A: If you want to impress your chief executive, I suggest you dig out the contract you signed with your agency, hire the most ruthless firm of lawyers you know, get them to certify that, in their professional opinion, the contract, at least implicitly, covers new product development; and with that in your pocket, challenge your agency to challenge your lawyers' opinion in court.
When this amazing new product turns out to be a gusher for your company, you'll be able to remind your chief executive (in writing, naturally, copy to the board) that, by shrewd negotiation, you were able to obtain the rights to the initial idea for nothing and that your company may lawfully retain 100 per cent of all future profits in perpetuity. As a result, you can look forward to a gratifying bonus and glittering career prospects.
If, on the other hand, you want to enjoy an even more successful career, you will do none of these things.
Decent human beings are instinctively appreciative and instinctively generous. Their generosity is prompted by no thought of return - so they're constantly astonished to discover that generosity turns out to be not a cost but an investment. Instinctively generous people are regularly rewarded by exceptional loyalty and priority service from suppliers. Their value is priceless. If you'd commissioned a new product development company to come up with an idea, and they'd done so, you'd expect them to be justly remunerated. Why should your agency be any different?
So whether you're legally required to or not, agree a deal with your agency. Unfortunately, it's clearly far too late for it to seem spontaneous - so don't expect them to love you to bits. Your own meanness of spirit has already seen to that. But next time, perhaps?
Q: My new boss is a total workaholic. She's very good at what she does, not least because she never stops working. I regularly get calls after midnight, which I've so far been taking. However, they are driving my sleeping husband mad. Shall I turn my phone off at night?
A: Is she married? If not, it explains everything - and if she is, she obviously can't stand him. So your first move must be to fix her up with an evening companion she finds even more attractive than her telephone. In an ideal world, he'd be a client.
Alternatively, lie. There are times when even St Peter would agree that a lie is morally acceptable. In this case, you, your husband and even your workaholic boss will all be better off without these midnight calls. Remember that incredible lies tend to be a great deal more credible than credible ones. So I suggest that your husband has an extremely hush-hush job with a Russian oligarch who works only at night. Your house has been wired to pick up all incoming calls, landline or mobile - so wireless silence is essential between the hours of 19.30 and 0700. When she begins to question you, say: "Please, Sonya - don't push me ..." And run from the room. With a few tears, perhaps?
Q: I recently hired a creative hotshop that's riding the crest of a wave. Great news for my business, you'd have thought. The problem is that every other client in town now wants a piece of them and they are included on numerous pitchlists. My concern is that the agency must be diluting its attention to my business while it competes for others'. I'm starting to think I may have made a bad decision on going for the hottest new thing.
A: I'm so glad I've never been a client: it must be a horrible job. You appoint the hottest shop in town - and then lie awake at nights fretting that they're not going to love you any more. Alternatively, to be sure of getting an agency's undivided attention, you appoint one that nobody else is remotely interested in. Which would you rather have, I wonder: not enough time from an excellent agency or more time than you need from a rotten one? What most clients seem to settle for is just about the right amount of time from an agency that's just about adequate. Sad, isn't it?
In your case, I'd stop fretting. They haven't let you down yet and I don't suppose they will. You're probably just jealous.
- "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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.