Here’s to you, Account Handlers…

Max Clifford: The ultimate account handler? Thanks to ijazphoto, usual rules apply.

Frankly, I’m a little tired of hearing/reading about how planners are the next rock Gods, saviours of the agency world and generally, would end world hunger if they just produced a big enough pie chart.

No, today, I want to focus on those who represent the agency, the account handlers.

In the digital landgrab that is blogging, twittering and other such mediums, they’ve been curiously silent, or so it would seem. Well, why’s this a surprise?

And no, it’s not what the more cynically minded would have it – ‘they’ve got nothing to say’. Bollocks. Absolute toss, in fact. That sort of view makes me angry. Unlike we planners, with our occasional ivory tower world view – hell, we’re paid to think, for the most part – account handlers have to ALWAYS be on the go, multi-tasking constantly. It’s no surprise not many of them are blogging (barring the indefatigable Nicola Davies – her blog’s great).

I know this, partly because I was a damnably awful account handler. My worrying nature meant that even when I got the job right, I’d still be concerned that it was wrong, and occasionally the opposite would happen – I’d not get the job right because I wasn’t worried about precisely how it would look.

But I’m so glad I had that experience. Because it makes me realise just what a skill it is to be a good account handler, and makes me more empathetic when they’ve got to deal face to face with a very difficult client. Sure, planning has to meet clients – but not to the same degree as account management.

And the job is hard, hard work. Especially, it seems to me, at junior levels. At it’s worst, you get shat on by all and sundry, and have little to no input into the strategic direction of the campaign. And God knows, I know enough bright account handlers who have become planners. But I’d like to try and stem the tide, at least slightly.

For the best account handlers (and believe me, the job gets more strategic as you become more senior) are the rocks on which new agencies are founded. CHI and DLKW both have been phenomenally successful, due in a large part to their account handling prowess (yes, the strategic and creative departments have had a lot to do with it as well). If you can sell, are charming (and know what’s going on all over the place) there’s always a place for you, at any agency.

And it’s a fantastic job if you like meeting new people, challenging clients, representing the agency’s interests, and generally being a bloody good salesman, able to paint pictures in clients’ minds (hopefully without overpromising, the cardinal sin). You’ll go very very far.

I just hope we as in industry don’t paint a picture of account management as a glorious pipedream – surely, by being honest and saying ‘yes, you do have to do a lot of photocopying in the beginning’ is the way to approach matters; some naive stereotype is not the way to go about things.

NB: I’ve always preferred the term account handler – I don’t quite subscribe to the belief that accounts can be fully managed; real life is always too chaotic for that. Heh.