If you're an agency exec (AE), face it, everyone hates you. Your client is smarter than you about the industry and thinks you're an idiot. They complain that your agency and your creatives never come to them with any truly breakthrough thinking. Your creatives hate you because you obviously don't get it, and you are interfering with them creating their pièce de résistance, their homage to film noir via streaming video and Flash that is going to make them famous so they don't have to sell out anymore. Your CFO hates you because you don't bill your client on time. Your management hates you because you are not extracting enough value from the client, and you're using too many agency resources. In fact, your spouse and kids probably hate you because you're spending too much time at work. So why do you even bother? Why don't you just stick your finger in a light socket and be done with it?
Well, because what great AEs understand is the other side of the equation.
They are the virtual glue; the conduit through which everything flows. Every idea that comes from the creatives must be impassioned to the client. The client's business goals must be translated back, and briefed, by the AE to create that brilliance. They absorb it all by taking the industry's pulse on topics to assemble plans that meet the clients' business goals, and not just to win agency awards. They are voracious consumers of media, looking for that chink in the competitive armor that will give them a long-term advantage, and which they can use advertising to pry wider. And they are not afraid to say, "I don't know" instead of attempting to spin because they know they are on top of their game and their clients. When it's great, the client not only trusts them, but relies on them to deliver strategies, not tactics. They are dealing with proactive plans and products three months out, not knee-jerking to a competitor from three days ago.
Talented and incompetent alike, what terrifies both of them? And what do great AEs do to mitigate the impossible?
Capturing mindshare is a war, and you should treat it as such. As Suntzu noted in "The Art of War," "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."
Author notes: Sean X Cummings is director of marketing for Ask.com. Read full bio.