Double life

Having just started to work with a new gaming client I started the trawl back through some of the best work I could remember from the category. I wondered how ‘double life’ would be executed today in the multiverse. Or whether it would even make the cut. There’s always going to be a place for one off executions but the non linear narratives/multi-platform approach that was shown by Halo 3 & then nailed as an ARG by entertainment 42 show how far ‘entertainment’ has come as a category. Anyway – if ever there was a place to flex some of those remastered madskillz it’s in this playground….

Street fighting digi-sherpa

Introduce yourself to someone at a party. Try it.

You have 20secs to explain what you do as an account handler to someone that isn’t in the business.

‘So you don’t write the ads?’ Nope.

‘So you must make the ads?’ Not exactly.

‘Okay – I got  it – you come up with the strategy?’ Erm..

‘What about placing where the ads go?’ Absolutely not.

‘You’re the money guy?’ Closer.

After a long rambling description, your new friend says:

‘So you sort of organize people, the process & make the client happy with nice lunches?  I could do that’.

I was actually in a meeting the other day where a colleague of mine inadvertently referred to me as an accountant. I think this was more than a freudian slip. There seems to be a genuine lack of understanding around what good account handling actually is & how great client service actually makes a difference. Just whack a few entries into google for ‘account handling blogs’ & you’ll get some great stuff from the IPA in the UK (who I think understand this knowledge transfer issue) plus a few random links like the below:

http://spotlightideas.co.uk/?p=606

The brain drain to more financially attractive careers (management consultancy, banking, law etc) feels like it has really hit the business hard. The ‘dark art’ of client handling – historically passed on by word of mouth/experience feels like it’s draining away too. Progression is a bit of a lottery out there in an oversupplied, highly fragmented world that splinters more each day.

In a later post I’ll summarize some of the best books I’ve found on the topic and these come closer to the ‘codified common sense’ it takes to manage those difficult situations we find ourselves in everyday. If problems are our currency & our way of delivering value to clients then some of this ‘received wisdom’ needs to get out into the blogosphere. This is what remastered accountman is all about. Trying to come to grips with a new definition for what we’ll be doing as account handlers when we & our clients have an ‘always on’ mindset – where change accelerates every second of every hour of every day.

Next time you look in the mirror. Or next time someone asks you what you do – try to come up with something better than ‘client service’ that better reflects the world you find yourself in.

The best I could do is in the title of this post & tries to capture the savvy hustle we need in today’s interconnected multiverse – getting out of the daily trouble whilst leading our clients through the best possible choices.

It’s more interesting than an accountant anyway.

The sound of creativity…

I came across an article this morning’s Guardian written about the new soundtrack for the hollywood adaptation ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. It’s been composed by Trent Reznor & he makes the point that he was previously turned down for some pretty major gigs based on the fact that he wasn’t regarded as a ‘a proper composer’. This is despite the fact that, in my opinion, he’s long been one of the most progressive sonic innovators of a generation.

The other movie soundtrack that Reznor collaborated on was ‘The social network’  -which of course won the Oscar for best soundtrack & there’s a line he uses in this article that explains the organizing thought behind the concept. Reznor explains that he was looking to capture ‘the sound of creativity’ on the record. The sound of something being born to a generation that would find it as much of a revelation as a revolution.

Listening to it again this morning made me reflect that it’s kind of like a dense, multilayered, highly complex sonic soup that helps communicate the birth of something new. In a way it kind of reflects the mood that I’m seeing through the business right now – broody, uncertain, edgy but with the breathy excitement around the explosion of new form.

Maybe the future won’t be defined by agencies & account handlers that aren’t ‘proper account people’ – it’s most likely going to take some hybrid form of skillsets to keep winning the shiny accolades in our business too. And as for the sound of creativity – well, that’s something that we can help set the conditions for, arrange, orchestrate, sell, package & marvel at. We can set the tuning fork & help inspire but also shape our own daily revelations into a revolution for something new. Something that’s been properly remastered…

Who’s driving this bus…

I came across this excellent seminar the other day & James touches on account-man 3.0 point in his presentation below.

Having been lucky enough to work with him as an agency leader it got me thinking back to some of the clear values of client leadership that need to be embraced today more than ever.

Is it me or is finding account handlers that have those ‘fireproof gloves’ getting tougher & tougher. The really good ones can have a catalytic effect on a relationship, so that when you are stuck, they find a way through for the team. As James points out – the clue is in the title – account management or account direction – and it’s really what the client is looking for you to do – lead. This is more important today (and this will be recurring theme) than ever.

It’s your piece of business, not anyone else’s – so staff it with people that are better than you & fight for your team.

James also mentions Jim Kelly in this piece & I have to say that I have the utmost respect for Jim. The man is true pro & an absolute legend. I’m not just saying that because of the kind words he wrote to me before leaving the UK but I’ve also been lucky enough to work with him through several pitches too. The mantra still rings in my mind through every new biz start up process.’Who’s driving this bus’ was the call that went up along the corridor as he looked for the responsible account handler in order to provide some helpful pointers.

This is as true for the pitch process as it is for the day to day. You are in charge & you are the guardian of the client relationship in the agency.

It’s a bus that needs a driver who is firmly in control of the wheel…

Love the ones you’re with

You never really know what you know until you start writing it down. And sometimes it seems so obvious that really we’re just talking about codified common sense.

You know that end of year feeling where contract discussions are in full swing & the phrase ’20xx will be an important year for new business’ is hanging in the air….

I don’t think I’ve ever ended (or started) an agency year where new business hasn’t been called out as a top priority. Everyone’s business is new business but old business can be a source of new business too…

As budgets get squeezed tighter, the need for quality client service & client retention draws even sharper into focus. In fact it should be prioritized at least as highly – if not higher – while the revenue at street level remains thin.

If you are winning client partners but losing your old ones then your revenue remains static and eventually your reputation suffers. Your top priority must be minimizing losses to zero.

So – love the ones you’re with. And make sure your client relationships are working for the conversations they need to have  in 2012…

Brief Amnesia

How many times have you been in a creative presentation & the client says those magic words ‘I don’t like it’ or even worse ‘I’m not sure this is going to fly, let me gather some opinion’. The latter is often a weasel word for the former & a bit of direct (preferably written & thought through) feedback will ordinarily keep everyone on track. As an account handler – whether a client likes the work can (often unfairly) land in your lap. We’ve all been there.

The most frustrating of occasions is when the client suffers from ‘briefus amnesius’. Better to accept that this will happen. Your client is busy & it’s your job to remind them – simply/clearly – of why the work will work. Set up so they don’ t forget that carefully crafted strategy your planner has lovingly shaped for the team. And insist that feedback (when written) considers the brief – not just whether the rest of the marketing department ‘likes’ it.

Never forget brief amnesia. Prevention is better than cure.