Too often I hear the words echo through the halls, “The Account Manager said so”. I roll my eyes, silently venting inside because too often, that same Account Manager doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. In fact, and yes, I am generalising, too many Account Managers could easily change their title to Order Taker since that is exactly what they’re doing.
Your typical agency is so quick to charge an account management fee, but really, what value does the AM actually bring to the relationship. Monthly status meetings have become a check box exercise that comprise of rehashing a couple of vanity metrics that were being discussed in the internal brand performance review, the coffee is flowing, and the cupcakes are great. It seems the frilly stuff that boosts egos and makes people feel that their R200k per month retainer is worth their while, after all those cupcakes are great.
In my opinion, the Account Manager has two very critical roles within the agency environment;
- They’re the buffer between agency and client
As the brand owner, speaking to your appointed Account Manager should be like speaking to a priest in the confessional – share, share, share – the lows, the highs the successes and failures. If your AM doesn’t understand the exact position of your brand in and amongst your audience, then how do you expect that person to relay important information to the agency team, allowing them to put together the best possible communication plan for your brand.
In your presence, the AM speaks on behalf of the agency. They shouldn’t be the messenger, they shouldn’t be the one that answers all your questions with, “I will find out and revert”. They need to own your brand between the four walls of their agency. They should know where everything is, at what point in the process it is and when you can expect to see it. After all, if they’re not looking out for your brand, then who is?
Their role in the agency, on behalf of your brand, is to fight tooth and nail to get the best out of the agency teams, delivering high quality, on brand work that will achieve your marketing objectives. Your account manager should be pushing sub-standard work back to the studio, presenting you with quality that they’re in fact happy with.
Yet, with these incredibly important roles, they’re still often seen to be order takers on speed dial.
- Bridging the gap
Account Managers have the best of both worlds. They get to represent the agency on the brand side, and the brand on the agency side. With this benefit comes the need for them to be both creative and strategic and from the agency side, while being analytical and objective from the clients point of view. They sit the fence, and they are forced to play both sides. How often is this really happening though.
Not often enough and here’s why…
The ‘order taker’ mentality works both ways – Client says and so we do. Agency says and so we do. Account Manager runs like a headless chicken between the two delivering messages.
Timesheets – clients have committed to monthly retainers that involve x amount of time dedicated by said AM to their account. Upon costing, more often than not, time is not built in to allowing the AM to apply their minds to the effectiveness of the fluffy creative and how that will impact the objectives of the campaign. As a result, the AM sends the stuff onto the client – CHECK. When questioned about the effectiveness of the campaign’s creative, the AM hadn’t given it too much thought since the excuse, “We only have x hours a month on this brand and we ran out of hours” has become a familiar excuse in agency-lala-land.
Creatives are more interested in winning awards than ensuring brand performance – and given an Account Manager that is not strategic in thinking, they will be swept up in the excitement of the fabulous creative and forget about the fact that as much as creativity wins awards, it also needs to achieve objectives and ROI.
Reporting is an afterthought – for many, especially AM’s. They get the reports and without even glancing over them, forward them onto the clients. WHAT? How can you speak up on strategic direction or have a thorough understanding of brand performance if you’re overlooking the one thing that gives you answers to 90% of your questions? Reporting is always last, it happens if there’s time, it happens when we think it is necessary, or we use it to bulk up those retainer hours. Truth is, those monthly reporting documents should be the brand bible of each Account Manager. By looking, analysing and questioning those reports, Account Managers should be able to provide valuable, strategic, money saving insight into the strategic direction of a brands journey. But it very rarely happens.
If your Account Manager is however naturally a strategist – none of these things will be a hinderance but more of a necessity, in their opinion, to do their jobs excellently.
If you need an agency that takes all of this into consideration, who uses strategist as account managers and grows their brands horizontally, rather than in isolated verticals, give us a call and let’s have a chat.