Re-tailoring the suit: the Colenso approach to account management
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In a former life, a wee while back now, and in a country far from here, I was an ad suit.
My role as an account manager consisted of liasing with clients, writing briefs, chasing up creatives and the occasional pitch.
One day we were called to a meeting, where my boss said each suit needed to start proactively coming up with ideas for its clients.
Solve problems for them they don’t know they had, and develop the business.
I was bewildered by this (although admittedly I was bewildered by many of the goings-on in my office, that is another story). I just didn’t have a brain which worked in that way.
Apparently I am not alone.
Colenso BBDO managing director Nick Garrett says, to be frank, most people are either right or left-brain orientated.
He says rather than try and include both these skills in one person and have them slowly move up the traditional account management chain, it makes more sense to let them focus on their strengths.
“We want people who can be creative in the business sense but we also want brutally efficient executors of big multi-disciplined, complicated campaigns.
“It is rare to get excellent skills in both, in the same person.”
Colenso head of account management Scott Coldham says this means some structural changes in his account team of 40.
What this will look like, he says, is the removal of “account managers” as a role.
Instead, within Colenso’s team of 40 account staff, there will be about 25 project managers (of varying levels of seniority).
Some will be fixed on particular clients, and the very senior ones floating to suit the volumes of workflow. Mr Coldham says this doesn’t mean contractors - the roles are permanent.
There will also be business managers who are responsible to particular clients, to build that relationship and drive organic growth.
He says account management hasn’t evolved at the speed at which the rest of the industry has evolved.
“We are changing the way we service our clients and our people skill set in general.”
Different skill sets are needed, Mr Coldham says, from what was required in the past.
Having just assessed students under the Clemenger Graduate Programme, Mr Coldham says the best candidates were actually HR students because they understood behaviour.
Mr Garrett says ad agencies pick marketing or communications graduates because they are easy and they apply for the jobs.
“This is horrible but I’ve said it to hundreds of students. The smartest kids are those who don’t do marketing or communications at university.
“Who gives a sh*t what they are studying, they just need to apply themselves to advertising.”
Mr Garrett, himself a psychology graduate, says he is more interested graduates from that discipline, or business and law.
“Anyone who can understanding marketing from a textbook by default is not a great marketer.”