26 November 2012

Account Management IS the Radar


A colleague lamented how things on a project were “happening under the radar”.  Another colleague, typically blunt, pointed out, “You are the radar.”

That’s always true for account people.  On every piece of business, account management is the radar.  We function like radar in at least three ways.

Fourth of a series
Expect the Expected

Account management is much more than project management, yet project management is a big part of what account people do.  Agencies are a service business and clients expect us to run the trains on time (and on budget, of course).  Once you get the hang of it, project management is predictable.

The first type of radar, then, is to expect the expected.  Think ahead.  If the creative idea will drive up the cost of talent, help the team figure out a plan rather than letting it go and surprising the client later.  As one of my first bosses said, “I always look for an A.E. who can anticipate.”

Expect the Unexpected

The second kind of radar is when something unexpected or unforeseen pops up.  This isn’t just watching out for the agency’s work, but the client’s business.  The highest tribute ever paid to an account person was MillerCoors CMO Andy England saying of Marty Stock:  He “often knows I have a problem before I do.”  It’s important to get the context here:  England was referring to Stock’s foreknowledge of a business problem, as in declining market share, disastrous trial for a new product, or a new competitive threat.

These kinds of things aren’t so predictable.  Then again, most of the advertising industry isn’t so predictable these days, so get used to it.  Expecting the unexpected also includes staying on top of new media, new products and new ways of doing business.  If you’re on top of the changes, you’ll be much more useful to your client.

Radar Navigates

An account person isn’t simply a radar operator.  It’s your job to lead the team in setting a course.  Where does the business need to go?  Maybe an iconic, long-running ad campaign needs to be updated – or replaced.  Perhaps you’ve identified a market opportunity where the client should line-extend or develop a new product.  Or you noticed a competitor’s blind spot your client can exploit.  It’s possible that the consumer is changing and it’s not good news for your brand.  Working with your team, you can choose the right priorities – not just doing things right, but doing the right things.

We think of radar as something that detects unplanned things or events, like bad copy test scores or alien invasions.  But radar is also a navigational tool, helping you stay on course even – or especially – when the voyage is smooth.

Your Radar for 2013

This is a great time of year to think about setting the agenda for your work in 2013.  The last weeks of the year are a reflective time, given naturally to assessing what we’ve done and what we want to do.  If you’re experiencing a huge end-of-year rush, it’s still a good time to think about next year.  Nothing clarifies your thinking like a busy season.

You might be a junior account executive and think it’s not your job to set the agenda.  No, but you can contribute to setting the agenda.  Advertising is a team sport.  Bring your ideas forward and be ready to learn.

Next:  The Road Less Taken

2 comments:

  1. Related to all of this Steve is the ability to "connect the dots": disparate information that, when analyzed and correlated properly, leads to a hidden conclusion. Marty does this well with his beer experience. He also has the time to think about this in ways his client can not. You can not underestimate perspective. His client, and most clients, are too close to their organizations and, sometimes, their business to have it. Advertising people are close enough to know but distant enough to see it more clearly. Intelligence, just the right amount of distance, lead to insight. Something all great AE's do.

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  2. Fred, thank you -- that's an outstanding extension of the radar analogy. It's called triangulation. You see the data, analyze it, and understand the big picture. Great account people bring that kind of perspective. Great clients realize how useful it is.

    Thanks again!

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