourself profiled in the Financial Times but decline, politely, to co-operate in its writing. Send your regrets to industry invitations. Very soon, like all confident brands, you'll find potential clients, potential staff and senior journalists, intrigued and impressed by your reserve, will be anxious to be among the few who can claim to know you.

An evening a month networking should be more than enough. For the rest, go home at 7pm, never miss a Sports Day and take your wife to the occasional early movie with supper afterwards. You will find it easy to stay awake throughout.

This strategy is unique. It is the only strategy that eliminates work/life conflict. Time spent away from work, far from inducing guilt, actually enhances your professional appeal. It's possible, of course, as a direct result of all this unaccustomed attention, that your wife will want to leave you even more urgently. If so, please write to somebody else. I don't do maritals.

Q: Do you think Wacl is just as sexist as the Solus Club?

A: No. Wacl has a male honorary member.

Q: I'm a senior marketer at a big FMCG and I have just fallen victim to a range of job cuts after just 18 months as a result of a merger. Normally I'd just roll with the punches but I lost my last job in similar circumstances. Is this just one of those things or should I be worried?

A: It's worrying but it's not terminal. The demand for something called marketing continues to flourish, often from companies who don't know what it is. If I were you, that's the kind of berth I'd look for next. As a senior marketer in a big FMCG company, you're bound to be surrounded by other senior marketers; and come the inevitable merger, some of you are going to be surplus to requirements. Instead, apply to companies who've never done marketing before but are now beginning to think that they should get some in. They'll be full of admiration for your vocabulary and far too respectful to ask you what it means.

Q: We have just won an account from a rival. However, this rival has bullied the client into stopping us talking to the press about our appointment by threatening to withhold artwork and other such underhand tactics. What's the best way to handle this to our advantage?

A: Until 1970, advertising agencies put the interests of their clients first. Since 1970, advertising agencies have put their own interests first. This has not gone unnoticed - and is the single most important contributor to the erosion of trust between advertisers and their agencies. I can tell from your question that you remain an unreconstructed solipsist: you ignore your client and ask only what might be to your own advantage. Well, stop it at once.

Your client's interest is best served by seeing through the transfer of his business as silkily as possible. This entails some sacrifice on your part. Too bad.

With the transfer completed, of course, and the defenestrated agency stripped of its leverage, your client might be interested in a "now it can be told" story in the trade press. If that's what your client wanted, I'm sure you wouldn't stand in his way.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4683. Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.