Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm a marketing director at a large FMCG company that is gearing up to review its agency arrangements. My chief executive would like me to handle the review in-house, whereas I've always used a matchmaker to manage this process in the past. What's the best way to convince him that mine is the better solution?

A: I can't help but remark on this word "always". Make a habit of conducting agency reviews, do you? If so, be prepared to accept that there'll be certain cynics - not me, obviously - who'll question your motives.

Never is a marketing director closer to experiencing divine adulation than when spearheading an agency review. There's been such a surge of Celebrity Marketing Directors over the past few years (no, no: not you - I do know that) that it's about time they got their own primetime television series.

Getting some of the best agency talent in town to go through their paces in front of you - at huge cost to themselves - and then submitting them to the degradation of rejection is already terrific sport. In front of a television audience of several million people (including your family who often wonder what you do exactly) it would be just sensational: I expect they'd ask for your autograph at the check-out on Saturday. Of course you'd need a catchphrase. What's the most hurtful way to reject creative work that's taken conscientious people many weeks to develop? Try, "You wanna know what I think?" (Hold pause for a count of ten.) "I think that's shit!" The audience will love you.

However, I do realise that in your case none of this is relevant. You're not that sort of person at all. You're not holding an agency review because it suddenly makes you the most-admired person in the universe, nor because you can pick the best brains in the business for absolutely nothing. No, no, perish the thought: nothing so ignoble. You're holding an agency review because you're about to miss your sales targets for the third year running and you badly need a diversionary tactic.

For marketing directors keen to cover their backs, I can wholeheartedly recommend using a matchmaker. That way, there'll be someone to blame when the new agency still hasn't got its act together, it's the national sales conference next week and Chuck Rebozo's coming over from Akron, Ohio. How to convince your CEO that he should pay for a matchmaker, I confidently leave to you: you've obviously done it many times before.

Q: After two years of abject misery, I've finally resigned from my job. But as I sit contemplating how to fill up the remainder of my notice period, I have become desperate to unload both barrels before I go at the hapless, institutionalised managing director. Unfortunately, said managing director is best mates with the HR director who will be present in my exit interview. Should I just skulk away, smiling sweetly, or charge in, studs-up, and let rip?

A: Neither. Count to 532, take a deep draught of Bournvita, prop a photograph of your youngest daughter against the telephone - and start writing.

Itemise, preferably with dates and witnesses, the key inadequacies of your managing director. Favour facts. Avoid vindictiveness, repetition, pettiness, and personal comment (halitosis is not a failure of management). Then go through it slowly, taking out every other adjective. When asked by your next company why you chose to leave this one, you will need this letter. So read it through again with this in mind. Do you come across as a rat? If so, edit accordingly.

Just before attending the exit interview with the HR director, hand deliver your letter - marked Only To Be Opened By ... - to your managing director's PA. Then hand a copy to the HR director and invite her to read it. As exit interviews go, yours should be a short one.

Q: I'm an account director at a big direct marketing agency, and one of my clients is an anti-smoking charity. Ironically, I smoke no less than 30 a day - so fail spectacularly to practice what I preach. How important is it to really believe in the brand you work on?

A: Always drinking your client's lager is not proof of your belief in it. It may be polite and it's certainly prudent but it's not to be confused with true brand loyalty. If I were your client, I'd be delighted that you smoke. You're daily evidence of the job to be done and why it's difficult. When you do decide to give up, I hope it's not for the wrong reasons.

- "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.


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