Driving Creativity. Account Inspires Creative
It’s hard not to behold the moments when Creative Team tears the brief to pieces and kicks their Account colleagues out of the room or Account People shout to Creative Team’s face that: “Your idea is shit. I won’t sell”. However, there is another story at Climax Interactive Agency, where “Account Team and Creative Team have been together harmoniously for years”, says Account General Manager.
Climax is a full-service interactive agency established in 2009 and also the strongest digital agency in Vietnam. Tang Gia Hai Lam, Account General Manager and Tran Manh Cuong (a.k.a Cuong Parker) can be seen as the heart of the agency. Lam joined in Climax after taking various account positions at JWT, Viettel Global and Leo Burnett while Cuong is honored as the youngest creative director in Vietnam, cooperates with bunch of Vietnamese brands.
Carrying on a friendly conversation with both Heads of Creative and Account Team about their teamwork is my pleasure to have unbiased both-side viewpoints. Describing their roles in the agency, Lam says: “Account person is soldier fighting against external enemy while Creative is in the firm rear supporting the best weapon”. Contrary to the assumption about Creative-Account relationship, Lam proudly states that Account is a great source of inspiration driving creativity of Creative Team. Hirschman (1989) also asserts that ads are not created by one person, but a team of people. Agreeing on these statements, Cuong believes that the original idea is merely the crude gem and Account People are jewelers. If you, the future Account Manager, want to sharpen and sell clients the greatest ideas, you will have no choice but keep reading the blog to find out how Account can foster the creativity of Creative Team.
While I am immersing in the thought that client management is all about Client-Agency relationship, Lam reminds me that: “Account’s responsibility is not only do client a service but the Creative Team also”. He also adds that to handle conflicts between Account and Creative, the initial effort must come from the Account.
Understand your clients
Firstly, you must throw yourself into the client’s brand (Solomon 2008) to know the history of the company, the management board, organizational culture, SWOT, target customers and its problems. Cuong strongly advises that “Don’t believe seriously what clients present” because they sometime don’t even understand thoughtfully their own brands. Get out and do your own work. If you feel insecure about client’s insights and bring your incomplete brief to Creative, you will definitely run into the big troubles.
Creative Team requires valuable and helpful insights giving them direction to make good advertising, not a full page of brand history or marketing objectives. The sharper, tighter and more focused brief is, the sharper, tighter and more focused creative work comes out (Solomon 2008). Feed them what they want and you will get what you want. They only desire 3 things: clarity, brevity and fertility (Emmel 2010). Generating a great idea is a process and Account is the one who boots it up by a concise and useful brief. As presented by Kaufman (2012), inspiration is the highest ladder of service style, followed by motivation, education, direction, production. You are not hired to write a headline or educate copywriter and art director but inspire them. “The most essential skill of Account People is to inspire others”. Lam says it all.
Whether the outcome is as good as you expect or not, “Account People are prohibited from commenting on the work of Creative Team”, Lam shares. He believes that even though you, Account Person is seller, you don’t have the rights to say the ideas are good or not and the layout is nice or ugly. You are not trained about these skills to criticize others. However, how can you sell the ideas if you aren’t confident about it? Another fundamental skill of Account Team is to give constructive feedback, which is positive, brutally honest, delivered in a friendly way, redirects the work and makes the work better (Suggett n.d.). Courtesy costs nothing. That’s how “smart and sensitive account people can, with great judgment and diplomacy, make a big contribution”. Saying My brief has 3 points A, B, C needed to be solved. You’ve met A and B. You even put extra effort on creating D, but where is my C? is never a bad feedback.
The last tip lies in organizational culture defined as the way employees work, think and how power is developed within the organization (Casul 2012). Handy (1999) points out 4 types of culture: power culture, role culture, task culture and person culture while Lam thinks that there are only 2 types, which are aggressive culture and collective culture. Aggressive culture, as Lam defines, value individual; thus everyone must compete against each other to show he/she is the best. Finding common voice is inconceivable in these cases. I immediately think of individualism and role culture, which are also honored these characteristics.
The other type is collective culture which reflects the ultimate goals and vision of agency. Therefore, Creative People must put their artistic ideal aside and Account Team have to control their ego to look at the business of the company instead. Person culture of Handy (1999) is likely to suit these points existing solely to meet the needs of all employees. Task culture might be both of aggressive and collective ones. The team includes the expert with particular expertise and skills in order to fulfill its future needs; thus asking for team work ability. I’m not in the position to criticize any type of culture but I agree with Lam and Cuong that you should choose the agency that best fits your personalities. If you are not comfortable with the environment, how can you inspire others?
We spend our entire time to please clients but forget that we also have Creative Team to do a service. It is impossible to not have conflict between these two teams, however, working is getting the great work done, not insulting each other. Is is matter if you win these fighting? Yes, it is. You will get what you want immediately but in the long-term relationship, you completely lose. Do you want to work with one who keeps throwing bad words to your face? No, you don’t. Admit it. Besides, your job is to sell the great ideas to clients. Where are these work from? Creative Team. Therefore, before arguing with others, especially your creative colleagues, think of the consequences first. Swallowing my blog post might help you.
Casul, R 2012, ‘Lecture 7: Organizational Culture’, PowerPoint slides for COMM2384 Client Management, RMIT University, Saigon South, viewed 31 August 2013, Blackboard@RMIT
Emmel, N 2010, ‘How to write an (inspiring) creative brief’, PAUL DERVAN, blog post, 26 March, viewed 31 August 2013, <http://www.pauldervan.com/2010/03/how-to-write-inspiring-creative-brief.html>
Hirschman, EC 1989, ‘Role-Based Models of Advertising Creation and Production’, Journal Of Advertising, December, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 42-53.
Kaufman, R 2012, ‘Lecture 1: Service Excellence’, PowerPoint slides for COMM2384 Client Management, RMIT University, Saigon South, viewed 31 August 2013, Blackboard@RMIT
Matikainen, M 2012, ‘5 things that will make you a better designer’, image, The Outside View Blog, 11 April, viewed 6 September 2013, <http://theoutsideviewblog.com/2012/04/11/5-things-that-will-make-you-a-better-designer/>
Ohrt, D 2010, ‘Is Your Agency Account-Driven or Creative-Driven?’, Advertising Age, 12 October, viewed 28 August 2013, <http://adage.com/article/small-agency-diary/advertising-agency-account-driven-creative-driven/146361/>
Solomon, R 2008, The Art of Client Service, Kaplan Publishing Inc, United States of America
Verbeke, W, Franses, P, Blanc, A & Ruiten, N 2008, ‘Findings the keys to creativity in ad agencies’, Journal Of Advertising, December, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 121-130.