Account Madness - Anja Cherry, BMF

By AdNews | 2 April 2024
Anya Cherry.

This series of articles looks at the world of the account manager.

This time we talk to Anja Cherry,  Senior Account Manager, BMF.

How did you end up account management? Was it by design or a cosmic accident?

It was designed by an (arguably overzealous) year eight kid who was enthralled by the advertising minds on ABC’s Gruen Transfer. A box set of season one was enough to get my heart set on working with the brilliant minds I saw operating at the intersection of clever and creative.

After a brief detour in media-land confirmed my interest in creative problem solving, some stalker-like behaviour of my favourite creative agencies and players landed me at BMF.

Account management was the most accessible avenue to get my foot in the door of the wonderous world of creative agencies, but in retrospect it is exactly where I belong. So maybe there was a little fate in there.

Balancing clients’ objectives and creative vision can be challenging. How do you deal with that?

At the end of the day, we’re all people doing our best to achieve the same objective, so focusing on what’s mutual and unpacking the reasons behind contrasting opinions is the best way to create genuine alignment and collaboration.

I try to pride myself on seeing the person behind the role. The pretence of ‘client’ and ‘creative’ sometimes comes wrapped in tropes and expectations, by disarming those pre-loaded positions, we’re left with a team of people working towards the same thing.

Being the conduit between clients and creative, gives us clarity and vision across the whole, wondrous process. And from this vantage, allows us to see the forest from the trees and hopefully, the best path through for everyone.

What strategies do you employ to clearly convey creative ideas to clients and address client feedback?

In a world where we agonise over how to simplify things for the busy consumer, a behemoth of thinking is required to get anywhere worth going creatively.

There’s a delicate line between ‘taking the client on the journey’ to help everyone understand the reasons behind a thoroughly considered recommendation and over-crowding an idea that stands for itself.

I prefer not to overload decks with ‘supporting’ information that can be packaged up in a follow up email. It keeps the presentation unhurried and has the added benefit of being a kick off point for discussion afterwards, where the client can steer discussion to the questions they’re most curious about.

Another tool I find hugely important in effective communication, is language. You can fit six weeks of thought into ten clever sentences, or zero sensical notions into paragraphs of fluffery.

As someone who adores reading the wall placards “explaining” contemporary art, without casting more than a glance at the art piece itself, I appreciate the power and beauty of clever language. However, it’s oftentimes detrimental to clarity and understanding.

When addressing feedback, I find clients prefer an answer that genuinely addresses their concerns over delusions of eloquence, any day. Even if that answer is “I don’t know, let me find out”.

How to build strong relationships with clients?

My first piece of advice in the job was “focus on doing the little things well” and I think this is still the unadorned crux of the role. A large part of a suits value add is making the process smoother so the client and the creative experts can do their job as well as possible.

Own the project management details and sweat the small stuff, because this is what becomes the bedrock of client confidence. It proves competence, expertise, care and ultimately builds trust.

As someone who spent equal parts of my childhood playing sport to watching ABC TV programs about advertising psychology (super cool, I know) I liken Account management to being a playmaker in a sports team. You may not be the person who shoots or saves the winning goal, but our role of creating opportunities is crucial to the teams overall success.

In the same breath, if you set your team-mates (clients and creative-folk) up for success enough times, you’ll strengthen the bonds between the whole process.

Do you have any go-to tips for navigating challenging conversations with clients? And effectively selling an idea.

Staying on top of your track record. Having one difficult conversation (can suck) but is achievable, we’re all humans. However, having consecutive, recurring hard conversations is an indicator of a bigger issue.

We’re an industry seeking and providing originality, and thinking in territories that are not ‘tried and tested’ means risks and tricky conversations about them are unavoidable. However, they’re a sign that we’re doing our jobs correctly, pushing the norms for the standout and effective creative our clients seek. So I try to look at them as wins, even if that sometimes takes some mental gymnastics.

My go-to tip for selling in ideas is to link them back to the brief. Setting up the creative presentation with a super short summary of the problem you’re trying to solve reminds everyone why you’re in the room and ultimately should reinforce why the idea is right.

Are there any emerging trends or challenges in the industry that account management teams should be prepared for?

It’s becoming increasingly more common for clients and creative agency staff alike to have their OOO activated one day a week, and I say good riddance to working harder rather than smarter. However, in a world which often necessitates 24hr decision making, communication, working habits and business systems need to support it.

If you’re partaking, a few common curtseys go a long way in supporting colleagues and clients to go on without you. Flagging unavailability early, touching base with colleagues before signing off and saving working files in communal locations will help your colleagues survive without you while you enjoy some uninterrupted time off.

It's a transition that is indisputably healthy (when managed well) but for businesses that have bravely evolved, the final step is providing clear and flexible processes to support the change for everyone.

What advice would you give your younger self when you first started out in account service?

Keep perspective to remove stress from the situation.

While it’s important that clients are informed about key challenges, as an agency partner we want to be removing pressures of their jobs rather than adding to them. The nature of our work is that timelines are often tight, advertising tangibly affects clients businesses and creativity is subjective, meaning it’s not a straightforward, easy or relaxing endeavour.

While many challenges can feel all-encompassing and insurmountable in the moment (more so when layered in an endless stream of inbox updates), there’s little that cannot be solved by clever people who are good at what they do. Reminding myself of how entirely forgettable problems are once a solution is found, is instrumental in maintaining my mental health as well as any ability I may have to lend calmness to clients and colleagues.

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