Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: A marketing director writes: "Both I and my company's ad agency are keen to kill off our brand icon, a loveable mutt. He's old hat, irritating and says nothing about our brand. The trouble is, he's modelled on the chairman's family pet and he won't hear of it. How can we convince him to think otherwise?"

A: Sorry to contradict you, but it's just not possible for this brand icon to say nothing about the brand. If he's old hat and irritating, then he's saying a lot about the brand - and none of it helpful.

But are you sure that he's old hat and irritating to real people - and not just to you and your agency who almost certainly inherited him? We all know that brand properties we inherit are much less valuable than brand properties we create; there's never been an exception to this curious truth. That's why brand properties get killed off just when they're on the brink of becoming priceless - and why there's a role for your chairman. Remember the agency man who was asked how he justified charging huge fees for running exactly the same ad for 15 years: "For stopping the client from changing it," he replied.

Well, that's got rid of my grumpy old man bit. It may even be true. You'd better examine both your research and your conscience before you commit yourself irrevocably to iconicide. Your next move is a makeover. Any good art director should be able to transform that scruffy old mutt into a cutting-edge example of 21st-century semiology at the click of a mouse. "The wonderful thing about Bertie, chairman, is that he's absolutely timeless!" Greasing-up of this kind is perfectly permissible in a good cause.

As a last resort, get Tesco to say that they find Bertie unhygienic - but not until you've found a fantastic replacement.

Q: A creative director writes: "Why are there so many rotten DM agencies churning out rotten work for great companies who deserve better, and sadly becoming very rich in the process?"

A: Tell you what. Why don't you approach one of these great companies and make them an offer? Absolutely for free, you'll run them up some creative work which they can then pitch against the rotten work they're currently running. Because that's the marvellous thing about direct marketing, isn't it? A client can actually work out quite easily which ads pull best.

To add spice to the offer, and as evidence of your confidence, suggest that if your stuff wins, you get the account and if your stuff loses, you pay all the media costs. What a telling way to make your excellent point!

Q: An agency MD writes: "Last week a journalist called me and told me there was a brief out for my job. What should I do?"

A: Let's run through the options. Nothing: on the grounds that journalists never get things right. Panic: and get in touch with your favourite headhunter. Hatch a plot: enlist the support of your biggest client with some not-too-subtle blackmail in mind. Get mad: and confront your chief executive with accusations of treachery and formless threats.

I don't know about you, but none of the above grabs me particularly. However, like most people, you've spent a lot of time recently telling your friends what you'd really like to do with your life - so now's the time to stop talking and start planning. If you do get the chop, you'll be genuinely grateful; and there'll be a nice lump sum to ease your passage. And if you don't - well, you'll just be slightly more unsettled than you were before but far better prepared.

Q: We've recently hired a brand consultancy to get some new ideas and, to be honest, I didn't think to tell our ad agency - after all, brand strategy is my business. On the other hand, I don't necessarily want them to resign our account in a fit of pique. What should I do?

A: You should understand agencies. Forget about financial directors and holding companies: true agency people, the ones you most want on your side, deeply regret having to ask you for money. They want to love your brand and they want you to love them back. They want to share your knowledge and enjoy your trust. They want to have ideas that make you rich and famous. In their perfect world, they'd do all this for nothing; it's enough that you think they're wonderful.

Yes, of course, it's very unworldly; but where else would you find such uncynical devotion - and the occasional chunk of magic that delivers you more profit than your entire R&D budget?

- "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.