Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I've been working as a marketer for several years, latterly in senior positions. In that time, I've come across many agencies and think my client-side perspective would make me an ideal candidate to work in one. I'm aware, however, that there are few examples of this "job swap" working. Why do you think that is?

A: Not many examples, perhaps - but there are some impressive ones. Jeremy Miles' father, the remarkable Hugh, was once an extremely successful marketing director at Cadbury's. He was feted by every agency in town, people laughed immoderately at his jokes and invited him to Wimbledon. Then, at the height of his influence, he left to join an advertising agency - JWT - not even at main board level. (It was not then the custom for advertising agencies to divide their staff into equal halves: directors and others.) He brought with him sanity, shrewdness and a committed user's enthusiasm for advertising, and quickly rose to become deputy chairman. And don't forget that young Bartle, too, was once a client; again, as it happens, with Cadbury's. If he regrets the move, he disguises it well.

So it's not impossible, just difficult. And what makes it difficult is distinguishing between personal authority and the authority that's automatically bestowed on all custodians of the chequebook.

The opinions of clients carry weight. Take a vain, vacuous, inexperienced, insecure, trainee brand manager, give him a chequebook - and immediately his opinion carries weight. Quite soon he will come to believe that his opinions carry weight because of their intrinsic merit; why else should they carry weight?

At a Creative Circle role-reversal seminar in Cambridge years ago, I once had to lead a sobbing client back to his room and ply him with brandy and soda. For the first time in his life, deprived of the chequebook, he'd had to rely for persuasive success on his personal authority. When he found he had none, he fell apart completely.

So, yes: your client-side perspective could be of great value to a grown-up agency - but don't expect your opinions to be treated with awed respect.

You're more likely to be greeted with amusement, or contempt; or you could simply be made to feel invisible.

One simple experiment will tell you all you need to know. Tell the same two jokes: first in a pub, where they don't know you're a top banana with an eight-figure marketing budget; and then in your agency, where they do. If they laugh as loud and as long in the pub as they do in the agency, you should be in for a great agency career. If they don't, stay put.

Q: Given that online advertising is the perfect brand response mechanism, should it be classified as direct marketing or online advertising?

A: Media people have never been able to decide whether to describe a specific medium by what it is or by what it does. So we live in a state of permanent confusion to which the new media continue to contribute.

Most media - perhaps all media - have multiple functions. Take OFFICE SPACE TO LET with a six foot-high telephone number. Not many people see the outdoor medium as a direct response medium but it can be - just as online advertising can be used to build brands.

Newspaper advertising comes in two quaintly named forms which have nothing in common other than newsprint: Display and Classified. Even classified can be used to build brands - see the late, great Roy Brooks.

There are, anyway, only two categories of media. There are media that set out to connect with people; and there are media that people set out to connect with. That's the real difference between Display and Classified.

The internet carries both kinds.

Q: I'm the last remaining founder of an agency with mine and my four former partners' names above the door. Should I change the name of the agency?

A: If your agency is known for very little, and the little it is known for is the defection of its founding partners, you have nothing to lose by starting all over again. But on the charitable assumption that you've built a bit of positive equity, think hard first. One canny wheeze is to follow the WACL example. Needing to change from the Women's Advertising Club of London to something more inclusive, they plumped for Women in Advertising and Communications London. Bingo: the new WACL is still WACL even though it's now wacl. Brilliant. So all you need do is hire four new partners whose surnames start with the same initials as your original ones. And as evidence that you're creatively hot, go lower-case as well.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone 020 8267 4683.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.