Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: It's my son's sports day pretty soon and I'm desperate to be there. Trouble is, we have an important pitch on that day which I should attend as well. Can I just say "I'm sorry I can't do the pitch" or would that be career suicide?

A: There are certain decisions that absolutely no-one can help you make. But for one little phrase, to which I'll return, I'd have said that this was one of them.

Only you know the answers to the following questions: all of which have a bearing on your decision. How often before have you put work before family? Never? All the time? Once? How often have you promised your wife/children that you'd be at the carols, sports day, birthday party, pantomime - only to go missing at the last moment? How often have you left your colleagues working all through Saturday because Arsenal were playing away?

In other words, if you peered into the minds of your wife and your most senior colleague, and opened the files with your name on them: what, in all honesty, would you expect them to say? "Totally unreliable and cowardly spouse who talks a good game but always puts bloody work first when it comes to the crunch." Or, "Rather wet account person who bangs on about professional commitment yet always seems to be somewhere else when the kitchen gets hot."

Your sports day decision is dependent to a large extent on your past record and your current reputation. If your account's seriously overdrawn on one side or the other, bear that in mind. However, if your standing is impeccable all-round, you should probably go for the sports day; if only because you say that there's an important pitch "which I should attend". It sounds as if you're not expected to do anything remotely useful at this meeting: just attend. Only hugely senior people are thought to add value to pitches through mere attendance - and you're clearly not hugely senior. Less senior people who clutter up pitch meetings and contribute nothing do far more harm than good. So, if you're feeling sufficiently Jesuitical, you could even argue that, by declining to attend this pitch, you were unselfishly increasing your colleagues' chances of success.

You may still get either fired or divorced, of course.

Q: When I joined the advertising industry back in 1994, one of the most-read pieces in Campaign was the Top Ten table. Week by week, agencies were ranked on everything from Top Ten Best Reception Areas to Top Ten Best CEO Haircuts. Has the industry now matured and moved on to an altogether more sophisticated plane? Or should we bring it back?

A: Thank you for reminding me: those Top Ten rankings were irresistible. And I've no idea why they came to an end. Of all possible explanations, the sudden maturing of our industry seems to me the least credible; there is no other supporting evidence for such a trend. Nor can Campaign have exhausted potential subject matter. The more trivial the topic, the better the read; and there are surely loads of trivial topics left unranked.

Readers' suggestion warmly welcomed - but to prime the pump, here are a few diffident thoughts of my own.

Top Ten Most Weaselly Press Releases.

Top Ten Most Creative Explanations For Loss Of Key Talent.

Top Ten Most Neglected Websites.

Top Ten Most Unconvincing Conversions To Carbon Neutrality.

I do hope to see a regular feature resumed soon.

I also enjoyed the creative rankings. There was a time when I could turn to Campaign whenever I needed to know the name of the nation's 27th most creative copywriter. Today, I have no idea who it is.

Q: I'm 37 and a group account director. I've been offered a job in the New York office of a global network. I have no desire to move abroad, but feel that it might improve my long-term career prospects. What are your views on moving for your job? I'm married with a young family.

A: If you'd always yearned to go, if your kids were all of the right age and if your wife's widowed mother already lived there, you'd probably be right to accept; but not until you'd both spent at least a week in New York meeting people and thinking.

As it is, you've no desire to move abroad. Career prospects are improved by how you do things, not by where you do them. Having done this job reluctantly, and therefore poorly, for a couple of years, you'd probably have to pay your own way home.

- "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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