working towards great client service

An amazing “bus driver” in advertising industry

Every types of advertising you see, from TV commercial, to billboards, or online banners are all the result from the journey of creativity, mutual trust and agreement amongst creative team, account team and the client. In this so called journey, the account manager is like a bus driver, who not only ensures the bus stop at the right destinations, in the right time with the right budget but also cleverly avoid unexpected obstacles along the way. It is not an easy task. So how  can the account manager handle all of that? Effective communication with both external and internal parties is on the top of list. Now get your ticket and join me in the amusing trip of Ms. Thùy Anh – account manager of BBDO to hear all about typical problems she’s encountered for more than 6 years in advertising industry and tips to avoid these mistakes.


(Photo created by author, 2013)

At the 1st bus station, a group of clients get in the bus.

 “We had pitches and briefs for a long time with a client, who is a hospital. We worked with each others more than 9 months. Then they stole our ideas and brought it for a local competitor to execute. The outcome advertisement was a disaster causing shock to the Executive Creative Director. ”, said Thùy Anh. It is not all client’s fault but also the agency’s mistake that paved the way for the client to act unethically like this.

The first mistake was about “bad judgment”.  The account manager thought the client was one of the most well-invested hospital in Vietnam. That’s why they might be more reliable than other local clients. This wrong assumption has led to one-sided trust from the agency. That’s why investigating and learning about how our clients work, how they pay, their good and bad reputations to set up a right strategy to cope with them is very important (Hemeroff 1997). “This industry is a small town, we should check  the client’s integrity by asking some of other big ad agencies like JWT or Y&Y to see whether they worked with this client before ”, Thùy Anh said.

Then remember the rule “who should contact whom” (Robbs & Morrison 2008). A smart account manager I think is the one who get her teammates get to know their counterparts in client’s site, and most importantly, know who is the decision- maker. Thùy Anh said: “For example, the account executive will work with the brand manager assistant; and the account manager will work with the brand manager”

One of the mistakes of BBDO in the past related to the so-called business policies and legal papers. “At the first time, we thought they were interested in us so we carried on the work with a vague contraction because we did not check who was the decision-maker and the one who signed contract with us did not have authority to do so. That’s why we could not push them into litigation”. Moreover, Ms.Thùy Anh stresses on the thing that Vietnamese advertising law has not had the law on copyright, thus, the ideas of BBDO has stolen.

When it comes to negation process, “it is hard to have a win-win situation in this industry, both sides have to compromise something but keep it within our bargaining range and must not reach the bottom line”, said Thùy Anh. Bargaining range, or ZOPA (zone of possible agreement) and BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) seems to be common advice from many books (Doyle 2005), but with Thùy Anh, it is one of the most useful tips. Keep it in mind that we do not do a charity work, we establish partnerships to gain mutual benefits.

At 2nd bus station, the creative team gets in the bus.

 “Clients usually wants functional benefit on the advertisement, while creative team wants emotional value to hook the customer into the advertisement”, Thùy Anh said. At this time, 2 group passengers want the bus driver go in different  roads.


Figure 1: Reproduced from

“In such cases, an account manager should learn the reason why all parties insist in their opinions and seek for an agreement between both sides”. Possible reaction might be 3 parties meet face to face and convince others by their rationales and opinions. It can be out of the stressful environment of working. The account manager should make them enjoy hanging out, doing lunch with creative teams (Hemeroff 1997). But remember your agency is hired offer the client professional service, so don’t cross the line of business relationship (Solomon 2008).

At the 3rd bus station: creative teams and deadline problems

It doesn’t matter how much the client loves the account manager if she fails to work effectively with her creative team. One of the common problem in industry is “most creative people is not good at time management. It is not because they are lazy, but because they spend to much time on creating an idea until they like it”, said Thùy Anh. According to Hemeroff (1997), creative minds work 24/7.  Right-brained people get the curse that their conscious  minds may be working on another things but their subconscious minds is starting thinking of the new project that the account manager have just briefed them. So, don’t criticize them on their working style, but embrace and respect their creative work.

However, “everything must be documented or listed in an email”, said Thùy Anh. That’s evidence to avoid being blamed later on if they missed the deadlines. In such worst cases, the account manager should play as a “detail-oriented” and “comfortmist” in the creative team, to help them with information, boosting them to complete their task as soon as possible. According to Miron, Spektor, Erez & Naveh (2012),  comfortmist and detail-oriented can strengthen the creativity within a group up to 20%.

If creative ideas keep fuel the bus to arrive at final destination, an effective communication maintains long-term relationship between client-agency and account team-creative team. Thus, keep in mind these practical tips from Ms. Thùy Anh: practice to have a good judgment; care for legal papers and Vietnamese advertising law; prepare your ZOPA and BATNA before going to negotiation; out-of-work negotiating, respect creative work; documenting all communicating stuff.

Good luck all future professional communicator!

About Miss Thùy Anh: Miss Thùy Anh has been an account manager of BBDO for more than 6 years. BBDO is a global advertising agency, established in Vietnam from 2006 and run by David Smail. BBDO has great client like KFC, Pepsi, Elextrolux.. and win many honored prizes from the Cannes Lions.  


Miss Thùy Anh and me, at BBDO

(Photos taken by  a staff at BBDO)


Miron, E & Spektor, M & Erez, M & Naveh, M 2012, “To drive creativity, add some comfortmity”, March, Hbr, viewed 1st September 2013.

Doyle, J 2005, ‘Agency-Client Negotiations: Trust, But (Please) Verify’, PR News, vol. 61, issue 34, p. 1.

Hameroff, JE 1997, The advertising agency business, 3rd edition, NTC Business Books, USA.

Robbs, B & Morrrison, D, 2008 , Idea Industry, Once Club Publishing, USA.

Solomon, R 2008 , The art of client service , Kaplan, New York, United States of America.


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One thought on “An amazing “bus driver” in advertising industry

  1. -Add byline, edit categories.

    -Great creative hook, could have closed the article by saying “next stop… long-term partnership”. 🙂

    -Flow of article is well paced, there is no information overload and the steps to a better ‘ride’ with clients has been summarized well in the end.

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