CLOSE-UP: ON THE CAMPAIGN COUCH ... WITH JB

Will Hamilton of WCRS writes: The chairman of my old agency was allegedly fired for trying to name the agency after him. Does the name above the door really matter one bit to a client's decision to appoint an agency, or should I change my surname to London so that it fits above the door?

A: Dear Will, thank you for your kind enquiry. I wish I understood your reference to London. A witty misprint, perhaps, to frustrate the lawyers?

Or just a misprint? Will London doesn't have much of a ring to it, if you ask me: which, of course, you have. Anyway, to your question.

If you saw my column last week, you may remember that I pontificated as follows: "People continue to believe that names imbue objects with meaning. They don't. Objects imbue names with meaning."

If the performance of a person called Hamilton matched the performance of a person called, for example, Bernbach or Ogilvy, then the name Hamilton would be imbued with great meaning and its presence above the door would have great significance for potential clients. I am, of course, a little out of touch so forgive me if I've missed something; but my instinct is that the name Hamilton has not yet earned Ogilvy/Bernbach levels of status and respect and would therefore be of little immediate commercial benefit.

You will, I'm sure, be quick to spot the flaw in this argument. When Messrs Bernbach and Ogilvy first put their names above their respective doors, they were empty of meaning. It was their subsequent performance that fed those names with high-density value. Please note, however, that simply having your name above the door of even a spectacularly successful agency does not of itself confer fame and authority - as Messrs Doyle, Dane and Mather would undoubtedly attest.

Personal reputations depend on personal performance; and quite right, too. Whether any of the above applies to Hamilton (or indeed to London) I'm not qualified to say.

Q: My company is looking for a new ad agency (our last one went bust). After a thorough pitch process involving four agencies I was left cold by all the work presented. There was one agency, however, whose people I really liked. Shall I give them the account now and hope they can deliver the creative goods in due course?

A: The prevalence of pitch-led agency appointments is entirely driven by the endemic insecurity of marketing directors. It is not enough for marketing directors to be convinced of the rightness of a particular agency; they need to convince others, up and down the hierarchy, that a rigorous and competitive selection process has been followed and that somebody won. Creative work is therefore required as evidence of ability. Just occasionally it even runs.

If you're one of the seven marketing directors to enjoy the unquestioned trust of colleagues, you should appoint the people you like immediately and give them every opportunity to deliver.

But first make sure you've seen the work they've done for every single one of their existing clients in the past six months.

Q: I am the chief executive of the London operation of a world-class direct marketing network. A group restructure now sees me reporting into the group chief executive of our affiliated above-the-line agency. This appears to be happening at several networks around the world. Is it time to get out of direct marketing?

A: Here's a prediction. Within ten years, all the group chief executives of the ten most successful worldwide marketing communications agencies will have had direct marketing experience.

Things are moving your way. Direct marketing agencies are gaining a well-deserved reputation for being more broadly inventive, more businesslike, more accountable (and a good deal less precious) than what you depressingly continue to call above-the-line agencies.

Do not allow your pique about reporting lines to distract you. They'll all be reporting to you before long.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).