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Agency Agony Uncle: Get a grip

By The Drum | Administrator

August 21, 2008 | 7 min read

Carl Hopkins made his millions selling his agency JDA, and what he doesn’t know about marketing isn’t worth knowing. Our Agency Agony Uncle shares his widsom and harsh words with those poor marketing souls who are currently faced with adversity.

Dear Uncle Carl,

Why doesn’t anyone socialise after work anymore? They all used to, but now I find myself propping up the bar at my local bar all by myself.

That may be because a) you have a drink problem, b) no one in the agency likes you c) you have no real friends or social life and live alone or d) all of the above? Agency life is a much more serious place than it used to be. The work hard, play hard mentality of my early career seems to have gone and been replaced with a ‘work hard, f**k off home and try relax before returning to work hard again’ mentality. Perhaps you are ‘old school’, like me, and the people you work with are on average 15 years younger than you, so why in Gok’s name would they want to hang out with you, you old saddo.

Remember they are, after all, your work-mates not your ‘soul mates’. Go home and find some real friends.

Dear Uncle Carl,

My staff claim that the agency NEEDS a blog. Why would we need a blog? We can’t even keep the news section of the site up to date...

I think you have answered your own question there, my friend. You obviously don’t need or want a blog but your staff do.

What on earth will they ‘blog’ about? Isn’t this just an excuse to ‘e-gossip’ but while sat at their desks therefore giving the impression they are working?

Also, if it’s a company-blog then that means they don’t have to use Facebook with its instantly recognisable interface, so in effect creating a company blog simply gives them the authority to piss away hours of the week chatting about what they had for tea last night or the state of somebody’s shoes-hair-dress-makeup (delete as applicable) using a facebook-look-a-like site; “but it’s not facebook so it’s work related” – my arse.

Other than gossip the only other reason I can think why they ‘want’ this blog is as an online ‘suggestion box’ which will become an anonymous bitching box. Ask them why they want the blog and who will ‘monitor it’.

As you said, if they were interested in talking about the business and acting as advocates for your business - the business that helps them pay for their lifestyles then why can’t they say nice things about the business on your agency website, under the staff area for example? If they are truly interested in promoting the business then they would, as you point out, keep the news section up to date.

This is simply a new way to waste time, and therefore they sound like they have too much time on their hands. Perhaps rather than spending their time writing about Eastenders or Gok’s fashion tips they should read more, read about the industry they are employed in. Do they know there are businesses going under and agency staff losing their jobs on a daily basis? That there are staff who want to work and would be happy to work and not dick about on a ‘blog’ all day long. Perhaps your staff don’t realise their future depends on talking to clients and not talking about each other.

Dear Uncle Carl,

I’ve been working at the same design agency for six years now. It was my first job from college. But I’m growing tired of the company and I think I need to change before I go stale. I have been applying for other jobs without success, though... How long is too long to stay in the one job? And, after six years in the one job, with no other experience, am I unemployable?

Let’s go backwards though these questions. No you are not unemployable, as is demonstrated by the fact you are currently employed - fool. The fact is the market isn’t that buoyant at the moment so you may not land a role at the first agency on your ‘places I want to work’ list. Also any jobs available are heavily fought for so there can be a hundred reasons why you didn’t get it.

I can guarantee that working at the same place for six years is not THE reason why you will not get a job. In fact, if you had worked in six different agencies in six years there is more chance that a ‘promiscuous’ history will unsettle any would-be employers - whereas you can demonstrate ‘loyalty’ (or maybe you are institutionalised?)

Your Uncle Carl only ever worked in one agency for 23 years from college and I survived to tell the tale. If, however, you feel it is time for you to move on and there are no challenges in your current environment and you have actually taken the chance to have that conversation with your current ‘boss’ then off you go folder under arm and sell yourself.

There are always jobs for the right people. Perhaps the only thing you lack is experience in actually applying for and getting a job, CV details, letter writing, interview techniques etc. Maybe that’s the area you need to focus on and not your creative abilities which I doubt are ‘stale’ as, if they were, I am sure your current agency boss would have told you already!

Dear Uncle Carl,

Our agency has always had a fierce competition with one of our local rivals. Now, that rival has offered me a job. I’ve always got on well with my boss – both in and out of work – but when I tell him I’m taking their job I fear he’ll go ballistic. Am I wrong to jump ship to our foe or is all fair in business?

Sounds like you have already jumped ship, mate. You used the phrase ‘when I tell him’ so that’s it, the decision is made. Now you feel you have to be prepared for the reaction and if you haven’t ever discussed the possibility of you leaving him then I would actually question how strong your relationship really is ‘in and out of work’ as you put it.

If he really loved you as much as you seem to think he does, wouldn’t he have made sure you had no reason to go talk to the ‘foe’ in the first place? You work for him, you may not fully grasp this concept but I am guessing your boss does.

Your past loyalties which you feel are derived from your special relationship, may actually be a feeling you have which is only a result of his clever people focused management skills. If he does go ‘ballistic’ then he isn’t a great manager and took his eye off the ball - the ball being you, so f**k him. If he doesn’t go ballistic (which I doubt he will) then he is probably thinking ‘f**k you, now get out’, but what do you care, you are off to the ‘foe’. It’s a business decision that’s right for you, all you are actually feeling is a bit of guilt, get over it, get on with it or get out.

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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