More email advice stuff. About these folks:
How are you?
One of the things I'm really struggling with at my current workplace is shaping my role. My role is a newly created role. I feel the client is execution focused and there is an enormous opportunity for strategic thinking to guide the brand. The thing is I haven't got a clue on how to do it, what I should be doing on a daily basis. I used to be a part of all meetings so I have a better sense of what's going on to identify opportunities where I can insert myself. That continued for a bit until we got an account director on the account. I felt a sense of relief as I thought this person might help pull me in at the right times instead of sitting through mindless meetings. What I'm starting to realize is I'm letting him dictate what my role and involvement should be as I don't have the confidence to tell him or figure out where and how I should be involved. In a nutshell, I just don't know what to do besides trial and error. How would you handle this situation?
Do you always attend client creative reviews?
By the way, I really like what you said about think about thinking about your audience as a protagonist in your story - it really helped when I was organizing my thoughts!
Yes, shaping your role is a double edged sword- it’s great to have the flexibility, but others can shape it for you.
In general, you should be following this job description.
But when it comes to reality, the world isn't full of purists.
Acccount directors can be tricky in particular because:
- They need to feel they are in control and need to get stuff done on time
- They want to own the client relationship
- In some cases they think they can do the strategy
Ive written about working with suits before- here. But here's some other thoughts.
I attend most client meetings and most creative reviews because I’ve worked hard to win a level of respect from everyone.
More than that, people expect I’ll add something that won’t come from anyone else. Creatives, suits and clients can get along fine without planners, you have to make them WANT you in the room.
With any account director, make them feel your making their job easier.
That doesn’t mean you make them feel you’re cleverer than them, but that you respect what they do (I do I was failed suit) and want to earn theirs.
Don’t do cleverer strategy, do more generative strategy. Average briefs, briefings and overall thinking tends to frame business objectives, stays within the ‘category’ and doesn’t really help creatives that much with having good ideas. A useful trick is not to ‘own the strategy’ but add to it, contribute that extra 10% of thinking that turns it into a creative rocket fuel, rather than instruction….by pushing into something that people will care about, that make them respond, that will provoke creative response. Because, ultimately, suits like less creative reviews and less time on a job, so the better the start and the more creatives can allocate to solving a creative task rather than a ‘business one’ the better. For example – one thing I worked on recently turned ‘We need increase usage occasions and increase the emotional relationship ’ (don’t get me going on the double task) into “Inspire women across the nation to get more creative”.
Add more and more to the stuff you get invited to and you’ll see you’ll get included into more and more and more. Build a relationship with creatives – be a genuine bridge between them an suits. When suits see creatives want you around, they’ll want you too – creative are harder for suits to manage than clients.
So you then need to make sure you can PROVE that people will be interested in this – data, insights, examples from real culture. Which brings me to point about relationships with clients. You’re not there for clients to like you more than the account director (take this from a painfully shy person who can never ‘own the room’ with force of personality) you’re there for clients to want to maintain an strengthen the relationship. By removing risk for them – with evidence that the work is the right thing to do. By continually adding value with observations and nuggets into every meeting and by getting better work more smoothly out of the agency. The suits will get it right in terms of what they think the client will buy, you’ll get it right by proving it’s what the target will respond to, and how that response will help solve the BUSINESS problem.
In other words, by being a source of ideas and then helping get those ideas through, you’ll make both creatives AND suits want you around more.
In turn, that means surrendering your ego, be generous with all your thinking and ideas, let both creatives and suits take credit and they’ll want you around, because you make them look good (I even bury my best stuff within a creative brief, creatives’ natural response to a brief is to question it, let them discover the best stuff themselves. You need to know you’d thought of that, they don’t). But the moment you try and take credit for stuff, they’ll shut you out.
So that’s the approach.
Here’s some pointers to help you know what’s going on, which have always helped me:
- Traffic is the heart of the agency. They know everything going on. Make friends with traffic. They are the centre of the eternal creative v account person war, help smooth that and they’ll love you too.
- Account directors might rule, but it’s the account managers and execs that manage the day to day. Make friends with the junior suits. This will also pay back for tomorrow, since suits tend to rise very quickly and will become account directors and even CEO’s before you become board planner/planning director or whatever.
- If you’re the only planner, add value to the entire agency. Do a monthly trends meetings, innovation updates, case studies of great work from other places or whatever. Where I last worked, we put little nuggets of insight at eye level in the staff toilets and updated them weekly (Our insight us urinsight) – become visible go to source for great insight and new thinking.
I hope I’ve answered the question and you find it helpful