Agency Agony Uncle

Bah Humbug!

Dear Uncle Carl,

I am ashamed to say that this year I am going to have to cancel Christmas. The agency hasn’t been doing badly, but it hasn’t been doing hugely well either. In this climate we have to be prudent. As such, we aren’t going to hold a staff Christmas party for the first time in over ten years. Thing is, I don’t know how to tell the team. What will the backlash be? And what if news gets out to rivals or to clients?

I wonder how many ‘teams’ are reading this thinking ‘that’s our fucking boss that is’? You haven’t done badly and you haven’t done great, so you must have done OK. I therefore don’t understand why you are cancelling your party. I would have advised that you simply scale it down, but you have already decided to cancel it, so now it’s your problem.

Your staff will be miserable and think you are a tight arse, your rivals will laugh at you and tell everyone you are going out of business and your clients will go to other parties from other agencies – so it was a stupid thing to do. Have you cancelled Christmas lunch with your family too? No you haven’t, but you have pulled the rug on the only people that made sure you got through the year in the first place! And they are the same people who you want to come back in the New Year and do it all again for you. Silly boy.

Get them together and tell them the big party is postponed until the numbers turn around and you will have an Xmas party in March or something, then tell them on the last night at work that you will put some money on the local bar and let them all get pissed. Think it over Scrooge.

Dear Uncle Carl,

You have been about a bit so you might be able to help. I’m a young designer, trained at an art college in Scotland. However, I have a dilemma. I want to work for an agency that has lots of top quality clients. An agency that produces constantly great creative work. An agency that will expose me to some great designers so I can learn and grow. I’ve had job offers from a couple of local agencies, but I’m not sure they would offer me all the above. Do I have to move to London to tick all the boxes? If not, what is the “most creative” city outside the capital?

‘Been about a bit’ - cheeky little fucker. ‘I want’ - picky little fucker. ‘Had offers’ - arrogant little fucker. ‘Do I have to move’ - lazy little fucker. I’m sure with your attitude, Scotland will be glad to see the back of you. Please do turn down the offers you have as they will only come to regret employing such an arrogant little shit. Please do ‘move’ around so lots of ‘great designers’ can have the pleasure to tell you to fuck off. Alternatively while you are sat in your bedroom with your trousers around your ankles ‘reading’ Nuts you might want to wash your hands and read the trade press and newspapers occasionally and I mean ‘read’ not look at the pictures. Or maybe try to watch the news and not Dave.

There are two or three things you need to be aware of, one of those being that Scotland is full of fantastic agencies. Also there happens to be a recession on, pencil-dick, (as you have to be a boy... I won’t credit you with being a ‘man’) in which ‘great designers’ are losing their jobs by the week putting their families’ livelihoods at risk. And be aware that every year thousands of ‘young designers’ (like you but without the twatish-attitude) are pumped into the industry. So taking these things into account sweetheart, I suggest you grow up and take any opportunity that comes your way. Perhaps you should wait until your balls have dropped and your skin has cleared up.

Dear Uncle Carl,

As an ad agency we employ a PR firm to promote our company. I thought it would be worth it as it would save me having to run about and sort out our own PR responsibilities, yet keeping in the eye of the industry. The thing is, I’m starting to wonder whether now is a time to review if they have been worth their fee. I can’t say I’m amazed at what they’ve done so far, but perhaps not being from a PR background, I’m underestimating the work they’ve done.

You sound like a drippy client. ‘Oh, things are tight. Lets cut the marketing spend’ - how do you feel when your ‘clients’ do that? Don’t you tell them about the benefits your activities have not simply on their sales but on their awareness, their brand, their staff morale and customer communications? Also wouldn’t you tell them that your ‘advertising’ activity keeps their competitors on their toes too? Well, surely the same applies to you and your PR. Perhaps you simply did not set out clear measurements and objectives at the start of the relationship so now you have nothing to really measure against leaving it hard for you to quantify the true value of their PR activity. So by all means review, but don’t pack it in; be focussed on what you want them to achieve. And a great opportunity lies ahead as there will be other soppy gits like you also pulling away from their PR agencies meaning it should be easier for you to get your mediocre stories in the press.

Having said that you are an ‘advertising agency’; you could always create some adverts about yourself that will cost you more than a month’s PR retainer to print once. At least you will feel you achieved something. I’m glad you said you were an ‘advertising’ agency and not a marketing agency because if you were, you would know effective marketing relies on more than one channel. But as you said you know fuck all about PR so you probably know little about marketing. So what will you do, stop your PR or refocus and try learn something? The choice as always is yours Einstein – good luck.

Dear Uncle Carl,

To buy or not to buy, that is my question. In recent months we were looking to buy new premises for our agency (we currently rent). We have identified one now, but with the market as it is, is it a risk that we, as a small-ish business, should avoid?

If it flies, floats or fucks – rent it. That’s how the wealthy live their lives and it may be worth taking their advice and applying it to your new office move. If you believe all you read, I know I do, then the property market will continue to fall into next year so sit tight. Also I believe that property developers and owners now receive rate bills for empty offices where they did not in the past, this makes the market awash with deals and nervous looking estate agents who have targets to make very flexible indeed.

Here’s an old tip regardless of buying or renting; bung a mate a few quid to go first and get the best deal from an agent on the offices you want and then when he walks away you start your negotiations where he finished – it’s got to be a buyer’s market. Also in the short term, consider office sharing – there will be other businesses who may be able to and desperate to sublet parts of their building to you! They may also have services you could use and vice-versa. Good luck. And if there are any estate agencies reading this then...don’t you wish you had a proper job now you lazy money grabbing gits.

Are you troubled? Don’t be. send your questions for uncle carl to Or, If you wish to meet with carl to talk about your business, then simply email him on

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