The Official Adland Advertising Tutorial: Part Five - Account Executives

It's baaack! The adland Tutorial Series took a bit of a break but returns for the first time in 2006 with tips for Account Executives. Because they need all the help they can get.

Professors: Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua, John Backman, J. Goldman, Jesper Hansen, Åsk Dabitch, Clayton T. Claymore, Steve Hardy (in no particular order)


And remember kids, An AE is like a toaster, capable of tastefully toasting a concept, or burning it to a crisp.

or... A good AE is a roll of toilet paper, wiping away the sh*t and bringing quilted, two-ply satisfaction to both the creatives and clients.

Speaking of behinds: Client ass-kissing is the key to your success!

You have Word on your computer so you can just as easily make revisions to copy instead of bothering your copywriter.

Killing targeted and brief answering ideas that might actually make the client think is a vital part of your job. Your job should be to make the decision process as easy as possible for the client. Never stand up for the creative. That's why they bring the CDs to presentations. It's helpful to stand behind your art director or designer while they are creating.

Engage with the whole advertising agency, hang out with your co-workers. Share stories from your life in order to make friends - for example, I've seen an AE gain friends by telling a knee-slappingly funny story about when he had the tires changed on his Porsche, and each tire cost as much as the monthly salary of the studio-crew he was speaking to.
His adoring new friends brought him pitchforks and torches as gifts. Make the proposition as vague as humanly possible - this way you can reject anything you don't like with the line "it's not on brief!"

"Brief" has nothing to do with being a condensed summary, it actually stands for Be Randomly Incoherent, and Exuberantly Factitious.


A Brief should be at least four pages long, and have attached research and background pieces of at least twenty pages a pop.
Hide on those rare occasions when the Creative Department actually needs you.
It makes them appreciate you more. Make sure to shoot down the first solution the creatives come with in response to the brief, no matter what it is.
This keeps them on their toes and makes them work harder. If you have a limited time to serve a client, say three weeks, spend two weeks and four days writing the fifteen-page brief, leaving the creatives only Friday to crack the campaign and have out before lunch to be printed in Saturday's newspaper.

Because we all know creatives work better under pressure, so be helpful by creating pressure at every opportunity.

You need to create a friendly rapport with clients, to get closer do something together, a good thing to is to take them to strip clubs and brothels.
Mantras to live by - print this out and pray to them every day: "By tomorrow? Sure we can do that!"
"Whatever you want!"
"We don't need a creative brief."
"I'll make the changes, no need running it by Creative."
"These are the changes the client wants. I told them we'd have it back to them in an hour."
"It shouldn't take long, it's just an integrated campaign for print, radio, outdoor and viral. I've budgeted 20 hours, including revisions."

...or we could go zen... Why does the AE dance on the edge of the fox spirit's rusty sword, teasing the tatsu in the sea below?

...or go to limerickland... There once was an AE from Texas Whose commissions bought her a Lexus Her dark soul she sold So that she could go gold but it messed with her poor solar plexus

Serious advice for those who want to excel at their job:

The target will instantly understand a great ad.
The client won't. Explain to the client why it works.

Your job is to give clients not what they want, but what they need.
Sometimes clients know what they need; sometimes they don't, and sometimes they think they do.
You will need to determine which "sometimes" you're dealing with in each case.

Do not start a project with a "give the clients what they want" attitude. This is only a last resort. Be very, very careful with the criticism "this sounds negative."
The VW "Lemon" ads would never have happened if the AE had offered this critique.

The obvious point - the one above all others - is simply that a great AE MUST love advertising, be passionate about creativity and know more about the biz and the context in which ads live than even the creative team.

Great creative teams and great clients will not only respect that but they'll feel compelled to match it.

As AE your job is to help sell the work to the client. It might seem somewhat obvious but it's something quite a few AEs forget.
When crafting your strategy, it's a good idea to involve the Creatives before submitting it to the client for approval.

In your strategy, The Key Message is ONE idea, not a laundry smooshed together into one run-on sentence the length of a 8.5"x11" piece of paper.
There is a difference between a supporting point and the key message.
Many times the items that end up in the laundry list of the key message are really supporting points.

As much as Creatives hate structure, they crave a well thought out and structured brief.

A good AE builds a bridge between the agency and the client and oversees that all work is on budget and delivered on time.

A fantastic AE is capable of guiding the client through the many possibilities and traps in marketing and advertising.
How? By leading the way to the most relevant and true to the brand strategy - or by explaining his or her opinion on an already decided strategy.
He or she is able to brief the creatives in human language, inspire them and show his or her enthusiasm. The latter demonstrated in the regularity with which he or she delivers simple, thought through and insightful briefs, that forces the creative to roll out their full potential.
And when the fantastic AE looks at creative work, he or she is capable of using part stomach and part brain. He or she is not looking to see if the creative work fulfills all criteria in the brief, but if it is going against some of them.

A good AE is capable of advising the client instead of constantly just taking orders. By constant proactivity, this AE minimizes the number of "They need to see something tomorrow" jobs.
To the benefit of the creative work.

A fantastic AE is strategically more capable than the client - without the client noticing or feeling uncomfortable because of this.
He or she is constantly challenging the clients and pushes the boundaries for what the client have the guts to approve. This way he or she - wonder of wonders - gains the respect from both the client and the creatives.
It is called integrity.

A good AE works for the agency that pays his or her salary and the people from the client. A fantastic AE works for the brands he or she is responsible for. Why? Because brands remain, but Marketing Managers move on.
This is dangerous ground. Mainly because many AEs have built careers on knowing the right people and acquired new business from these when they moved on to greener pastures.

But big agencies have been built by long-lasting relationships between an agency and a brand.

A good AE is really like Scotch tape. Invisible and keeps the whole project together.

Missed a tutorial? No biggie.

Check them out here:

The Official Adland Advertising Tutorial Series - Part One: Radio

The Official Adland Advertising Tutorial Series - Part Two: Viral Advertising

The Official Adland Advertising Tutorial Series - Part Three: Art Direction

The Official Adland Advertising Tutorial Series - Part Four: Holiday Ads

The Official Adland Advertising Tutorial: Part Five - Account Executives

The Official Adland Advertising Tutorial: Part Six - Creating TV commercials

Adland® is supported by your donations alone. You can help us out by buying us a Ko-Fi coffee.
Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
Files must be less than 1 MB.
Allowed file types: jpg jpeg gif png wav avi mpeg mpg mov rm flv wmv 3gp mp4 m4v.
Dabitch's picture comments? Y'all didn't think this one was hella funny?

James Trickery's picture

Hella useful more like it.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Role of planner is ... ?

garbahnzo's picture

Loved it! You might as well publish a book with all this info. Everybody's doing it these days.

caffeinegoddess's picture

another tutorial. ;)

Hidden Persuader's picture

AHAHAHAH I'm laughing my "bolloks" off. Very well-written, very amusing ... very TRUE!!

AnonymousCoward's picture

You have Word on your computer so you can just as easily make revisions to copy instead of bothering your copywriter.

"I'll make the changes, no need running it by Creative."

Wait, so which is it? I'm an AE and I'll admit, this drives me nuts. Creatives who act like they don't want to be bothered when the client wants to change two words in a script, but then freak out when you do it without telling them.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Heh. My sarcasm meter was turned off. Still drives me crazy though.