The Washington branch of J. Walter Thompson is looking for more.

In the past year, the advertising agency has tripled the number of its accounts in Washington and increased revenues by approximately 40 percent, making itself a larger part of the local advertising scene.

Now the agency is eyeing aquisitions of three area firms, a move that would further broaden its base in the region.

There is a difference of opinion in town about whether J. Walter Thompson is a local advertising agency, with some home-grown Washington area agencies disputing any "native son" claim by the New York-based advertising giant. But the Washington arm of J. Walter Thompson has been around for 35 years, since it first opened its doors to handle the Marine Corps' account.

"I consider us as much local as any of the others," said Frank Mainero, senior vice president and general manager of the Washington operation. "We've been around longer than some, and we have all local accounts."

"I was brought down to reposition this office," said Mainero. The market in which Mainero expects to reposition J. Walter Thompson is one where he predicts major growth.

"I think what we're going to see in D.C. is that Washington, D.C., as an advertising marketplace within the next five years will at minimum double its billings," he said.

Mainero said he expects that growth to occur in increased association advertising, and some growth in more traditional corporate advertising.

Besides the Marine Corps, an account worth aproximately $11 million, according to Department of Defense records, J. Walter Thompson has also handled advertising for USAir for several years. Industry sources estimate that account at approximately $10 million.

More recently the agency has added Financial General Bankshares, the Mid-Atlantic Milk Marketing Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to its accounts.

J. Walter Thompson's "ultimate game plan over the next three years" for the Washington area includes acquiring an agency in Baltimore, an agency in Richmond and an agency specializing in retail advertising in the District, Mainero said.

In the meantime, J. Walter Thompson is working harder at becoming part of the local advertising industry, according to Mainero. "We have tended to have tunnel vision in this town and have not done as much as we should to help the industry grow -- even in being involved in local organization," he said.