Finally, my top ten tips for working with account handlers. I used to be one, so I have a fair idea what goes on in their heads.
1) Never forget that they do all the things you hate. They organise meetings, do the contact report, take countless phone calls at the worst possible time and generally do a thousand things at once.Show you appreciate this, and do what you can to simplify their lives.
2) Creatives hate it when suits tell them, "We can't present that, the client will never go for it." Since it's their job to bring the client perspective into the agency they take constant abuse from creative teams. You can help mediate between them, and take some of the pressure off. How can you help save the creative idea, but make it client friendly? Sometimes it's research evidence, sometimes it's knowing that the client likes pictures of dogs.
3) They don't need you. Creatives and suits can do the job relatively well. You need to be the person they want in the room - both client meetings and creative reviews. Account people don't like losing control, so don't threaten this. Do make them feel that you can tell them something they don't know, or look at something in a different, or help them in a tricky conversation.
4) The above means that you've got to be interesting. Read a lot, keep scrapbook,collect stuff. You want them coming to you for things.
5) Suggest as often as possible, as opposed to tell. Be subtle, go in the back door. Let them make the decisions, just make your suggestions so useful they become difficult to ignore.
6) Creatives see one of your roles as getting their work through research. So do the suits. The work bombing in groups means more work for them (and grief from the client). Make sure any testing makes the work better opposed to a re-write.
7) Be quick. The client always wants things yesterday, which means they're always under pressure. Deliver things when you say you will.
8) Let them have input. A fresh pair of eyes always helps. Talk a lot, they spend more time with the client than you do, they may have picked up something you've missed. If they feel they've had a role in the strategy, they'll take a more active role in getting it through intact.
9) Unless you've done something really dumb (or someone's clicked reply instead of forward) clients usually fire agencies because they are bored, or they think you've gone a bit stale. Be constantly looking for new stuff they can give the client to challenge them and make them think. They'll know the best time to pass it on.
10) Make friends with junior account people. They have less baggage than older people and will surprise you with new stuff. They'll also be an account director before you know it. If you build a relationship before they're important, it will pay off when they are.