Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Anon writes: I am a young creative trying to break into the world of advertising. I graduated in May 2008 and started a work placement for a well-known above-the-line agency on a host of projects. At the time, the agency promised I could have a copy of anything that I originated or contributed to. Since leaving the agency, some of my work has been bought by clients; this work would be golden in my book. However, my constant efforts to contact the agency to obtain some of the work have been ignored. Many agencies preach nurturing young talent and giving young creatives opportunity, but in some instances this is very much not put into practice and is utilised as a PR tool. What would a good course of action be to obtain this work, or is it an unknown fact that once you leave an agency it is unlikely your work will make it to your book?

A: Dear Anon, this is what I suggest you do. Make up a large sign on which is written (The Name of the Despicable Agency). Then, using your creative skills, add a message: perhaps along the lines of Why Did You Need To Steal My Work You Silly People? (I'm sure you can think of something wittier.) Nail it to a broom handle.

Then take a photograph of the placard and e-mail it to your most senior contact at this despicable agency - naming the day on which you and your placard plan to parade up and down outside their front entrance. Make sure it's a working day and at a time when clients are likely to be arriving. (If you can discover when they're pitching for a mouth-watering piece of new business, so much the better.)

At the same time, inform Campaign of your intentions. You never know - they might just think of sending a photographer round. Alternatively, just draw this despicable agency's attention to today's column and ask very politely if they'd now kindly honour their promises.

Agencies that exploit the work placement system deserve every bit of public embarrassment, degradation and reputation damage that they incur.

Do please let me know how you get on.

Q: I'm a client who likes to have outside agencies pitching for projects along with my in-house creative department. I see nothing wrong with this. Agencies are so desperate that they'll pitch for anything that moves and it keeps my in-house team on its toes. Am I right?

A: Three questions.

Do you ever award projects to outside agencies? Do you pay them to pitch? And do you nurture your in-house agency?

If you can say yes to all three, then you're probably OK. If you can't, then you're not only misusing your proxy power but also serving your company badly. It's a thin line between keeping your in-house team on its toes and creating a bunch of rudderless wrecks, paralysed by insecurity and drained of objectivity.

I'm the chief executive of one of London's top agencies and our best creative talent has just decided he wants to move back home to the southern hemisphere. We've been hashing out a plan to keep him working for the agency, but is it really logistically possible to have a creative director based on the other side of the world?

No. An agency's creative reputation is invariably built bottom up, account by painstaking account: never top down. The most effective creative directors are in the same room; the least effective 14,000 miles away.

Q: In the current economic crisis, should we throw creativity out of the window and focus on selling products with cheaper alternatives, such as direct mail and online, to keep clients in profit? Shouldn't we have more of an emphasis on selling products than winning awards?

A: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Please write out 500 times:

In advertising, the sole purpose of creativity is to make a client's money go further. (If it doesn't, it isn't.)

In advertising, the sole purpose of creativity is to make a client's money go further. (If it doesn't, it isn't.)

In advertising, the sole purpose of creativity is to make a client's money go further. (If it doesn't, it isn't.)

Got it now? Good. And about time too, if I may say so.

For the next two years, clients are going to need more, not less.

In advertising, as in banking, lean times oblige even the most feckless to re-examine what they're for. And that's wonderful. The tragedy is, it gets forgotten again.

- "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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