Opinion: On the Campaign couch ... with JB

Q: An account director writes: My agency is in the process of reinventing itself as a "total communications business". As such, I'm under pressure from my management to cross-sell other services such as PR and strategic planning. I can't decide whether I'm more worried about my client growing tired of my constant sales pitches or that he'll go for it and one of our greener departments will cock things up. Help.

A: Cross-selling is what your friendly high-street bank spends all its time attempting to do to you. Not content with charging you for having the use of your current account, they're also anxious to look after your mortgage, pension, will, travel insurance and what they like to call your investment portfolio: for a consideration, naturally. You find it impossible to believe they can be equally proficient at all these functions and every time they tell you how delighted they are to have upgraded their service, it costs you more. You hate them for it.

Happily, however, your management hates them for it, too. Remind them that they do. And then remind them that agency cross-selling was invented 30 years ago and that clients have always hated it. Finally remind them that successful marketing emphasises the benefit not to the producer but to the user. Cross-selling - or crass-selling as it's more accurately known - violates this sacred principle.

From now on, you tell your management, you're going to stop selling and start marketing. And yes, there is a potential client benefit - and that's our old friend integrated communications. Simply ask your clients, whenever they're contemplating reallocating a bit of business, to include your agency group's offering on their shortlist. You'll take no part, yourself, in the selection process; though if your client approves, you'll certainly do all you can to see that they're well-briefed. Should your sister service fail to impress, they should be booted out ruthlessly. But if they perform as well as, or better than, the competition, then there's a cost-free bonus to be enjoyed. And if they screw up later, at least it won't be laid at your door. There's no need to mention that, as with real families, the most fractious relationships are often between siblings.

Q: I'm under more pressure than ever from the board to deliver accountable marketing communications for our brands, but I'm worried this ROI mentality will kill the great ideas my creative agency come up with. Am I worrying over nothing, or can the spectre of measurement and accountability really stifle the powers of my favourite creative types?

A: Great creative ideas have nothing to fear from measurement and accountability. All great creative ideas deliver measurable returns; in advertising, that's the only way you can be sure that they're great creative ideas.

The spectre of measurement and accountability does, however, still pose a very real threat. It can make you and your colleagues become so timid in your creative judgments that you encourage and approve only the sort of work you think likely to research well and deliver a respectable ROI. By so doing, of course, you rule out all chance of uncovering work that just might deliver spectacular ROI. But that's your fault, not the existence of measurements.

It's possible, of course, that you still believe that great creative ideas can flourish in some weightless vacuum of aesthetic appreciation, uncontaminated by any crude considerations of function. If that's the case, I'm afraid I can't help you.

Q: I went along to the shoot for a very expensive 30-second spot my creative agency is doing for me. Once on location, I found myself subject to dismissive attitudes and bemused expressions when I tried to offer a little input. Considering I'm paying for this bloody thing, is it too much to ask for these people to treat me with a bit more respect?

A: Two things, really. First, it's not you who's paying for this bloody thing, it's your company. And since you know nothing whatever about film-making, what makes you think you have anything of value to contribute? Just because you'd paid for your wife's surgery, would that entitle you to offer advice to her surgeon?

There's only one voice that should be heard on location, and that's the director's. And there's only one person empowered to talk to the director, and that's the agency producer. He or she is your authorised envoy on set. If you have ideas, doubts, thoughts or concerns, voice them to your producer. While it's certainly true that deference can be bought, respect must earned. But perhaps it was only the deference you were missing?

- "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.

Topics