Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Dear Jeremy, I have a new chief executive joining at the end of the month, who will no doubt want to make himself look good and shake up the agency; new business will be key. Am I being more disloyal than he was to his last agency, if I put my CV out before he arrives?

A: Loyalty programmes have so corrupted the word loyalty that loyalty now means more or less the opposite of what loyalty ought to mean. What loyalty programmes buy is not loyalty: it can't be.

True loyalty is earned, not bought. Loyalty programmes try to entrap you. Like their corporate equivalents, share options, they attempt to counter the human inclination towards experiment and promiscuity by rewarding faithfulness and penalising enterprise. Their appeal is wholly rational.

By contrast, true loyalty is voluntary, unenforceable and always contains an important element of irrationality: "Despite everything, I still love you ..." The true test of brand loyalty is not the proportion of our disposable income we expend on a brand but the extent to which we will forgive its imperfections.

There. I feel better for that, even if you don't. Now, where was I?

Ah, yes. What makes you think this new chief executive of yours was being disloyal when he left his last agency? Only he knows that. And what makes you think that putting out your CV makes you disloyal to your current agency? Have they nurtured you, trained you, forgiven you, trusted you, invested in you and made you feel proud to belong to them? If so, you'd not only be disloyal to leave them, you'd also be mad. If they haven't, you owe them nothing.

In truth, of course, your question isn't about loyalty at all; it's about insecurity. You've spent years getting away with it and now you're scared witless that this ruthless new broom will do exactly what new brooms are brought in to do. If you had any faith in your own abilities, you wouldn't be wittering on about loyalty; you'd be eagerly awaiting his arrival.

Q: Everyone at my agency is jumping on Facebook and using the site to converse and share jokes. It started with the younger staff, but now most of the agency is on there. I feel I'm too old for this malarkey, but should I just bite the bullet and get involved too?

A: Dear me, no. That would be extremely undignified. It would also be irresponsible. People such as yourself have a valuable role to play in agency life and you mustn't shirk it.

The young, entirely rightly, think of themselves as early adopters, experimentalists, envelope-pushers, trail-blazers ... you know the words as well as I do - even if I'm still a bit hazy about the nature and desirability of pushing envelopes. But these are not absolute terms: they're relative. The young know they're young only because of the existence of the more mature; and they know they're early adopters only because of the existence of reactionaries like you. If you chose to join in - and, miraculously, managed to do so convincingly - you'd deprive them of all their gratifying points of reference.

Furthermore, by this time next year (or very possibly by this time next week), Facebook will have been superseded by something you haven't even heard of yet. Social networks are still at their crystal-set stage.

Particularly during these hectic times, every agency needs a few sound sages: ever mindful of timeless principles and boringly ready to disinter them. A generation ago, you'd have smoked a pipe. I don't know what you could do these days to make your brand position clear; do you know what a slide-rule is?

Q: I started in advertising about three years ago as an account manager and, until quite recently, I've loved my job. Two months ago, I made a bit of a balls-up with one of my clients which led to them "complaining" about me to my managing director. She then pulled me off the account. Since then, I feel like I've lost my confidence and it's embarrassing that everyone at my agency knows all about it. Should I move jobs? Is there ever going to be a future for me here again?

A: If you could interview the 100 wisest and most widely revered account directors in the history of advertising, you would discover they had at least one experience in common: every single one of them had a balls-up moment. Usually after about three years.

And that's how they came to be wise and widely revered. So take heart.

- "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.