Adschool presenter and advertising professional, Rob Kent, has worked on both sides of the advertising-marketing fence – first as Head of Marketing for Golden Casket Lotteries, followed by a 17-year MD role at Publicis Mojo, and a further 11 years in Head of Client Service and General Manager roles. Ahead of presenting the Account Management for Tomorrow course in Brisbane, we asked Rob about his top tips for aspiring account managers and the common traps to avoid.

A case of ‘make it or break it’

There is a shortage of great account managers in the advertising business and as result many account executives tend to be promoted ahead of their time, mostly due to the difficulty agencies have recruiting from outside.

It’s often a case of make it or break it because once you’ve been promoted there’s no going back. Those with the greatest skills win! Other challenges abound. On the career side of things it’s important to remember that there are generally three account manager jobs for every account director’s job so the competition in taking it to the next level can be quite intense. Quite often, account managers need to leave the agency that trained them to attain the role of account director.

As budgets get squeezed most agencies rely too heavily on on-the-job training. If you can get yourself a place on the AdSchool course you’ll come out all the better for it. Knowledge is power, and there is a lot to gain from stepping outside of your day-to-day.

Aim for a diverse portfolio

Other challenges and pitfalls to avoid include getting pigeon-holed on a certain type of account (eg retail) that holds you back from working on more interesting brand accounts.

The best thing to aim for is to have a diverse portfolio of about three accounts to work on – and preferably for more than one account director to broaden your learning experience.

Generally though being an account manager is a land of opportunity for those who master this 3-5 year timeslot in their career. I always said if you haven’t made it to account director by the time you are 30 there’s probably something wrong.

Accountability for results

A constant challenge for everyone involved with creative marketing communications is accountability for results. Whether you’re a brand manager or account manager the same thing applies.

In the old days we used to say that half the advertising works and the other half doesn’t – no-one of course knew which half.

These days that’s not good enough, and increasingly clients will be looking for ways to measure the effective ROI on their advertising investment. It follows that measurement metrics are becoming ever more critical.

Many advertisers make the mistake of researching the agency’s creative work out of existence. They rely too heavily on research – using it as a form of protection from making their own decisions, so that if the ads don’t  work they can blame it on the research. Be wary of this and of creative ideas passing through too many sets of hands before being approved. I used to call this “putting it through the blander” – sure-fire way of ensuring that the ads will be less effective. After all there’s no such thing as a beige Ferrari.

Insight as a ‘pre-condition for innovation’

One of the biggest challenges for future leaders is to work out where you’re going (read “strategy”). I firmly believe that insight is a pre-condition for innovation.

So, for me, great leadership starts with having the best possible understanding of the consumer and distribution channel mind-set as it applies to the brand in question. Get this under your skin and you’ll soon find out how you’re going to get to where you want to go. It will give you a clue as to what it is you’re doing which is a whole lot better than not having a clue.

Therefore, I encourage all brand managers and account managers to work in the shop, ride shotgun on the delivery truck, conduct focus groups, and do whatever else it takes to take the guesswork out of what it is your doing.

Be a team player and a leader

As a leader, bring people along with you. Whatever you do be inclusive and don’t be elitist. The thing you’re really looking for is for everybody to have nothing but the greatest respect for you.

As the Head of Mojo I’d make sure I walked the floor every day and spoke to as many of the staff individually as I could. I’d participate in every staff review so that I knew exactly what the ambitions of each person were ( and also to ensure that they knew that I knew). I also made friends in the lower ranks of each client organisation, knowing fully that the lower-ranked client of today was the senior ranked client of tomorrow. Again my leadership aim was basically to ensure that people respected me – not for who I was but for what I did.

Put simply, a great leader is someone who knows where they’re going and is great at bringing people along with them; and actions, of course, speak louder than words.

Rob Kent is presenting the 2018 AdSchool Account Management for Tomorrow course in Brisbane from April 10. The course is also running in Melbourne from April 4 and September 5, in Sydney from April 10, and in Perth from May 24.