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Q I'm 18 months into a big job that involves turning around a failing agency's fortunes. Our holding company parent is starting to make uncomfortable noises about my supposed lack of progress, but I've argued that such a radical change in fortunes will take a few more years to show through in our numbers. What's your view of a decent time before material results should be expected?

At least you're not whinging on about the time it takes to turn around a supertanker. It has always been a rotten analogy and, by now, it's not only inaccurate but tired and apologetic as well. There are laws of physics that govern the ma-noeuvrability of a large vessel. There are none that govern that of an agency. I share your holding company's opinion that, after 18 months already,"a few more years" sounds pretty feeble.

What you need to appreciate is that actual success is achieved by first acquiring a reputation for success and not, as many believe, the other way round. By whatever means, let it be known that your agency has scored two victories. They should be spaced seven or 14 days apart, so that the press release announcing the second can use the phrase "hot on the heels of" when referring back to the earlier triumph. One victory is either a false dawn or a flash in the pan.Two victories constitute a trend. If you can conjure up a third, so much the bet- ter. Soon after that, you'll find it easier to hire good people and easier to get on shortlists. And, soon after that, you'll win two important awards and some real new business.

It may take a little longer for the numbers to show through - but as long as the press cuttings make cheerful reading, your parent company will hold its fire.

Q Since our executive creative director took over the reins on the interior design at my agency, I feel like I work in a student house. I now sit next to a stuffed goat. He has just informed me that he has ordered a wigwam on eBay to put in reception. Shall I hand in my resignation now, or just have all the tat quietly removed when he's next on holiday?

I can understand your unhappiness. I wish I could comfort you, but I can't. You should be even more dispirited than you are.

Having a wigwam in your reception will not, of itself, propel your agency into administration. How-ever, having an executive creative director who believes that having a wigwam in reception is evidence of an agency's creative abilities un- doubtedly will.

No: it's even worse than that. Your executive creative director knows perfectly bloody well that having a wigwam in reception is evidence of absolutely nothing. He also knows that there are enough people around who are timid enough or gullible enough to believe that having a wigwam in reception is evidence of creativity.

But perversely, of course, for all those who understand this truth - and that will include most clients and the most valuable 20 per cent of the creative department - having a wigwam in reception is evidence of the precise opposite: that the agency is so wanting in creativity that it has resorted to putting a wigwam in reception.

Please read the following sentence five times and then commit it to memory.The only evidence of an agency's creative ability is its creative output: everything else is smokescreen.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J Walter Thompson and WPP. If you have any questions, e-mail

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Publication:Campaign Middle East
Date:Feb 24, 2013
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