The ad industry has lots of books on brand strategy, creativity, web marketing, direct marketing and so on. But little has been written about Account Management. This isn't good. If there's one department that could use the advice, it's this one, because the role of an account person is subjective and differs greatly from agency to agency, and from account to account.
But I don't think understanding how to be a great account person requires an entire book. This is a role of quick thinking, adaptability and leadership... as long as a few basic principles are embraced, one can perform beautifully. So, for collective thought and debate, below are eight things that junior and mid level account folks should embrace--in my eyes. After 10 years, and a collection of different agencies, I feel the below points make the difference between good and great.
So to all the aspiring account folks out there, please consider the following...
1. HELMUT KRONE. Heard of him? If not, you should look him up. If you don't have the desire to look him up, you should get into another department. A great account person needs to crave the creative process and understand it. Buy a book on design (here), understand what makes great writing and have a brain that's full of brilliant advertising while also being able to cite where it came from. It's impossible to recognize great work if you don't have points of reference.
2. GET THE BEST WORK OUT OF THE AGENCY. Hopefully you're surrounded by good talent. If so, rest assured, they have great ideas running through their veins constantly, and you need to pull them out. Quite simply, the account person gets the best work out of the agency, and this goes way beyond creative. Is the media plan innovative? Does the PR team have enough room to take risks? Does the web team have enough time to finish the comps or should the meeting be canceled (which is fine to do, by the way--JWT/NY's Hildie Newman was a champion of this when I worked with her. If the agency isn't ready for the meeting, move it).
3. YOU'RE THE CMO. It's been said that "the account person is the voice of the client at the agency." No. They ARE the client. Seriously imagine that. Imagine consumers and the sales team calling you about their dislike of that headline...Can you defend it? Imagine walking the CFO through the production budget... do you understand it? Imagine having to defend the media selections to the CEO...why are we using podcasts? The crew at Dailey & Associates is great in this area and Torch's Jennifer Doud is the best I know at it.
4. GET OFF YOUR A**. Nothing replaces face-to-face leadership. If you work in an integrated agency the best way to relay intricate client feedback to the web guy, the PR girl, the Account Director and the media planner is to go around and tell them in a way that directly applies to their contribution.
5. DON'T SAY "THANK YOU" SO MUCH. Writers aren't doing YOU a favor when they revise copy. You are both on the same team, solving a problem together. Saying "thank you" after leading someone is often condescending and infers that they are all doing the work while you are going to walk off and do nothing. Which isn't the case (see #6). Find another way to end a conversation other than a pedestrian "thanks."
6. OUTWORK EVERYONE ELSE. For the great account person, work is never done. Some department is in need of love, so go find it when you have down time. After that, mine the world for new thinking. It's amazing how many great ideas can come from the account team when they actually have time to think. Also, never leave your team. If the media dept. is still working on tomorrow's presentation as you're heading out the door at night, offer aid. Always lead. Byron Oshiro, an account leader at Wieden+Kennedy, is typically last to leave every night.
7. CHILL. Deutsch's Jeff White is a master at this. Nothing rattles the guy. A great account person never loses their cool. And there's nothing more annoying than a nervous and stressed account person. In advertising, things have a way of working out in the long run, and great account people know this.
8. PRESENT CREATIVELY. Step outside of Microsoft Word and learn InDesign. Give a presentation with only imagery. Mix it up. You'll be surprised the response you receive.
That's it. Anyone have more?