Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I led the successful repitch for my agency's biggest account. I worked almost without a break for weeks to ensure we retained the business and jobs have been saved as a result.

I was promised a bonus for my efforts. Now I'm told the credit crunch means I can't have it. Am I entitled to feel aggrieved?

A: Anyone on the wrong end of a broken promise is entitled to feel aggrieved. What you must resist, however, is staying aggrieved. Some people manage to remain aggrieved for decades; miserable people, whom sensible people back away from in pubs. Their grievance ultimately consumes them but they never blame themselves, of course. They blame the party who provoked the grievance in the first place. They're technically right, but stupid.

So enjoy your grievance - but not for long. If your company's whole management style is dependent on breaking promises, then get the hell out: you should be quite a hot property at the moment. Otherwise smile and forget it.

Q: I'm an advertising student hoping to get into the ad industry when I graduate this summer. The trouble is, I don't drink alcohol. It's been hard enough getting through university teetotal, so how will I survive in advertising?

A: Don't base your preconceptions on Mad Men. Mad Men is wonderful, but it isn't about advertising. I think you'll survive just fine.

As you already know, the worst thing about not drinking is just how boring other people become: particularly people with long-cherished grievances. (See above.) But for all its quaint absurdities, advertising probably houses a smaller proportion of boring people than any other trade. Just imagine going to the pub after work with a group of fellow actuaries.

Q: I'm working on a client's business with a media agency that is plainly trying to muscle into my creative territory. Shall I just keep my mouth shut and let the client blow money on its half-baked ideas, or shall I tell the client and the media agency exactly what I think?

A: Advertising differs from neurosurgery in one crucial respect. A person with no training and no experience will never perform an immaculate frontal lobotomy. By contrast, it's perfectly possible for someone with no training and no experience to have a very good advertising idea. They won't know why it's a good idea and they may never have another one - but it's perfectly possible.

So clients will always want to see ideas, wherever they come from. That's one of the great appeals of the full creative review with a shortlist of 12. And so it's a unwise adman who badmouths a media agency's creative work before it's been seen: just because you think it's improbable doesn't mean that it won't be good.

And even if it's terrible, the fact that you badmouthed it before you saw it brands you as envious and insecure and strengthens the media company's argument to your mutual client that you're totally out of your depth in the digital age.

Remember: it was media companies that invented you 145 years ago - and they're perfectly capable of doing it again.

Q: I'm currently interviewing two graduates vying for a position at my agency. One is obviously extremely creatively talented, but is really arrogant with it. The other one will be a joy to work with but is arguably less gifted. Shall I just snap up the talent and let my team suffer the consequences?

A: Are you sure you're not being duped by a familiar false syllogism? "Highly creative people can be hell to work with. Therefore, people who are hell to work with are highly creative, while people who are a joy to work with aren't."

People have built whole careers on the basis of: "I'm a right bastard so I must be brilliant." It usually ends in tears - but only after many millions of pounds have been wasted and many innocent lives wrecked.

You say that the one who'd be a joy to work with is only arguably less gifted. So there's not that much in it, then? It's the fact that the first candidate is really arrogant that's persuaded you of his superiority. (I bet he's male.) Arrogance can be just fine. It gives people the confidence to fight for their ideas in a world where nothing is certain until five years after it's happened. But arrogance can also stop people from learning. Gifted people with a dash of self-doubt go on getting better and better.

I hope that's helped. Do let me know which one you hire.

- "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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