No fear. Or, a plea for old school Account Handlers..

As the new world order of agencies jostles for position, I think there’s a real danger of overlooking those incredibly underated folk. Yes, that’s right, account handers/managers/people.
I’m not about to suggest that the Account man has somehow died, or there’s no need for him/her. I think it’s a bit dangerous to think like that. Nor do I believe that the new world order of agencies can afford to overlook the suit, and that somehow the planner or creative could and should have more power than the suit.
Each discipline lacks skills the others possess; the best suits are far more charming and better with people than the average planner or creative, and likewise, planners and creatives can usually think along far different lines than the average suit. HOWEVER… too much thinking like this leads to:

So, to avoid this… I’m not going to propose disbanding departments, allowing the most snot nosed account person to create creative work, nor saying to the most socially awkward planner to present an hour presentation to the most important client. That’d just be silly. Structures of this sort exist for a reason, and searching for new ones is liking asking ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’ (Yes, one of the presentations in the sidebar really was on a hiding to nothing).

No, instead, we’ve got to move away from both notions, and dare I say, back to some of the old attitudes. As Morris Hite states in his 80’s book, “No agency is better than its account executives.”

Damn right. These plucky youngsters are the faces of the agency. They’ve got to be ballsy, unafraid to have an opinion, not just cast aside as the photocopying monkey for the first year.
It’s rather telling that what people held as the account man’s job (having an opinion on the strategy, overseeing parts of the creative brief) back in the day, the planner has now subsumed. But surely, if the agency is being presented by these people, the AE has to be able to think strategically, and to a lesser extent, creatively?

I say this in this order because without the nous to understand just where the brand is heading, account services will become overly seduced by creativity without substance. It’s all very well to admire the bright lights and flash graphics of the latest block busting TV ad, but if you don’t understand WHY and can’t think creatively, it’s for naught.

So – Give back some responsibility to Account Handlers. Get them thinking strategically. Don’t just employ those who have to ‘think creatively’. One man’s creativity is another man’s total arse. If it’s not understood, it’s rather pointless. Perhaps some form of internal strategic training by the senior planners, or a required reading list? (You think I’m joking…)

Perhaps most importantly, get young Account Handlers to get the bit between their teeth. Not to be wankers, but being unfraid to interject. After all, most of these people have had the same training as the forensically minded planning department, so it’s unlikely they just ‘won’t get it’.

And for God’s sake, heed Leo Burnett’s words: “Fun without sell gets nowhere but sell without fun tends to become obnoxious.” No arseholes OR faceless drones, who only do administration, 10 second pack shots and colour co-ordinated dressing.

(NB: First picture stolen from Adweek)