Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I've just completed the earn-out period on the sale of my successful independent agency and made a healthy seven-figure sum, which could keep me in relative style for the remainder of my life.

I'm stepping down from full-time agency life but would like to remain involved in the industry. Do you have any advice on how I might still have a role?

A: A lot of people reading your question will think, "jammy sod". But not me. Unless you were unusually lucky in your partners, you must have enjoyed the agency business. I don't think you can build an agency successful enough to be worth several million quid while hating every minute of it. So in stepping down from full-time agency life, you'll be stepping down from things you probably never thought you enjoyed but will equally probably miss terribly.

More than most trades, the agency business has no time for dabblers. You're either in it up to your neck or you're nowhere. The touchline spectator who casts a few comments during the pitch rehearsal (which everybody already knows is chaotic) and then goes home for supper with his family has never understood the advertising business.

To enjoy agency life, you have to mind. You have to mind irrationally. You have to mind in a way that's totally incomprehensible both to your partner and to your best friend from college who's gone into property. You mind about good things and you mind about bad things. You mind when you can't get the campaign right and you mind when you do; you mind when you lose an account and you mind when you win one. You mind when a thoroughly decent person is no good at it. Everything matters and everything's important. The intensity of it all is quite ridiculous - and that's why you enjoyed it as much as you did. Even the effort of disguising your intensity is intense. That's what you'll be stepping down from. And, boy, will you miss it.

There are lots of things you can do instead. You'll quite enjoy them and they'll probably be useful. But nothing you do from now on will cause you to mind as intensely as you used to. What a release, you'll think. At last I can enjoy a sensible work-life balance. (You may even contemplate that dubious notion of "putting something back".) Brace yourself, though: there'll still be a void.

One thing you must promise me you won't do: and that's negotiate an office and a PA in your old agency and haunt the place, occasionally casting a look at some creative work and sighing. Vacate the premises completely and return only if invited.

Q: My agency has just landed the creative account to extol the generic benefits of fitting carpets in a house as opposed to other alternatives. Can you give me any general tips on stirring up interest in low-interest categories/products and on motivating the team at the agency to create good work?

A: Haemorrhoid remedies are of very low interest to twentysomething creative people, but of exceptional interest to people with piles. Unless your teams can learn to look at life through the eyes of others, they'll never be any good at advertising.

Just let your agency know that those destined for stardom and stratospheric salaries will in future be drawn exclusively from those who most convincingly demonstrate their ability to engage the attention of people least like themselves. There are people out there for whom the prospect of treating their treasured homes to fitted carpets would fill their lives with wonderment. They might not be the first choice of your creative department as clubbing companions but that's wholly irrelevant.

They shouldn't be mocked; they need to be understood, engaged - and inspired.

Q: I'm a young account executive (female). I love my job, the work and the benefits and perks - but unfortunately I also love my colleague who sits opposite me, which leaves me with two problems. One, my boyfriend and, two, the fact that he consistently irritates the hell out of me, smells quite bad on occasions and is not what you'd call classically good looking. He has me questioning my sanity. Can you help?

A: Oh dear. I'm afraid this isn't really that kind of column. But it sounds to me as if you might be what I understand is called "in love".

This state is known to be irrational - indeed, love and rationality are thought by scientists to be mutually exclusive. Nobody has ever been described as being sanely in love. I'd simply wait till it wears off, if I were you. And if it doesn't, propose. That'll send him scuttling.

- "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.