Letters, May 3, 2010

Published on .

In defense of the account-management position

RE: "Think Twice Before Axing Account Management" (AA, April 26)

Orchestration, as Gayle Troberman puts it, is about building the relationship and creating the environment that facilitates trust, confidence and receptivity for the best and most effective work. In fact, as an entrepreneur myself these days working on a web start-up, I would describe account men/women as the ultimate entrepreneurs.

Wikipedia defines an entrepreneur as "a person who has possession over a company, enterprise, or venture, and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome."

That's exactly what great account people do. They take overall responsibility for the venture that is the agency's business contract with a particular client, and they work their socks off to create a favorable outcome through absolutely everything that can be thrown at them (and frequently is).

Any entrepreneur, in Silicon Valley or elsewhere, is working every single angle to make something happen. They're building relationships; they're leading, driving and motivating teams; they're bringing together vastly disparate groups of people and personalities to make things happen in harmony; they're keeping 15 balls in the air simultaneously; they're taking responsibility for EVERYTHING; they're working 24/7 to produce a brilliant product; they're working 24/7 to bring that product to market and make the business profitable.

That's what account people do. And when it all works out, it's exhilarating and enormously rewarding.

Unfortunately nobody these days seems to understand and recognize the above -- including the people doing the job. And because it's not appreciated, those people aren't appreciated as they should be.

If our only role is to sell creative ideas, we should go find jobs at the mall. If, on the other hand, we know that our role is to tirelessly enforce the vision, in both directions, it allows the strategic, creative, and all other members of the team to focus intensely on their specialized expertise, and provide the client with an agency interface that is knowledgeable and accountable. My job is to know more about everything than anyone else.

I don't mind being invisible at the award shows. I know what I do to make it possible. I also know that if I didn't do what I do so intensely, the work wouldn't have happened.

Brilliant creative ideas require insight that is true and striking; a client who is willing to take chances, and stick to a vision when the sales are tough and the blogs get mean. That requires a trust that only comes from a partnership that's about the whole business. The best work comes when account director and creative director view themselves as completely connected partners in client service -- with an equally influential voice and mutually appreciated contribution.

Any agency that minimizes the role of account managers is out of touch with the business. While many writers and art directors have excellent relations with their clients (and they should), it is the account person whose job it is to set the tone and create the trust and ability to maintain the relationship.

Junior account people don't understand that the reason they do those analyses and competitive reports is two-fold: first, so they can learn the business and communicate their findings to the agency and client, but second, and more important in the long run, to create a bond of trust with their clients. That trust is what enables the agency to sell good work. Anyone who doesn't understand that doesn't know the business.

Good creative people are by nature good strategists. They are essential to the business. But so are account people. It is ironic that in my experience, the most creatively driven agencies are where the account and creative people have the strongest partnership.

As a person working in a start-up that recently decided we didn't need an account person, I can tell you how invaluable that role is.

It's confusing to clients to have to contact five different people depending on what they need/want. I've more than once found myself prepping copy that I input myself, review myself and send to the client, which is crazy-dangerous when trying to do work that exemplifies what a client wants and what an agency wants to produce and, finally, a lack of account ownership has guaranteed that no one knows where anything is anymore. It's been crazy-chaotic.


RE: "Creatives You Should Know: Adam Ulvegärde and Robert Lund" (AA, April 26)
Radio-broadcasting company Sveriges, not Mr. Ulvegarde and Mr. Lund, decided to lengthen its URL address.

RE: "What's Conde Nast doing making Kenneth Cole ads for Facebook and YouTube?" (AA, April. 26)
. A spokeswoman said Condé Nast's Digital Studios unit is only making ads that could appear in digital venues and will not make ads that appear in magazines. Drew Schutte is chief revenue officer for Condé Nast Digital, not Condé Nast.

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