Faizan Ali is Account Director at VMLY&R, a brand and customer experience agency which creates connected brands and delivers contemporary and fully integrated offerings to clients across the globe. Faizan has worked on account management teams at Saatchi, J. Walter Thompson, and Hogarth Worldwide, and he’s graciously agreed to stop by the NinjaCat podcast to rap about account management and drop gems about this critical role at any agency.
In an industry that loves to talk about strategy and creativity, Faizan Ali is an outspoken advocate for account managers, a critical and sometimes overlooked position in advertising agencies.
“A lot of people working in advertising define account management as everything everyone hates doing in an agency,” begins Faizain. “In a way this is true; someone has to do the dirty work, but there’s so much more to the position.”
Faizan then explains that account managers essentially handle the administrative work in an agency, tracking projects and bandwidths, dealing with client demands, deadlines and deliverables; without them, the chaos in an ad agency would be multiplied.
“Keeping track of meetings, having difficult conversations with clients about budgets and timelines, chasing money, giving input, shielding the team and their work; this is why the position of account manager is so important,” says Faizan. “We calm storms, massage egos, and help sell the work. Without account managers, there wouldn’t be any sanity in an agency.”
The concept of selling the work of an ad agency might seem anathema to anyone that believes “good ideas sell themselves.”
“I wish good ideas sold themselves,” says Faizan “the job would be so much easier. But in reality, the only thing harder than creating a great advertisement, is actually selling it to the clients. Account managers definitely help sell the work, which can add a ton of value to the agency.”
Faizan describes how account managers act as a bridge between clients and the agency, translating the brief, business goals, and off-the-record conversations into something the creative team can bounce ideas off of.
“Clients have to be able to digest ideas and insights,” explains Faizan. “Account management team should be involved in creative ideation. They have a ton of marketplace knowledge and internal skills, so when an account manager understands the brief, the ideas can be more impactful, informed, and ultimately better.”
The conversation then pivots to the importance of agency client reporting and analytics, an area which Faizan believes is critical.
“I think that client reporting is both the easiest, and hardest, aspect of the gig,” says Faizan. “You have access to all the research, statistics, and results, but the real work begins when you have to make it understandable to the client. The job is not about showing off all the metrics you have, but more about the learnings, taking the data from information to insight.”
Faizan then stresses the importance of client meetings, stating that conversations are crucial to effective communication and getting better results.
“Project management software exists, but it’s also important to meet up with clients on video and have actual conversations, learning about the day-to-day stuff, the quarterly reports, discussing wins and and areas of improvement.The ultimate goal is to summarize all the information, and then talk about how you can optimize the campaigns.”
For advice on which skills account managers should be leveraging, horror stories on account management gone horribly wrong, and Faizan’s one piece of advice on how account managers can be successful and indispensable, listen to the full interview on the links provided below.