The best compliment I could have received at the conference I attended this week was in the question above (and my new friend that asked the question endeared himself to me forever). This was a compliment in the context of this conference because I had just come off a presentation about my takeaways from SXSWi, an interactive and creative conference and not something one would expect account people to attend. Account Management (account managers, account executives, etc.) gets a bad rap in the ad agency business; there is an assumption in many agencies that they are order-takers and simply a go-between. However, the truth is that they are saddled with a lot of responsibility (at least, in our agency): communications strategy development, budget management, revenue management, deadline management, scheduling/traffic, relationship building both inside and outside, ensuring integration across the agency in the strategies we recommend for the agency, meeting leaders, proof-reading, research, maintaining knowledge of industry trends, maintaining knowledge of their clients’ business trends, and the list goes on. But they get none of the “glory” when a creative project is deemed successful, although without a good account person on the team, the project likely would not have come to its fruitful results.
Because I was the only account person at a conference of creative directors, digital strategists and media directors, I heard much complaining about the roles account people play in agencies. Some of the complaints were legitimate, some were blame-shifting (perhaps), but regardless, these conversations have inspired me to think about how to improve account management in agencies. I should be proud to be an “AE,” not flattered by a question that implies I am “better than” an AE.
I have been thinking on this challenge for several days and know that more concentrated training is in order, both for the account team and for their agency partners.
Starting in May, we will begin weekly training and sharing sessions with our account teams to not only improve their skills, but also their confidence in the roles they each play in the agency. I am interested in any thoughts readers here have for what kind of training is needed for account people, or examples of how account people are trained in your own agencies. I plan on sharing our training methods here in a weekly series and look forward to your feedback.
For our agency partners (creative, media, interactive, PR, production): what would be the best way to earn respect and understanding for the work that we do and the contribution that we make?