AdLand Suit is Dan Shute, a Board Account Director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, a top ten London Advertising Agency. This is where I write about the life of a Suit - which can include pretty much anything. Delaney's didn't know I was doing this, but they do now. They still don't agree with everything I say though. They'd also probably rather I swore less.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Everything Is Your Fault - 2

First off, apologies for the radio silence - a rather lovely break turned into, as short breaks are wont to do, the week from hell, so I haven't really had a second to think, let alone write. However, it's Friday - it's time to write. On with the show.

As promised, here's another selection of hints and tips for Junior Account Men - things I wish I'd known, things I was lucky enough to fluke, and things that I will expect you to do without being told should you ever be (un)fortunate enough to work for me. Some have been lifted from the comments on my last post, and some are once again dredged up from my own joyful (and less joyful) experiences.

1. Be in before anyone else. As someone put it in the comments on an earlier post, you should be starting your second cup of coffee while everyone else is brewing up their first (sound advice, even if he did then fail to spell 'privileged' correctly. There are two things going on here: one is practical, the other reputation-driven. The practical point first - you can get a hell of a lot more stuff done at 8am, when you can be fairly certain that you won't be interrupted, than you can at noon when you're fair game. If something has to be finished by lunchtime, make sure it's done the evening before, because if your AD needs you to do something urgently at 11, he's not going to listen to any excuses. The second, reputation-based point is equally important - your AD wants to come in to work to find you already at your desk, your day well under way. Account Management are always, without exception the first department into the office in the morning and the last to leave in the evening - it is absolutely your responsibility to ensure that remains the case. If a creative team are in early working on a pitch brief and have a question to ask, you need to be there when they call. If a planner is in early working on a brief, you need to be there when they call. I've spent whole weekends sitting at my desk simply because a creative team were slaving way upstairs, and the might, at some point need something. Get into this habit now - it will serve you well.

2. If you're lucky enough to be working on a pitch, say goodbye to your social life for the duration. If you manage to get out of the office at a decent time, your mates will still be at the pub - it is not, however, ever acceptable to say, "Yeah, I'd love to stay late, but I'm playing five-a-side football/going to the theatre/going for dinner." You can do all that when you're a CEO (which will happen a lot sooner if you're prepared to stay late...). Nor is it acceptable to leave a traffic/project manager and a creative team sitting up in studio while you bugger off to bed. If they stay late, you stay late - partly because it'll be your fault if the work's wrong, but also because working late on a pitch is a team experience, and it's your job as a Suit to lead that team.

3. I don't want to see you nodding at the Client when he talks in meetings, I want to see you writing down what he or she is saying, ready to send out the contact report within 24 hours. That is your job.

4. Never trust spell check. You should only be using American spellings if you're working in America, and it won't pick up typos ('son' for 'soon', 'be' for 'by' etc.) and if you send something out with typos, it reflects badly on you, which means it reflects badly on me. That is a bad thing. Check it, and when you're done checking it, check it again, whatever it may be.

5. Detail is everything. It is the foundation on which everything else is built - if you can't do detail, you can't do your job.

6. This may seem obvious, but wear a suit for client meetings. Planners can get away with jeans and a corduroy jacket, creatives can get away with pretty much anything, but we are Suits - we are the businessmen of the team, and should carry ourselves accordingly. One of the most chastening meetings of my nascent career was being told by my AD that I was no longer coming to a Client meeting because I was wearing smart jeans and a shirt. (There are exceptions to this - Nike, for example, don't like it, but much better to be gently mocked by the client for wearing pin-stripe than not allowed to go to the meeting because you're wearing jeans.)

7. Take tremendous pride in everything you do, be it status or contact reports, agendas, setting up meeting rooms, sending out meeting requests, or otherwise. In the early years of your career, your exposure to Clients is likely to be minimal - as such, you won't be judged on your charm, your wit or your incisive commentary, you will be judged on the accuracy and craft of the documents you send out and the things you do. And here's a secret for you - Clients read everything. And then judge you on it. It's their job.

And for now, I'll stop there. I have to say, I quite like the idea of a weighty post on a Friday morning - it goes with the strangely masochistic theme that this blog seems to occasionally entertain. Perhaps I'll write something frivolous on Monday about puppies or balloons to compensate.

As always, I hope this is of use - and any further comments, hints, tips, questions or critiques on anything I've written is to be encouraged in the comments. Having a view is one of the most important parts of a Suit's job.


haze said...

Well done for flying the flag for suits on the blogosphere my man, well done.

My thoughts on the post:

1) Agree

2) Agree

3) Contact reports are redundant and archaic. The same function can be achieved with a quick email after the meeting to everyone who was there. In this economy, I really think surplus paperwork should not fly.

4) Agree (and never trust the receptionist to do it for you)

5) Agree

6) Disagree. Surely you mimic the particular clients dress code. You look a douche if you're wearing a suit and the clients are in boardies!

7) Agree to an extent, but see Q3.

Great post mate.

andrea nastase said...

Question, totally unrelated, I'm not a suit (you never know where life takes you though) but as for spelling mistakes, typos and the likes, if you notice them in others and have this urge to correct them (I'm a huge fan of 'Eats(,) shoots and leaves' the book) will it make you look like a douche or know-it-all or actually give you some sort of status - i.e. 'go to him/her to correct your grammar and stuff'?

As for the suits being obliged to have perfect spelling and the likes, I totally agree, I was a copywriter for ~2 years and sent my suit(s) at the time emails back with corrections. If your copywriter has to fix your mistakes you should be ashamed. If said copywriter doesn't even though you're wrong, it's a path that only leads to something so horrid I don't want to describe!

But it might be just me being a tad crazy.

AdLand Suit said...

Haze - good to see you here, and glad you're liking it. Your input is much appreciated!

Your point on contact reports vs email follow-ups is a fair one, and a decision that should be made in conjunction with the client - but the point still stands if you're talking about emails. The primary role of a Junior Suit in a meeting is to take notes on everything that's happening, and to make sure afterwards that everyone is clear on what needs to happen as a result. Apart from being fundamental to the smooth running of an account, it's also a very good way of making sure you're involved in everything going forwards.

And the suits thing... Again, as with the Nike example, it absolutely depends to a certain extent on the client - and I imagine you see clients in boardies more often in Oz than I do in Europe! But I'd definitely suggest that it's better for a Junior Suit to be told that he needn't worry about being so smart all the time than to be chastised for not being smart enough.

And to your point, Andrea - I'd much rather be corrected so that something is sent out right than left to my own devices to make mistakes. Just make sure that (a) you're definitely right before you start correcting folk, and (b) that you handle it in a sensitive way - nobody likes to be told they're wrong.

haze said...

Touche, touche.

(We don't actually have clients in Oz that wear boardies, I continue to pray for the day that happens).

I noticed you mentioned the phrase 'junior suits' a few times just then. Please, create a place on the net for suits of all levels, because it doesn't exist yet. We just get bitched about on other blogs.

AdLand Suit said...

I couldn't agree with you more (both on the place for Suits and the clients in boardies points) - this is very much a place for all Suits. The 'Everything Is Your Fault' strand will be advice for Junior Suits for as long as I (or others) have advice to give, but it will only be a small element of the blog as a whole. Any thoughts on things you'd like to see covered would be hugely appreciated. And spread the word!

Will said...

Hello there. I would rather like to repost this on AdGrads, if that's not too cheeky - I think it'll be useful for the next bout of whipper snappers.

Alternatively, I can just link to this blog. Whichever works, my dear Suit.

Also - a note for junior planners; writing contact reports isn't necessarily out of your remit, now and then. Suits will hate you if you don't live in the real world/regard suitish things as beneath you.

jonny dublinio said...

hola, this is a fab blogsite, i really do enjoy reading all about the life of a suit. very much helping me decide to go client or agency side.....thinking client side as the life of a suit is suddenly seeming quite daunting

Anonymous said...

Yup. Another strong post. Not sure about Australian account management, but in the US, UK and Europe, you should absolutely be overdressed for every meeting.

Nike may allow jeans, but I suggest you invest (and expense, frankly) in their high-end sports fashion instead. Nike DO make collared shirts. With buttons on them.

Meeting notes should be a recognizable, templated, capture of the discussion and the actions that were agreed. If you can do that via email, that's completely acceptable. But what you don't want is a different format of notes following every meeting. But they're incredibly important, and they need to capture not just the actions that are taking place, but also the ones that are not. Those are equally as important.

AdGrads would do well to keep following this blog. Suit is kicking some ass.

haze said...

@anon 18:16

Please, tell the world why suits should be forever overdressed? In my experience, overdressing perpetuates the negative stereotype of suits amongst the rest of the agency. Agency culture is important; Why have seperate rules for suits? Really?

Bring on one non financial service case study, and I will gladly eat humble pie.

AdLand Suit said...

First off - Jonny, I'm very glad that you're enjoying the blog, but hold off on that decision for just a couple of days longer. I'm conscious that I've painted a fairly grim picture of the life of a suit so far (of a Junior Suit, at least - hopefully everyone took some positives out of the Lunch post...), and it's certainly true that a masochistic streak often comes in handy when you're pulling your second consecutive all-nighter, but there's a hell of a lot of good stuff to this job. I genuinely believe this is the best job you can have in advertising (by which I mean all comms, digital, 'ATL/BTL' or otherwise) or marketing. I'll try and show you why in the next couple of posts.

And Haze - I don't think it's grounds for humble pie consumption, but in the UK and Europe, it's certainly rare to find an automotive, telecomms, FMCG (e.g. Cadbury) or retailer (e.g. Morrison's) client that's not wearing a suit, if not a tie as well. Of course there are exceptions - but that's what makes life interesting.

And, Will, happy for you to repost or link - but I'd much rather, if you're willing, write you a bespoke piece. The content will remain fairly consistent, but I'd probably slant it slightly differently. Let me know through here, or via Twitter if you'd be keen.

Now bring on the week...

Anonymous said...

@Haze: If the suit is more concerned about his reputation within the agency than with the client, there's a big problem with the agency culture.

Outside of finance (which is still the leader in unnecessary suiting), automotive, government, mobile companies... pretty much everyone appreciates a well-dressed account man.

That said, I haven't worn a tie since my very first meeting. I'm sure there's a balance in there somewhere - more casual than the bankers, more formal than the creatives.

Junior Bitch said...

Hi Suit,

Just want to say this blog is EXACTLY what I have been looking for. Since starting as a junior suit not all that long ago, I've really lacked a straight-down-the-line view of what we're meant to be versus what we think we are. Can't wait to keep reading this wicked blog.
Cheers from Melbourne!

AdLand Suit said...

Hi Amanda - very glad you're finding it helpful. A Suit aims to please.

(Incidentally, I'm also a sucker for a dancing, singing squirrel. Singing animals are funny - fact.)

AdLand Skirt said...

Loving your work. Funny, insightful and about time someone did it.

How mysterious you are, will you be revealing your true identity when you're famous?

AdLand Suit said...

AdLand Skirt, you're making me blush. I shall reveal my true identity when the time is right. The time may, of course, never be right. We shall see.