How we re-imagined the Account Executive

How we re-imagined the Account Executive

The pressure is on agencies to deliver value to clients. That is so true as to be cliche, except marketers like P&G's Chief Growth and Brand Officer Mark Pritchard have been saying it out loud, to agencies, conferences, and the press for the better part of 12 months. When clients talk, it's important to listen. 

So agencies need to change. But how?

Creativity continues to be an agency's unique selling proposition, and it's all the more important as media, analytics, and technology get taken in-house. Creativity is the thing that agencies do that is hardest to replicate. It's our comparative advantage. So how can agencies structure themselves to have the best chance to create breakthrough, impactful work?

It starts with the creative team's classic counterpart, the Account Executive.

The original conception of the Account Executive filled a vital role: they worked closely with clients to develop a marketing and advertising strategy that would impact the business. 

They were able to do that because they knew how the client’s business made money. They had a point of view on how marketing and advertising could help the business make more. They were familiar with the target audience and had thoughts on potential new audiences. And they had an intuitive feel for persuasion which meant that they could both recognize what good work is and to help sell it to clients. 

The best account people impacted not only relationships, budgets, and scope—they impacted the work.

It’s why new agencies are stereotypically started by a creative-account combo.

And yet, over the years the account role has shrunk. Pressured on one side by Planning, which has taken much of the strategy function away (but often moved it too far from the real business), on another by Project Management, which has taken much of the executional work away (but often moved it away from direct client accountability), and exacerbated by procurement-driven fee cuts (but often the fault of agencies ‘buying’ accounts), the account role, in application, isn’t what it was.

So we changed it.

We created a role that the requires high-level marketing knowledge, the ability to dig deep into a client’s business, strategic chops, and client interaction. It’s part account, part planning and 100% what clients want and need in an agency partner. 

We call the job Engagement because the role is to lead the client engagement.

We created a role that requires executional muscle, project management, and client interaction. It is part account, part traffic and a huge value compared to the awkwardly overlapping roles that exist in the classic model.  

We call them Producers because their role is to lead the production of the work.

This is a critical change because the secret weapon of agencies is the ability to define the brand and execute against it. Without execution, the best strategy is just academic. And without thinking about the execution—how the idea interacts, impacts, and persuades real people to do real things—strategies often ring hollow. Brand, marketing, advertising. None of it means anything without action.

Re-imagining the roles allows us to focus our talent where our clients need it and ensures that we never lose the connection between strategy and execution, planning and action.