Does the agency Account Manager have a future?

Does the agency Account Manager have a future?

There has been much debate in recent weeks about the role of account management, with the IPA warning it could be ‘squeezed out’ of the agency world without urgent change to how the discipline operates.

This isn’t the first time that the role of the account manager has come under scrutiny. Two years ago Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for Proctor & Gamble, controversially stated that creatives should make up three-quarters of an agency’s staff, which he said should “strip away anything that doesn’t add to creative output.”

The IPA’s report The Future of Account Management questioned the relevance and value of account managers in today’s world, setting out a series of trends that threatened the role, including: competition from tech companies and management consultancies for the best talent; growing expectations from clients to do more with less; not enough clarity on the role of account management; and the inability of agencies to collaborate and facilitate between each other.

This has understandably been met with uproar from many within the agency world, as their very raison d’être has been called into question. And yet, while they may disagree with this view, they can't simply ignore it.

Selling ideas is a valuable skill

Let’s be clear. Great account management is not just about fostering and managing the client relationship, it’s also about selling ideas and inspiring clients to spend the money they never knew they wanted to spend – a skill that no one would deny is invaluable to an agency – or any business in fact.

Account managers play a crucial role in the smooth running of an agency, in the same way that a conductor is pivotal to an orchestra. Without the skill of an effective account manager, the stability and order of an agency would fall apart, with each department singing from their own hymn-sheet rather than in smooth chorus.

Furthermore, the global pandemic has meant that in many instances clients have leaned more heavily than ever on their agencies for support and ideas, particularly if members of their own team have been placed on furlough or even made redundant. All this suggests a gross underestimation of the role of account manager, which has become both a consultant, an advisor and a facilitator for solutions to their problems.

That said, industries adapt. Take retail, which has seen a paradigm shift in the way people shop with the rise of online shopping and self-service checkouts resulting in huge job losses in stores across the country.

Max De Lucia

Advertising is no different and is certainly not immune to the constant evolution of the business world. And in today’s agency it is important for everyone to sell ideas – not just the suits.

A role that clearly needs redefining and maybe renaming

The IPA report suggested that since the 2008 financial crash many roles within account management have become spread increasingly thin, with the focus shifting and, in many cases, losing its way.

Clearly there is a real imperative to redefine the role of the account manager. In truth, its very name sounds mundane and dull within the context of the wider creative industries.

But let’s not forget – the account manager is the glue that binds the whole process together, and the lifeblood of making an idea a commercial reality. It is something that should be valued and celebrated, not scrutinised and threatened.

So here’s my suggestion – let’s redefine and rename the role of account manager, into one that exudes trust, value, collaboration and commerciality.