Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Cannes is approaching and I can only take a small number of staff this year. How do I decide which of my team to take along?

A: Stop trying to get it right. Concentrate on the more modest aim of damage limitation. However thoughtfully you make your selection, you'll end up having spent a great deal of your company's money, while deeply upsetting many of your most treasured people. If you can contain the number of miffed people to a manageable minimum, you'll have achieved a triumph of management.

That said, here are a few handy hints: Don't take only those who are widely known to be your personal favourites. You'll demotivate the other 95 per cent - who'll take their gleeful revenge in your absence. You'll return to chaos.

Don't hold a lottery. You'll end up taking the five people in your agency of whom you're profoundly ashamed. They'll let you down throughout the week and - because their selection would be evidence of the high esteem in which you hold them - you won't be able to fire them for at least a year.

Don't hold a rigged lottery. As soon as the winners are made known, everyone will know it was rigged. Unless, of course, you rig it in favour of the five people in your agency of whom you're profoundly ashamed. See above.

Don't delegate the decision. You'll get blamed anyway - unless, of course, you make it absolutely clear that you're not in charge. In which case, what are you doing running the agency?

One Top Tip: Take at least one immensely hard-working, totally reliable and chronically diffident backroom person. They'll be universally known as Good Old Wendy or Good Old Frank. After 14 years, they've never yet been invited to an awards dinner, nor have they expected it. This ploy is recommended for two excellent reasons.

First, it's high time Frank and Wendy were recognised and rewarded. You should have done it years ago. And second, only right bastards will begrudge their inclusion - and who cares about the right bastards? There'll be widespread admiration for the sanctity of your decision which - entirely irrationally - will mute the inevitable resentment provoked by all your other choices.

It's not often you can be thoroughly sneaky with an absolutely clear conscience.

Q: Why do agencies attempt to "bury" bad news in trade titles such as Marketing? Surely those titles are read by their clients. Would agencies rather lose face to marketing departments than their peers?

A: Every time.

Q: The creatives and planners in my agency just don't seem to get on. Do you have any suggestions for team harmony? A night of karaoke?

A: By all means try a night of karaoke. I'll be interested to hear how it goes. I can just imagine the meeting the next morning when your executive creative director says to your head of planning: "As someone who stands in awe of your rendition of My Way, Wolfgang, I naturally defer to your judgment that we should abandon this idea we've been developing for seven months and revert to the campaign we inherited from the previous agency. I'm sure that's the principled decision."

But in case your night of karaoke doesn't do the trick completely, here are a couple of other thoughts: Some planners delight in establishing truth. Nothing wrong with that, of course; but when the truth they've established is that the idea the creative team has been working on for seven months is a copper-bottomed bummer, they'd be wise to disguise their delight. Research companies need to learn this lesson as well. Creative people, being sensitive and solipsistic, don't always see truth as beautiful. They may not even see it as truth. Good planners break bad news with Harley Street silkiness.

Bad planners see campaign development as a relay race. After several weeks they hand over the brief, which reads: "Position Burgrips as the ultimate in contemporary chic whilst remaining true to its traditionalist roots." They then retire from the arena altogether, the job done. (Bad planners always use the word whilst rather than the word while; they think it more authoritative.) Good planners know that ideas don't just happen; they develop. Good planners share the birth pangs; they hold hands and grunt in sympathy.

I bet the last time you had creatives and planners working in harmony was last Sunday night before that new-business pitch. Once there's a clear and common goal, they sometimes realise they need each other. Not that they'll ever admit it, of course.

- "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.

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