Often, I feel that when people think of advertising, they think of creative folks. Rightfully so to be fair I think. When I see a commercial, I don’t think “Wow, that account executive did a great job of maintaining a relationship with a client and knows the brand so well that they were effective in help build the strategy leading to this tactic.” This doesn’t happen.
Ever since I studied advertising in college, there was a huge emphasis on creative thinking. Maybe I took the wrong classes, but even in the real world I’m finding a veer towards mentoring and guiding the creative team in the ad agency. This is extremely important, but where do members of account staff go to be “cultivated”? It’s weird to feel as if the creative team is the ad agency’s “favorite child”.
The answer for me is a mixture of absorbing as much as possible from account management and keeping up to date on what’s going on in the ad industry as well as my client’s industry. As far as learning from account management, maintaining relationships and contributing to long term strategies is of course easier when you’re surrounded my experienced individuals. But that “mentorship” isn’t full time, so one should always bolster their on the job learning (and their own previous experience) with an ongoing thirst for knowledge. Blogs from other individuals in the ad game and industry sites/publications add tremendous insight on how to handle situations, how to handle yourself, and how to bring as much value to the agency and your client.
A few publications I’ve read (and actions I’ve employed) include the following:
1) The Art of Client Service – A couple of years ago, my account services director gave me this book. I still turn to it from time to time to gain insights on this account services path.
2) The Red Papers – A member of senior management sent me information on the Red Papers done by Ogilvy after seeing that I had a strong interest in social media. The Red Papers are done quarterly by Ogilvy, and while the focus is not exactly account services, it empowers professionals on the the account service side of advertising. Immersing yourself in everything going on in the industry helps you understand what can work in the future for your client, and what may not.
3) Blogs on leadership, business and the ad industry – I go to quite a few blogs on business and the ad industry. This includes Business Week, AdWeek, AdAge, and other broader sites like FastCompany. I’ve posted before on blogs/twitter accounts that are interesting to follow.
4) Google alerts and your client’s industry publications – You should set up a Google alert for all your clients. Anything that happens with your client should be sent to your inbox so that you can know everything (or as much as possible) going on with your client. If your client is into making wooden tables, your should immerse yourself in carpentry publications and blogs. If it’s dairy farming, you should probably learn as much as possible about the entire dairy farm process.
5) Build on relationships with everyone you work with at the agency. And be nice! – I found a really great statement on a blog (StrongBlogs) by a programmer in Canada. ” It’s All Personal, Not Business. You aren’t in a Michael Douglas (Wall Street – or any other movie where he plays a corporate jerk) movie. What you say and do does impact people.” This is a TRULY important fact in the ad industry and any business to be honest. I think we’ve all worked with our fair share of jerks, but that under no circumstance means that we should conduct ourselves in a way that is demeaning, mean, or just plain terrible for others.
This list isn’t the end all, be all. However, these are some tools that account members should have in their tool belt. This list doesn’t cover how to work on delicate or somewhat difficult clients, but that is an interesting topic on which I will post about.