Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Dear Jeremy, a start-up agency has offered to handle my business for way below the market rate because they want to get some flagship clients quickly. Should I be tempted?

A: Why has the start-up agency offered you a deep discount? Because they can't attract proper clients. Why can't they attract proper clients? Because their reputation isn't secure enough. Why are you considering employing an agency with an uncertain reputation? Because you're an idiot.

Q: My agency recently got into a whole lot of trouble after a US-based creative posted some ads online. We got fired by the client and legal action is still a potential problem. My question is, with the internet making it so easy for people to "share" their work, how can you stop this sort of thing happening in future?

You can't. If the second-biggest bank in France couldn't stop young Jerome from mislaying rather more than the total value of the second-biggest bank in France, what hope have you got of stopping the occasional prankster from posting a few rude ads?

All you can do - and you should be doing it anyway - is to make it clear that no-one in your agency thinks it's in the least bit witty to breach client security, endanger client relationships and jeopardise the jobs of your best mates. Managements seem so terrified of being thought humourless suits that they sometimes indulge the irresponsible quite irresponsibly. While it's perfectly possible for people to be disrespectful, undeferential and even anarchic - and by so doing, actually contribute to an agency's sense of infinite possibility - knowingly putting the business that pays you at risk is evidence of criminal stupidity. It's not a difficult borderline to identify and register; and it will deter all but the criminally stupid.

Q: An agency chief executive writes: "The recruitment consultant I use for most of my senior appointments has informed me that he'll now be poaching from my agency as well as searching for it. I've rarely seen a clearer conflict of interests, but am I being naive in thinking this is wrong? Should I make a stand?"

A: Trust the market. Your consultant is being greedy and markets abhor greed. For every newly greedy consultant, there will be at least two anxious to serve you with serf-like fidelity. Yours will be the last laugh.

Q: Everyone keeps talking to me about Facebook. Should I feel ashamed that (a) I don't have a Facebook profile and (b) that I don't really care that much about it?

A: You may be wondering why I've waited six months to answer this question. There are two reasons. Six months ago, I didn't know what I thought about Facebook. And secondly, I had an instinct that, whatever I thought about Facebook then, I wouldn't be thinking about Facebook six months later. So excuse my dither; it's the result of ignorance, cowardice, vanity and low cunning.

I can now say with confidence that you shouldn't be in the least ashamed of not having a Facebook profile nor of caring little about it. By now, you've probably come to the same conclusion yourself. Before the age of the internet, crazes could last a long time: conkers, for instance, or hula hoops. Now they're over before most people have heard of them. The new shame is being seen to be stuck with something that everyone else is deserting in droves. Who wants to be the last kid in the playground with a Cabbage Patch Doll? So you've done well. Just don't get too smug about it, that's all. There are plenty more crazes lined up to lure you, and one of them will last as long as conkers.

Q: I run a regional agency and last month we sent a new ad exclusively to Campaign that it didn't run. It was then too late to send to other magazines. It's very frustrating as we don't have that many opportunities to get PR. What should we do?

A: You have an attractively wide range of actions, it seems to me. You could write a letter to the editor, informing her of your board's decision never again to send them anything. That should get her whimpering for mercy. Or you could report Campaign to Haymarket's chairman, Lord Heseltine, for professional irresponsibility in failing to print a PR puff. He'd certainly give them what for and deputy heads might even roll. Or you could do what every other company does when it wants to be certain of guaranteed, controlled publicity; you could pay for what we in the trade call an advertisement. I feel sure Campaign would accept it.

- "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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