Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: A head of account management writes: I've hired a graduate trainee signed to start in September. Last night, I found my way on to his Facebook profile where I was flabbergasted by photos of his spare-time activities and the company he keeps. Is it wrong to withdraw the offer, which he has already accepted? And what excuse do I give if I do?

A: You say you found your way on to his Facebook profile as if you accidentally took a wrong turning in Soho and suddenly found yourself taking part in an orgy, m'lud. But why dissemble? You went looking - and why not? That's exactly what he wanted you to do. People concerned to keep their private lives private don't run Facebook profiles.

If you knew as much about the rest of your staff as you now know about your new recruit, you probably wouldn't have hired any of them. Ignorance may not be positively blissful, but it doesn't keep you awake at night.

Only if his activities are clearly criminal should you pause for thought. Otherwise, take him on with a light heart. The agency business, as all seem agreed, could do with a few new characters.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I've got this client, his business is worth a lot of money to my agency, but I hate him. And he has just decided to become a vegan, so taking him to lunch - which used to be the only way of getting him to be quiet - has even become a nightmare. What should I do?

A: You're not allowed to hate clients, particularly profitable ones. Creative people and account planners often huddle over drinks and wonder bitterly what account executives are for. Some new agencies try doing without them altogether. But account executives have an essential, irreplaceable role: they are there to love clients. If you can't do that, you're in the wrong job.

Every agency person has a shortlist of angelic clients and a rather longer list of nightmare ones. Most client companies, however principled, occasionally find themselves with unfortunate marketing staff. They get appointed, they look upon their marketing budgets as evidence of personal stature, they call supplier reviews, they bring critical marketing activity to a halt, they destroy decades of painfully built trust and understanding - and then they get fired.

This mayhem has to be managed - and that's what account executives are for: to remain best friends with nightmare clients until they're fired; yet stay personally uncontaminated and still on good terms with the client companies' chief executives. It's the hardest job in advertising.

All you've got to manage is a boring vegan. There are agency account executives across the world who would kill for your job. Count your blessings or take up llama farming.

Q: The head of a design agency writes: Our parent company has just bought a stake in one of London's biggest creative shops. I'm keen to get our relationship off to the best possible start and also see if I can make some inroads into their clients. Should I lunch them? Throw a party? Or is there a more subtle way to mark our start as group partners?

A: If the management of this creative shop happens to read your letter it will confirm them in their worst fears. "Making inroads" isn't your most judicious choice of phrase.

This is how they see you. You are a design company; that means you thrash about for 18 months doing spurious research and then send in a bill for three million quid for a new corporate logo that could have been sketched on the back of a beer-mat in the time it took to pull a pint of Guinness.

And now, because of this wholly involuntary new kinship, you will expect them to introduce you enthusiastically to their most valued clients - where all you can do is damage.

Now, stop whimpering. I didn't say this was fair or accurate. I just said this is how they see you. This is your starting position. Throwing a party for them would simply bear out their belief that you were a bunch of posey poncers.

So let me introduce you to a revolutionary marketing principle. Ask not what they can do for you; instead, ask what you might be able to do for them. Take them through the work you do for your clients, analysing all existing creative agency relationships, and offering, when the opportunity seems ripe, to effect introductions.

They will be taken aback - and after only a year or two, might even consider reciprocating. They'll also have learned what you really do.

- "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.