Moving away from antiquated stereotypes about account people.
Like many of us, if you binged the seven-season, hit drama series, Mad Men, set at fictional ad agency named Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, you’re well-acquainted with some of the negative stereotypes that agency folk can get caught up in.
And if you were a frequent flier of the series, you might remember one of the slimiest characters of all, account executive, Pete Campbell. I’m here to dispel any notion that the average account person is anything like Pete Campbell. In fact, most of us are the exact opposite of the archaic stereotypes that both agency and non-agency people alike may have in their minds.
Here’s how we’re different:
- We’re not all people pleasers. Yes, one of our primary responsibilities is to provide top-notch client service, but that doesn’t mean we spend the entire day kissing, well, you know. In fact, sometimes the best kind of service we can provide is by challenging the client or internal teams to look at things differently, or to approach a situation in a unique way. But don’t worry, we’ll still order food for every meeting and remember obscure details about your kid’s lives. We’re not complete monsters.
- We don’t always have to be the middleman. In a traditional, albeit outdated, agency/client relationship, account people always served as the middleman. That is no longer the case. We don’t need to monitor all requests or be privy to every single conversation that takes place. In fact, we encourage our clients to dial direct to other members of the team. And oftentimes, this type of dynamic contributes to stronger relationships and more trust.
- We do a lot more than push paper. We push boundaries when they need pushing. We push deadlines when they’re unrealistic. And at the end of the day, we are wholly dedicated to pushing forward effective, meaningful work on behalf of both the agency and our clients.
- Mutual respect is at the core of our relationships. Historically, the agency/client relationship has tended to feel imbalanced. Client says jump and we say how high. Not anymore. With the shift from client/vendor relationships to true partnerships, the average client engagement feels much less transactional than it used to. Account people are often at the helm when nurturing this kind of relationship and respect. Which is a huge responsibility, but if you’re confident in your abilities and the value you provide in your niche, it’s easy to create this kind of foundation.
- We’re not salespeople. At least not in the traditional sense. If we really believe an idea or approach is right for a client, we’ll put the work in to “sell” it. But only if we genuinely believe it’s right for the client or have the appropriate data to support the idea. We don’t sell ideas just for the sake of selling them.
- We get by on more than just our personalities. Most of us are outgoing, great at small talk, and could fill the awkward dead space in any conversation? Yes, of course. But there’s so much more depth to us than that. We have thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and the emotional intelligence necessary to gauge when it’s appropriate to share them.
Turns out we’re good for a lot more than just “managing expectations,” “circling back,” and “closing the loop.” The more we are recognized for being nuanced, complex, relatable human beings, the more we will continue to emerge as the integral members of the team that we already are. And the better our work will continue to be for it.