What To Do If Your Account Team Don’t Respect You Anymore

August 30, 2006

Work in an agency and concerned that people you don’t like much aren’t being very nice to you? Take my advice, my friend: toss your briefs to the seven winds, and become a client instead.

I was an account handler for twelve years. I stopped working in advertising because I woke up one morning and realised that I should probably be doing something else instead. I didn’t want my own agency, and I didn’t want to be a managing director – not that wanting it would have made any difference; I was neither ambitious nor brilliant, so if I’d wanted to be an Advertising Legend, I’d have been fucked. So naturally, I became a client.

I had the kind of job title that you’d invent if you were being sarcastic about marketing. It was six words long, and sounded excellent. (I could never remember it, mind you, so I’d say “er, I sort of look after brand strategy and advertising and that”, then change the subject). I worked on a brand that would make most agencies a bit hot in the pant area, and the combination of the two meant that advertising people I hadn’t seen for years, didn’t like or didn’t know thought I might be important. That meant they sucked up a lot.

At the Campaign Press Awards one year, managing directors of agencies I hadn’t worked at since 1903 were jolly nice to me. My first ever boss, who had blanked me the last time I saw him, appeared like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn and offered champagne. People I’d worked with at my last agency who I’d hated, and vice-versa, shimmied unctuously up to me and offered to buy me lunch. People I didn’t actually know congratulated me on my new job and gave me their card. How I laughed.

I’d get letters and emails from people I’d met once on a training course ten years earlier reminding me of the larks we’d had on IPA4. I had to go to lots of industry things which I didn’t like much, because I had to behave properly and be nice to people who made me want to eat my own head. I’d see lots of (real) friends, but was unable to talk to them because wild-eyed new business directors would be shoving them out of the way, calling me ‘mate’ and pinning me against a wall so they could tell me that my brand was fucked unless I moved my business immediately.

It’s the arrogance I found weird. What did they think we were doing all day? Sitting in the office making paper aeroplanes out of brand pyramids and picking communication strategies out of a hat? And did they not think we’d chosen the agency we were (very happily) working with? Did they think all our creative work was shite and our strategy flawed? If so, they must have thought I was shit at my job.

I don’t do that ‘clients are shit’ thing. I also don’t do that ‘agency people are idiots’ thing. There are equal numbers of idiots spread throughout each discipline (which is just as well: how else could I have made the transition?) But there’s one thing I know for sure: if you’re a board account director and you’ve been refused a place in the car park and your own subscription to Campaign, have a PA who’s rubbish and insubordinate account directors, become a client. You’ll think you’re important in no time.

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