advertising agency account management questions


I was recently asked to answer some questions about account management in advertising agencies. This is what I shared.

The objective: – To inspire the AMs by sharing knowledge and expertise. – A sense of belonging that there are Account leaders who talk about Account Management, not just Creativity and Strategy. – Strengthen Account Management as a category because we all know how important it is.

Your elevator pitch for someone to join Account Management.

You get to be a generalist and, on your best days, you will simultaneously make the client business and agency business better <or be their best>.

The three qualities you look in an Account person?

  • Restless consistency. I always felt like the best account person was an explorer, and adventurer, a voyager, which demands some restlessness and, yet, at the same time, the consistency to survive, if not thrive, in any context.
  • Comfortable with monkey bars. Monkey bars demands you empower people to move on. But it’s a different moving forward. This one isn’t about walking or taking baby steps or giant leaps, but rather about letting go and having faith you can find another thing to hold onto. This also means as Tupac said: “at some point you just have to leave the pieces behind and move the fuck on.” Account people were the kids who ran to the monkey bars when they went to the playground.
  • Curious. Having an intrinsic engine to find out why people do the things they do, how they think, what makes a business successful, who empties the garbage in the client office and why unhappy customers stay with some business. I would say readers, but its more just a desire to learn things.

How to handle difficult conversations with clients?

Transparency from day one. If you do that there really aren’t really any difficult conversations, just some uncomfortable ones.

Resources that keep you up to date on industry knowledge / trends?

The #1 resource any account person has to keep you up to date on industry knowledge/trends is the client themselves. Within any given sized company there is a spectrum of knowledge from ‘industry practices experts’ to ‘industry innovation experts’ from which to become knowledgeable. The #2 resource is usually your own company. Within any agency there is a spectrum of knowledge on, well, everything. The value of rummaging around in these 2 resources is that it increases the likelihood you actually find some connectivity between your client and your agency. That said. I was always a reader. In my day it was Toffler, McLuhan and Drucker. I only read the ‘business book du jour’ if I had a client shoving it in my face as the way business should be done so I could knowledgeably push back with alternatives.

How can we make our job ‘fun’?

Progress is fun, stagnancy is not. Find stagnancy and make it not stagnant. That’s the ultimate fun. Outside of those situations, find progress and amplify it.

Tips on how to strengthen Account and Creative relationship?

Know as much about the business as your client does because this eliminates surprises to creative people and, in business, surprises are bad.

Written by Bruce