The slightly experienced account person’s guide for the inexperienced account person


By Andrew Burgess, Account Supervisor

You’ve been hired! Congratulations. Now get ready to have no idea what you’re doing.

I came out of a great college advertising program and got a job at an amazing agency in New York City. I did decent in school (are my parents still looking this way?), had great friends, and was moving to the coolest city in the world. What I didn’t know was that my entire education had taught me about advertising–not how to actually work in advertising. There are classes that teach you about the creative process or the principles of marketing, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a class that teaches you how to navigate your first advertising agency job, let alone one that specializes in healthcare.

All of this to say, it's hard to prepare yourself for what an Account role is really like. With that in mind, I’ve compiled 3 core principles of starting out in Account Management that I wish I had at my disposal when starting on this journey.

1. Balance Clients and Creatives

At its core, your job is to keep your clients and your creative counterparts happy. There are numerous factors that play a part, but if you’re managing an account correctly, it can be done. Creating great work on budget and on time, while not putting your team in a position where they resent their work, leads to the ultimate goal: happy clients and happy creatives.
There will always be tight timelines and difficult folks to work with, but if you pay equal respect to your colleagues as you do to your clients, it will almost always benefit you and your account in the long run. If your team disagrees with a client’s suggestion, it’s okay to push back. Ultimately, it’s the client’s decision, but creatives are paid to do their job for a reason – they’re good at it. At the end of the day, your client is paying for their talent. It’s your job to give them the tools, structure, and environment they need to create the work that keeps clients coming back for more.

Key takeaway: Work hard and fight for your creative team, and they will fight to help keep your clients happy.

2. Be Prepared

Within a couple weeks of starting, your calendar will be filled with meetings, both internal and external. Be prepared for each meeting at all costs. There is nothing worse than a client asking where a project is and you start stuttering, “Uh, uh…let me circle back with the team and get back to you,” or a creative team member asking for specs during a project kickoff and, “Uh, uh…”

Key takeaway: Study up before each meeting so that you’re the most informed person in the room. 

3. Get Resourceful

There will be many times where you find yourself completely out of the loop on something. And that’s okay. The key is to recognize when you are and be resourceful. The quickest way to figure something out is to ask those around you. Find someone whom you get along with and literally bribe them with coffee or a beer if you have to. Google is always a great option, but your colleagues will be able to provide added context that is hard to gather from a quick search online.

I would also recommend getting comfortable with your agency’s internal server early and often. In almost all cases, someone has done exactly what you’re being asked to do. Once you have a sense for how your server is structured, you will be able to find examples and templates that you can emulate when doing something for the first time.

Key takeaway: It’s better to bug someone than end up like the Chris Pratt meme.

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Bonus: Phrases to avoid when talking to the creative team

“Make it pop.”

“Well, can’t we just drop it into the template?

“It just isn’t jumping off the page for me.”

“Well, you can just shrink it, right?”

“Where are the files for that brand you’ve never worked on?”

“We can figure out the details later.”

“Do you mind just fixing this for me “real” quick?”

“Can you create a logo for my friend’s startup? Should be free since we’re friends, right?”

“It should only take a couple of minutes.”

“We can get this by tonight, right?”

“The target audience is males and females between 25 and 150 years old.”

“We don’t need a brief, it should be pretty easy.”

In conclusion, no matter how prepared you feel for the “real world,” nothing compares to actually being in it. There will be late nights and loads of stress, but you will come out the other side a stronger person. Be driven, be resourceful, and be positive and you will succeed in this world–just don’t expect it to be easy!