Dear Jeremy, I am a business director on a large UK-based brand in Slough. I have been asked by the client to find someone senior currently assigned to the account to do a six-month client-side secondment. I don’t want to send my top talent as they will refuse or defect. But neither do I want to send a poor performer (as convenient as that may be). Perhaps I should bite the bullet and just do it myself? I live in Windsor anyway, so it could mean an extra half-hour in bed.
Think it through, man (or, indeed, woman). If you take on this assignment yourself, you’ll have to leave someone in charge of the account back at the agency. If this person performs disastrously, the account will be put at risk. As a proxy client, your own influence will be both minimal and suspect; nothing you can do or say will save it. And if this person performs spectacularly well, why should the client (or, indeed, the agency) want you back when your six months is up?
Finally, it’s an established fact that all clients start work at least an hour earlier than agency people do. You might be nearer to your place of work but you’d still be getting out of bed sooner. I suggest that you keep thinking.
We’ve used a celebrity to front a long-running advertising campaign for one of our clients for some time. The celeb is pretty unpleasant, despite being more than happy to take the cash, and regardless of the irritation of having to deal with him, it’s been a success and the client has been happy making us both a bit richer. Now the client is insistent that he wants to meet him, but the celeb steadfastly refuses to do so – and I don’t want to lose the account or the celeb. How do I get out of this one?
This unpleasant celeb has an agent. The agent is even happier to take the cash than the unpleasant celeb. You call the agent and this is what you choose to tell him.
You’re hoping to persuade your client to renew the celeb’s contract for another year. The client is doubtful. While he accepts that the celeb has been successful so far, he finds him a little unsympathetic, a little stand-offish, a little aloof. While the client’s head says renew the contract, his heart just isn’t in it.
The agent has an idea: is it possible that a one-on-one meeting between the client and the celeb could help at all? You suck your teeth. "I suppose it could," you say doubtfully, "it might be worth trying. But my client’s not an easy man to please. Which is a real pity, because if he could only come to see the celeb as rather more approachable and renew his contract, it would certainly be on a rather more generous basis…"
Leave it with me, the agent says. And I think you safely may.
What happens after the meeting is, of course, out of your hands – and probably just as well.
Dear Jeremy, My advertising agency has just invited me to its staff Christmas party. I’m afraid last year I had a little too much to drink and tried to get a little too friendly with the lady that manages my account. At the time she was not forthcoming, but has recently made suggestive remarks about looking forward to partying with me at the Christmas bash. Do you think I should decline the invitation?
Aren’t you the same inadequate who wrote to me last year? And, if memory serves, the year before that? It’s the language that gives you away: the "lady" who manages your account; a "little too much" to drink; "a little too friendly"; "she was not forthcoming". How coy can you get?
Here’s the brutal truth. This lady forgave you last year and is being pleasant to you this year not because she finds you amusing or even good company but because she’s a polite person and you’re a client. Yet you’ve persuaded yourself that, should you accept this invitation, she’ll subject you to such temptation that you’ll be unable to resist. Oh dear, oh dear.
If you’re remotely interested in self-respect, accept the invitation, go to the bash, behave with impeccable charm, say thank you very much for having me, and leave early. The lady who manages your account will, perhaps for the first time, appreciate you for yourself rather than your budget.
Should you accept that third drink and start getting friendly again, you’ll have to jettison forever any plans you might have had to be a grown-up.
In any event, please do not write to me again.
Meanwhile, a very happy Christmas to all my other readers.
"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore’s Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4919
Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via firstname.lastname@example.org or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP
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