Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: A rugby-mad marketing director writes: My agency has invited me on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Rugby World Cup in September. However, our company is realigning its services at the moment and there is a high likelihood that we won't be using the agency next year. Would it be immoral to accept the invite and feign ignorance later on?

A: If there's a high likelihood that you won't be using this agency next year, then there's a high likelihood that your agency has sussed this likelihood out for themselves. In which case, there's a high likelihood that you've been invited on this all-expenses-paid trip to the Rugby World Cup in the touching belief that you'll feel so compromised by their lavish hospitality that you'll feel morally bound to fight for their retention. How little they know you.

Let's forget about morality for a moment: it's always idiotic for an individual client to accept goodies from a supplier of such value that boardroom eyebrows would rightly be raised were it to become known. In this instance, it would certainly become known. Your marketing manager, who has done most of your work over the past three years and who hasn't been invited to the Rugby World Cup, would make sure it became known. This is what your chief executive says, over the top of his half-moon glasses: "And you mean to say, Simon, that you accepted this invitation in the almost certain knowledge that we'd be dispensing with the services of this agency by the end of the year?"

Thank your agency gracefully for their generous thought and watch the games on television.

Q: We're a non-profit environmental charity that has just started work with a top London creative agency. Despite the brains and insight shown in the pitch, I just can't believe that my agency feels entitled to take black cabs everywhere, increasing their carbon footprint while clocking up expenses. Is this relationship doomed from the off?

A: I continue to be bewildered by client diffidence. You are the principal, the holder of the cheque book, the big banana, the capo di tutti capi. So why are you whingeing to me about your agency's behaviour when you should be confronting them?

I do hope that, as a non-profit environmental charity, you don't feel beholden to your agency for so generously agreeing to act on your behalf. They wanted your business, they pitched for your business, they'll boast about handling your business. It should be as uncompromising a deal as any £50 million commercial contract. It would have been best if you'd spelt it all out before you signed: no black cabs, certified carbon neutrality a condition, an agreed ceiling on expenses. But do it now and the sooner the better.

What threatens this relationship, like so many, is unspoken resentment fermenting away inside. So remember who's boss around here. Assert yourself. Spit it out. Give it to them straight. It's only thoughtlessness on their part - and agencies' awe-inspiring ability to divorce themselves from reality.

Q: A disillusioned client writes: Every time I ask my agency to produce a radio brief, they look at me as if I've requested a five-minute direct-response infomercial. Then they give the brief to some junior placement team that makes a dog's dinner of the job, charging unnecessary hours and wasting my time in the process. I'll be damned if I'm employing a radio specialist. Any ideas how I get them to take radio seriously?

A: Traditional agencies get thoroughly upset when they're called traditional agencies. But what else do you call an agency that hasn't modified its structure or working practices for 50 years and whose creative department looks upon all media other than television with insolent disdain?

As the editor of this magazine has recently observed, writing for radio is a truer test of original creative talent than writing for television - if only because so many television commercials manage to disguise their want of an idea through buying in highly expensive post-production wizardry. And since there's no equivalent in radio, talent - or the lack of it - is transparently exposed.

So if I were you, I would go to your agency and tell them that, from now on, you propose to rate them overall on their ability to deliver outstanding creative work on those media attracting your lowest levels of expenditure.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more sense this makes. If an agency can do outstanding radio, outdoor and internet advertising, it should certainly find television advertising a doddle. The reverse is seldom true.

- "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@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.