By Egotist / /
I’ve been in advertising for longer than I want to admit and I’ve seen the insides of more agencies than I care to remember. Some have been really great creative shops. Others have been more middle-of-the-road agencies that (to paraphrase Peter Mayle) are more concerned with doing what the client thinks is right than doing what’s right for the client. But despite all the differences, there’s one thing I found in common at every place I’ve ever worked.
The creatives always bitch about the account people.
Think about it for a second. How many great account people have you worked with? Can you count them on one hand? I’m nearly two decades into this biz and I can still do it with ten fingers. But here’s the thing – if you’ve read this far in anticipation of me ripping into account executives for their shortcomings, you can stop now. Because you know the rub in all this? The fault of bad account executives lies at the feet of the creatives.
Yes. The creatives.
If you went and asked every person in your agency, “Who is responsible for producing great creative?” what would the response be? Copywriters and art directors – sure. Creative directors – yeah. Designers, producers, programmers – definitely. Most will mention art buyers and probably project managers. So do you see the problem? Agencies – and especially creatives – don’t consider account people among those who are responsible for actually producing great ideas.
I’ve always said that when I start my own agency, the very first bullet point under “Job Responsibilities” for every single person in the agency will read “Produce great creative.” Account folks, media buyers, traffic, proofreaders, accounting, HR, reception – every single person’s main job will be to do what they can to produce the best work possible. When I interview account people, the first thing I want to ask is “Can I take a look at your book?” I want to see the stellar work they had a hand in forming and selling.
With the way account people are viewed now by creatives, is it any wonder that creative briefs are as universally bad as they are? When something they create is seen at best as useless and at worst as a roadblock – why would they invest more time and effort into digging deeper? When a creative team won’t take the time to educate an account executive on the thought process behind the creative, can you blame AEs for not standing up for your work in front of the client? How do we expect them to push back when we give them nothing to push back with?
Admit it – you hate internal reviews. You hate having to justify your work to an account person before you then have to justify it to a client. But what if you approached internals as a way to add more ammo to your arsenal? What if including that AE wasn’t a chore but a chance to get someone else on your side? How great would it be to have an account team who could literally sell the idea without you in the room because they were so deeply involved with the process? Someone who knew your idea as well as you did because they gave you the insight (in the brief) that led to your fabulous concept.
So here’s where I backtrack a little bit. Of course the state of account/creative relations isn’t all the creatives’ fault. It’s a two-way street. There’s nothing stopping account people from wanting to be more involved in the creative. There’s no reason to ever cut-and-paste a brief. And account people should never forget that the very best are at least 51% for the agency and 49% for the client.
But would it kill us creatives to reach out and extend an olive branch? Think of the goodwill we’d make by simply listing the account team first on award show credits. How much better could things be if we brought that Junior AE (and a media planner, and a programmer and a few others while we’re at it) into our first brainstorm on a new project and let them riff with us? Would it matter if they didn’t come up with any good ideas? Think about if they did. It’s admittedly corny as Hell to say “We’re all on the same team,” but that doesn’t make it any less true.
And then maybe once in a while you’ll get a brief you’ll actually read.