The role of an advertising account executive (we like to call them “AEs” for short) is a moving target. You’ll get a different answer from everyone you ask. Depending on the day, your teams will think you are the “defender of art” or the “killer of creativity”, your clients will think you are the knight in shining armor or a fool, and your parents still have no idea what to tell anyone about what you do.
“But what do you actually do?” – Everyone
There are so many aspects to this position that a good AE should be constantly learning and working to improve the different parts of their job. I’ve come up with 5 areas that AEs should be constantly strengthening,
- People Skills
“I don’t know if anyone ever told you that half the time this business comes down to:
‘I don’t like that guy.’” – Roger Sterling
Half of our job is dealing with people. Clients, bosses, team members, etc. How you speak in various settings directly reflects on how you operate as an accounts executive. Your personality will come through in a pitch meeting, and you better believe that a crap personality from an AE can overshadow creative work no matter how wonderful it is. It’s your job to support the wonderful things your team are doing by being able to clearly communicate their work to your clients. If they like you, life is much easier.
There are dozens of books to read about how to effectively communicate, lean on your older peers, ask for critiques from your team members who regularly see you communicate. It’s impossible to be perfect, but you can strive to always be growing.
- Giving Feedback
This goes hand in hand with the first point. How you communicate with your team is just as important as with your clients. Feedback is going to come from your clients. Some of it won’t be positive. Your job is to give your team feedback in a way that effectively communicates the issues while maintaining and protecting positive team morale. The best way to do that is different depending on the makeup of your team. Different people receive feedback differently.
“You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.” – Mothers everywhere
Listening is the most valuable skill an AE can have. In any meeting, and as you know there are lots of them, people will ask questions, give feedback, request things, etc. It is your job to hear those things, interpret them and disseminate that information to the proper parties. Being able to pick up on those things that can regularly be shared subtlety will get you very far.
I would argue that proper note taking would fall under listening as well. Don’t count on your awesome memory to take you through. Find a system that works for you and stick to it. Being able to recall everything that happened in a meeting is key to being able to keep your team, bosses and clients all on the same page.
Not my desk, but potentially could be.
This is one of the things I’m constantly working on, organization. This job requires you to multi-task. It never fails that all of your clients to want everything all at the same time. Without an organizational system that works for you, something will get missed. I’m a fan of writing lists and having a physical representation of what my day/week looks like but find whatever works for you. I had a boss that organized her tasks by length of time required to complete them. That seemed to work well for her as her day was very scheduled out with meetings so being able to quickly find a task to complete in the 15 minutes before the next meeting was important to her.
When finding the right organizational system, it’s important to take company culture into account. Sticky notes in an office with fans might not be the best idea. In past jobs, I used a whiteboard but because I’m all over the place around the office due to meetings, that system wouldn’t work well here.
- Continuous education
An AE touches most aspects of the advertising business, from sales to creative and beyond, so it is important to at least have basic knowledge of all the departments you come into contact with. You don’t need to know how to knock out a beautiful digital ad (that’s creatives job) but knowing what work goes into it allows you to properly scope the work and maintain realistic client expectations. Keep up with trends in the industry, ask your team what the emerging thing in their field is, read blogs from industry experts so you can help your team create great campaigns and potentially upsell clients to make sure they’re on the cutting edge. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask you team about their expertise but being able to give a rough overview of the process to the client is always helpful if needed.
While that’s just 5 areas for you to look at, there are plenty more. There are numerous websites and Facebook pages devoted to the industry as a whole and professional development. I enjoy Adfreak, The Dieline, and Social Media Examiner. If you are constantly growing in one of these many areas, you can’t help but become a better AE.