On the Campaign couch: Why has my agency resigned our business?

You'd be well advised not to take your agency's reply at face value. Instead, consult Jeremy Bullmore's translated guide.

My agency has resigned our business but I can’t understand why. Do you have any ideas?

Your agency is rather better-placed than I am to answer this question so I suggest you ask them. But you’d be well-advised not to take their answers at face value.

Here’s a translation guide:

"We’re reluctantly resigning your business on a point of creative principle."

Translation: "We only took on your miserable little account because we were hoping to offload some cutting edge creative that would have bought us a bit of welcome attention in the way of awards. Then, for 17 consecutive meetings, you turned down some of the most mould-breaking creative work ever devised for your uninspiring sector. Though you like the work that’s currently running, Fabrizio cringes with embarrassment every time he sees it and it’s making it impossible for him to recruit new talent. He says he hasn’t been asked to chair an awards jury since it started."

"We very much hoped that our strategic and fully costed plans for your significant expansion would meet with your board’s approval. Now that they have been so decisively rejected, we feel that, on a point of honour, we have no choice but to resign."

Translation: "When you asked us to pitch for your business, you kept buying us drinks and telling us confidentially of your plans for taking over the world and how that would translate into mega-bucks for us. That was two years ago and bugger all has happened. We’ve had enough of subsidising your tacky little business."

"As a result of an international realignment within our holding company, over which we had no control, we regret that for competitive reasons we are unable to continue as your agency of record in this region."

Translation: "We couldn’t get on to the shortlist for Geo-Colossus Inc unless we dumped you first."

My brand is turning 80. How can we celebrate the milestone without seeming self-congratulatory?

It’s not so much the self-congratulation that presents the risk. Companies and brands that have decided to use a substantial anniversary as an excuse for a celebration eventually realise that, by reminding the world that they’re 80, they may be committing a sort of reputational suicide.

Having spent the past 70 years, and a great deal of money, making sure that they appeal to every successive youthful generation, they belatedly question the wisdom of spending a great deal of money telling the latest generation that they’re older than the latest generation’s grandparents.

This can lead to interesting communications as the brand explains why it’s only its venerable age that allows it to be so young. As creative briefs go, it’s what you might call challenging. If I were you, I’d try to find some link with your brand’s history that could prompt you to fund some socially useful scheme; a scheme named after your brand and designed to appeal to those in your most important target group. Funding worthy schemes is expected of well-established companies; and though the brand may be old, the fund itself can be funky.

Since my 19-year-old niece asked me what I do for a living, she has become really excited by the prospect of a career in advertising. However, the agency role’s changed a lot in my time (almost ten years), and most of it is for the worse. How do I be realistic without crushing the fragile dreams of an energetic young person?

You may be the wrong person to advise her. After ten years in the trade, you may be feeling more world-weary, more vulnerable and more battlescarred – but you’re probably still enjoying a more interesting life than your contemporaries working in accountancy and copper futures.

I think you should fund a lunch for your 19-year-old niece and four younger colleagues: two females, two males. Brief the colleagues to be absolutely frank and open – to tell it exactly as it is – and keep well out of it yourself. If she still feels excited by the prospect of an advertising career, don’t try to dissuade her. (She’d probably ignore your advice, anyway. You’re old.)

Why do brands in trouble so often move ad agencies?

You know perfectly well. 

Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.com, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free