Opinion

Five things that make a great suit

In this guest posting, Gareth Collins argues that the role of a great account manager is to make the work better

I’m surprised at how many suits I meet who don’t know their role in the advertising business. The question ‘what does an advertising account manager or director do?’ is frequently met with answers such as project manager, relationship manager, plate spinner or go between … and those are the nice ones.

Success is judged on the ability to manage a process, be strong administratively and get stuff done. And while a good suit needs to do all of these things brilliantly, if these are the traits that define a great suit, then I’m in the wrong job.

A great suit is defined by their ability to make the work better. Great suits create an environment and relationships where the best ideas can flourish. Where they can get the best out of planner, creative, producer, and client alike.

And great suits judge themselves by their creative output because they realise the work is all we have. The work is all the consumer sees, it is what changes behaviours, builds brands and sells products.

So, as a suit how can you make the work better?

1. Love what you do

You have to love ads and the process of making ads. You can’t fake this bit. If you don’t watch ads on TV, follow brands online, read the blogs and the trade mags and if you don’t talk about ads with your friends in the pub and have passionate debates about the work – then you are in the wrong job.

Because if you are here just for the money, and the glamour, then you will either be disappointed or have to be extremely patient. Without the love, advertising will quickly become a thankless task.

2. Know what makes great work and love that work

As a great suit you have to be able to spot a great idea from a mile off. You will be able to talk about it, argue it, defend it and shape it. You will know why it is right.

And when you find an idea that is right, you need to love it as if it were your own. Great suits are foster parents. While the idea may not be ‘theirs’, they love it like it was. They nurture that idea, take care of it, stand up for it, defend it, and go to the ends of the earth to make it brilliant.

3. Great suits sell the work

A great idea if worthless if you can’t get someone to buy it.

Great suits can sell the strategy and the work. Not in the way a used car salesperson sells, but through knowledge, expertise, trust, respect, reason and passion.

4. Great suits forge great relationships with their clients

Peter Mead, the ‘M’ in AMV BBDO in London, once said to me: “Relationships cost nothing to produce but are the most valuable thing we have”.

And he was right. Without the ability to forge strong relationships, you will never be a great suit.

And when it comes to forging great relationships, you can do a lot worse than follow some basics – trust, respect, common ambition, openness and honesty.

Get these relationships right and they give you the license to make great work, grow business, and buy the time and latitude you need. They can even buy you forgiveness.

5. Great suits are great planners

Dave Trott, ECD of CST The Gate, London, once said that a run of the mill suit knows what the client wants. A great suit knows what the client needs.

The ability to understand the clients business, their objectives, audience and barriers to success and translating that into the right work not only makes a great planner, but a great suit as well.

Or as Robert Senior, a founding partner of Fallon London, puts it, great suits understand: “It’s not what the client will buy, it’s what they should buy.”

Gareth Collins is a managing partner at Clemenger BBDO Sydney

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