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Uncle Carl

By The Drum, Administrator

July 11, 2008 | 7 min read

Dear Uncle Carl,

I have a nemesis. He joined the company six months ago and has almost erased me from existence. I don’t mind people being better at certain things, but he seems to have taken everything I was good at or known for around the place and become that little bit better at it or better known for it. The trouble is, he’s so darn likeable. I feel stripped of my identity and I don’t know what to do. Do you?

Stop whining? If someone comes along and simply does their job and the result is this ‘strips you of your identity’ then I would suggest you didn’t have much of an identity to start with. Or alternatively your identity is based on ‘look at me, I’m mediocre’, oooh that’s really impressive, I’m all a tingle!. Sounds like ‘nemesis’ has only proved that the ‘performance bar’ you have set yourself and your company accepts is akin to that favoured by limbo dancers - rather low. Your modus operandi seems to be ‘I do just enough to get by’ as opposed to ‘what can I do to be that much better?’

This guy isn’t your ‘nemesis’, your own apathy and attitude are.

Dear Uncle Carl,

The creatives that work for me aren’t as creative as they used to be. A lot of their ideas are a little tired, coming out of the ‘trend-following’ rather than ‘trend-setting’ cupboard. I hired them all on the basis of their fresh thinking, which is getting a little stale. Yet the group dynamic is great, and I think they have it in them to produce the next Honda skydive or drumming gorilla...How do I help them get their mojo back, before it starts costing me too much in lost pitches? From a troubled Captain Kirk

Well Kirk, I believe that the creative process involves regularly flexing the creative muscles. It sounds like your dynamic team has lost the habit and the technique, and are as you say, following the pack and not leading it.

Treat them like sportsmen, athletes, a team and get them into creative training again.

One of the times when they should attempt to raise their game is in the pitch process, the time when they can really flex those creative muscles. In effect, an agency pitch is our equivalent to a cup final – it’s all about your performance on the day and you either win or lose – no second chances, no extra times and no penalty shoot outs. No team would turn up to a cup final without warming up, playing some practice games and training hard – so do that! Create times, events, reasons to exercise their creativity.

Pit them against each other on fake pitches, or on existing accounts but with new ideas. When you do receive a pitch brief throw it open to ALL of the creative guys from Creative Director to Mac Operator. The competitive element for the ‘big idea’ which you will then take to the pitch will create a competitive, creative environment and force them to stretch themselves that little bit further. Use the same technique to produce a creative response for a client you do not have but really want and use your fabulous creative ideas to get in front of the prospect – you have nothing to lose and the creative freedom of no brief! And once you have your creative solution, put it up in front of everyone in the creative department, get their feedback and take that great idea and make it even better.

Dear Uncle Carl,

I work for a large broadcasting corporation that recently decided to relocate from London to Manchester. Or somewhere near Manchester, I’m not exactly sure. They’re offered us a relocation package that only barely cuts the mustard, but the biggest problem is my lack of understanding about what the North has to offer. Is it a good place to live and work?

The BBC is on the move. Auntie beeb is packing her bags and heading to the grim North – let’s hope she has a brolly. If you are not sure where you are even going then I don’t think your heart really is in the move regardless of the ‘mustard-cutting’ ability of the package. The North has lots to offer, that’s why millions of people live here – we are allowed to leave you know, we have passports and cars and everything! But we choose to stay because its great there’s the social side, the quality of life, the economic and creative industries, the football teams and the cheaper house prices... and the lovely people of course.

As a special welcome once we heard you were heading toward the sleepy village of Manchester we are now looking at introducing the congestion charge to make you feel at home – so that’s nice for all the ‘mancs’.

The North, after all, is relative – if you are in Scotland (where it’s wetter still) then we are in the South. So it’s all a question of changing the frame of reference in your own head. And bear in mind these last two points; one, if you don’t come, then it’s more jobs for us ‘northern folk’ and two, in five years thanks to global warming, London will be a lake and we will have a much warmer climate – the choice is yours.

Dear Uncle Carl,

We’ve had a bit of a change around here and some job titles have changed, including mine. The salary’s the same, but there’s definitely a sense of demotion in the change. They’re reassured me that it’s not a reflection of what I’m doing and that it’s just part of a restructure to better organise the team. Do I swallow my pride and just carry on with the work or should I consider moving somewhere that might appreciate me more?

Oh poor you. I would like to know what your title was and now is, as there may be a clue there in the motives of your bosses. ‘Some titles changed’ – interesting, perhaps they are trying to squeeze the ‘some’ of you out by giving you titles you find inappropriate or even derogatory (it’s been done before at a certain Leeds-based DM agency of four initials and they are not around anymore!). With the new title comes new expectations maybe and if you cannot meet the expectations then you will have a jolly appraisal won’t you?

If your actual job description, role, and expectations have changed too then crack on and do your job and see where it leads you. Otherwise you could always talk with the other ‘some’s and seek their opinion but at the end of the day, the only people that can lay your fears to rest are the bosses who made the decisions in the first place. So perhaps you should talk to them and express you concerns and hear their reasons and their rationale.

Then you can make your own decisions and see if it’s still the right role for you. Change can be unsettling but it doesn’t have to be bad.

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


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