Celebrating the unsung heroes of agency success

Dan Parritt
By Dan Parritt | 14 May 2024
Dan Parritt.

Industry awards typically spotlight creativity and effectiveness, often overlooking the crucial role account management plays in driving agency success. Dan Parritt, co-founder and managing partner at Molasses writes why great account managers do so much more than giving briefs, writing contact reports and developing proposal, but are in fact the keys to better work, more engaged teams and a more fulfilling agency and client partnerships.

Great account management is not celebrated nearly enough.

The majority of awards in this industry are for creativity and effectiveness. While they are clearly important too, and yes there are some that recognise agencies as whole, for account management it’s slim pickings in the recognition stakes, which is wrong.

Good account managers, directors, client leads or client service directors are underappreciated in our industry, often seen as facilitators, taking and giving briefs, writing contact reports and developing proposals for the creative and strategic stars that ‘make the magic’ happen. But they are so much more than that… they are the keys to it all.

Truly great account managers create partnerships, they build and manage vital revenue generating relationships, they open-up and drive conversations. They build trust both within the agency and with brands they work with. Yes, an element of the role is to take the brief, but they can also influence the pre-brief and help sell the agencies capabilities. They take the feedback, drive proactivity, manage the creative teams, the work, the budgets – and are also involved in, or even writing, the strategy – alongside the contact reports and proposals. No wonder we’re all a little weird.

They are by default an extension of the brands they work with, the conduit of trust between business and agency – and are sometimes the reason for the brief in the first place, in addition to helping sway opinions in pushing for a more controversial idea. A great account manager can make all the difference to agency and brand success.

Now imagine this. What if they didn’t listen, didn’t follow up, didn’t consider the implications of the market, didn’t care, and just, well, facilitated. How would an agency create and develop these important relationships with the clients who are ultimately paying the bills.

It is of course imperative that the design, creative and thinking is celebrated, but never underestimate the power of a great relationship, and that’s not the exclusive domain of account service of course. Think about it like a restaurant – you come for the food, but if the service was shit, you’re unlikely to be coming back.

And from a client perspective, a strong account manager makes all the difference. As a constant bridge between the brand and the agency, one that pushes both to maximise the potential and creative opportunities, a diplomat, problem solver, and mediator when needed.

So let’s celebrate the people that make stuff happen. By understanding what they do, acknowledging their work, picking their brains, asking them questions, pushing them to be better and helping them do more for the relationships and partnerships they forge, every aspect of brand and agency life benefits.

Truly great managers become great leaders, create better partnerships and deliver the best work. Now of course greatness is teamwork, and no single account manager is going to change the very world alone, but they have the power to influence, improve and ensure the path remains relatively drama and obstacle free.

Great agency and brand partnerships are built on strategy, creative and account management, underpinned by collaboration and respect. And when things go wrong (because no-one’s perfect) account service is more often than not the key relationships that navigate those tricky waters.

Maybe it’s time the account manager, director, client lead found a more appropriate legend. They are brand specialists and strategic thinkers, customer and consumer sympathisers, project managers, behavioural experts, entrepreneurs, fixers and team wranglers, with a little accountancy thrown in. Maybe that’s why these roles are sometimes so misunderstood and underappreciated.

They need to be nurtured, respected and celebrated more than they are. Account managers are the key to better work, to a more engaged team and a more fulfilling agency and client partnership. They are thinking about brand and agency business constantly, and just remember, it’s very unlikely they’re just writing cost proposals.

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