The Best Job in Advertising?
We reminded the Hill Holliday team how much account management has changed since the days of Don Draper, you know the Adman of “Madmen,” the show about a 1960s ad agency. In fact, all departments in an agency can poke fun of themselves and there is a YouTube video that does just that – definitely an amusing way to bond.
After the initial teasing, we got on to the main messages and motivational stories of the conference. A primary directive came from Carl Johnson, founder of Anomaly Communications and former chief operating officer of TBWA/Worldwide. He emphasized that the focus of account managers should always be on growing the client’s business and not just going through the motions to keep the client happy. Johnson relayed the story of American Express, who several years ago went to its advertising agency asking for a campaign to make its Green Card more attractive to people in their 20s and 30s. The agency went back, conducted research, and instead of a campaign, Johnson said, the team proposed more of a business product idea. The team members suggested creating a new card for the younger crowd, saying that trying to draw that demographic to the Green Card could alienate the Green’s present customers. Two years later, the American Express Blue Card was introduced in Taiwan, Johnson said, and was a success. It then came to the United States where it experienced a similar popular reaction.
The power of account managers was also highlighted by a story from Shelly Lazarus, the chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Lazarus told a story behind Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty – which has garnered top prizes at Cannes, the Kelly Awards, and many other recent competitions. Lazarus credits account managers for spurring on the project when Unilever (Dove’s owners) did not initially take to the idea. “When the idea of sponsoring a dialogue about the definition of beauty was presented to the board of Unilever, they said ‘That’s great, but how is sponsoring a dialogue going to sell product?’” Lazarus recalled. The account management team did not give up, Lazarus then said a great quote, ‘If you can’t win big, start small.’” So the agency collaborated with the client team and designed the micro site, campaignforrealbeauty.com, where real women were acknowledging and responding with vigor to what global research had found – just 2% of women worldwide described themselves as beautiful. The micro site success inspired the team to push the board further and the board reacted positively, ultimately giving its official green light for the campaign. After the Campaign for Real Beauty, Unilever saw a huge increase in sales in the first two months for those products featured in the advertising, Lazarus said.
Other main takeaways from the conference? How vital relationships are and that a great relationship can help a client become a better client and help you offer better service. This is particularly true in today’s digital landscape. My colleague, Laurie Gillis, another management supervisor who attended the AM conference reminded me of this, saying that “account managers need to educate/embrace new technologies and emerging medias and in turn, help educate their clients too. This not only strengthens the agency-client relationship but also helps get great, innovative work sold through.”
Of course, the relationship between those of us in account management and the creative department is also essential – we need to “get” the creative process and it’s best to acknowledge the positives of creative work before relaying the negative feedback from the client.
Finally, we did not forget to tell our co-workers that the conference stressed the importance of account managers to an agency, as one peer put it, account management folks “make sure the trains run on time.”