Advertising agencies depend on several key departments to function. They all form part of the bigger picture, and the agency would fall apart without any one of them. That includes the account services department, which is the conduit from the agency to the clients on the roster.
It is the job of the people within the account services department to keep the work flowing into the agency, by establishing good relationships with clients and constantly keeping the temperature of the work being done. When a client relationship starts to go sour, for whatever reason, the members of the account services department will know about it before anyone else. It is their job to be proactive and maintain a good working relationship, because with clients, there is no agency.
Key Positions in Account Services
Let's take a look at the major roles of the account services department. These are the key positions, many departments will have additional roles within these, including junior and senior positions. In smaller shops, there may only be a few people to do the work of many.
The entry-level job in the account services department, the account coordinator is a learning role for a graduate or someone new to this side of the business. Although a lot of time will be spent on the administration side of the account, this is a stepping stone to the many duties of an Account Executive.
This Account Executive (AE) plays a major role in any advertising agency. Typically, an AE is assigned to just a few (or sometimes only one) of the many accounts on the agency's client roster. This is because the AE needs to have an intimate understanding of their client's core business, and also ensures that a strong working relationship is established between the client and the AE. The AE will usually take assignments from the client, working with them to create a creative brief for the creative department. The AE will also handle budgets, pitches, timing of jobs (in conjunction with traffic) and the day to day running of the account. The AE will report to the Account Manager, or sometimes to the Account Director.
Account Planner (larger agencies will have a dedicated account planning dept.)
Often integrated with the account services department, the account planner's role is quite different than that of the other members of the team. A good account planner will be a strategic, critical thinker and researcher who is more in tune with the consumer than the client. In short, the account manager knows what the client wants (or needs) and the account planner knows what the consumer wants. The account planner will often drive the strategic direction of each campaign, and ensure the creative work is both on brand and strategically focused. The account planner is a key role, but many shops place the burdens of account planning on the account manager or director.
A more senior role, the account manager will be the main point of contact on one or two specific accounts. While they may not oversee the day-to-day running of the account, they are responsible for managing that account and maintaining an excellent client relationship. The account manager will establish budgets with the client, be there for conflict resolutions, ensure timely deliverables, write creative briefs and approve payments to and from the client.
The account manager will also be in charge of contracts and contract renewals, quality control on the account, and actively pursue new opportunities with the client. The more opportunities, the more work (and money) for the agency. Above all, the account manager will know more about the account(s) her or she is assigned to than anyone else in the agency. They are the go-to person on that brand. The account manager will report directly to either an account director or agency director, providing input on all account activity.
The account director steers the account services ship in the same way a creative director steers the creative department. Account directors know their own company's structure and workings inside and out, and also have exceptional business skills and salesmanship. Most agencies will have an account director pitch new work alongside the creative director. One provides insight into the creative work, the other gets the client to understand why it's good for their business. A truly excellent account director will also be a very strategic and disciplined thinker, providing excellent creative briefs when necessary, and assisting in the overall direction and execution of each campaign.