Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: My biggest rival at the agency has just returned from Davos, where he got an invite from our holding company boss to chair a session on advertising issues. I've always fancied myself as a player on the world stage and I want to get to this gig next year. How should I cosy up to the big boss?

A: As I read your question, and cowered from its dire phraseology, I was reminded of someone I once knew.

Dominick Purefoy got a reasonable degree in media studies and landed a job at a middle-sized London ad agency that was part of an enormous international network. Though he claimed to have studied advertising, he had in fact only studied advertising agencies - and, in particular, advertising agency people. (He'd persuaded his JCR to take out a subscription to Campaign.)

He went to conferences: not to learn anything, but to meet the speakers. He wrote them long letters of congratulation afterwards to which they sometimes responded. He also wrote letters to the trade press and was the first to ask a question at IPA meetings. He was invited to join a committee or two and sent out more than 200 personal Christmas cards.

Though the agency that employed him didn't rate him at all highly, they became uneasily aware of his growing off-stage reputation. So when the chief executive of its holding company paid a dutiful visit to London and asked to meet some Young Turks, Dominick Purefoy was placed on his right at dinner. The following year, Dominick was invited by the holding company boss to accompany him to Davos.

Three years later, Purefoy was promoted over the heads of 17 colleagues to be chief executive of his agency with pan-European responsibilities. And two years after that, it finally dawned on absolutely everyone that the only thing that Dominick Purefoy was good at was advancing his own career.

At the age of 34 1/2, with undiminished ambition and a monumental mortgage, Dominick Purefoy was out of a job.

I hope that helps.

Q: What is the obsession with detoxing in January? This grand old industry was built on booze, excess and red meat and I don't like it. No drinks, unless they're healthy fruit things, no meat, no coffee, no fags, no fun. And don't get me started on colonic irrigation. How can I continue my adland life, and run my business, while all around me are purging, puking, prattling on about their boring detoxed life and pumping out noxious gas?

A: I'm surprised you haven't spotted the opportunity that these arid Januarys offer up. More than any other month, January needs artificial respiration. You're not alone in finding it dispiriting. A great many clients, though understandably reluctant to broadcast the fact, also long for some distraction. They've been good family men for the best part of two weeks and back at the office it's cold and quiet and boring. They are easy meat.

Start planning your January 2009 diary now. Get all your invitations out by the end of November. You'll be amazed at the response rate you achieve. By the end of next January month, you will have entertained well over £100 million of potential new business and enjoyed every minute. And people may even congratulate you on your selflessness.

Q: Dear Jeremy, if I give my account to a new agency, will I get all their love and attention in perpetuity as a founding client, or will they be too busy trying to win more, more, more business?

A: Let's assume that the new agency you have in mind is a good agency. And let's also assume that they will be very anxious indeed to acquire your account: without any clients, start-up agencies look a little unconvincing. So before signing, I suggest you draw up a legally binding pre-nuptial agreement for your agency to sign. Its main condition will read:

"We, GBH & Partners, hereby undertake to include, in any new-business presentation we may make at any time in the future, a Satisfaction Audit signed by you on behalf of your company, Anglo-Galvanized. This Audit will detail not only your level of satisfaction with GBH & Partners in all departments, but will also register trends: whether you are more or less satisfied than you were when GBH were first appointed. GBH & Partners will not have sight of this Audit; it will be handed to each potential client in a sealed envelope."

This ingenious wheeze will ensure that however many mega clients your new agency wins, and however much their budgets dwarf yours, you, their founding client, will forever remain their most important.

- "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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