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.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Being A Decent AD - It's All About Swings And Roundabouts

So. You're in advertising. In fact, you've been in advertising for three or four years now: you've got a few campaigns under your belt; you've worked on a couple of pitches; you've started to get your head round managing an Account Exec or two; inevitably, your thoughts start to turn towards promotion - you want to be an Account Director.

So what do you do? Do you start pestering your Head of Client Service, asking when, when, when and when you'll be promoted? Of course you don't. You're better than that. No, you arrange a catch-up with him or her, in which you set out a sensible time-line, and establish exactly what you need to be doing in your day-to-day job to ensure that they can't help but promote you. Because you know, as all wise Suits know, that the best way to become an Account Director is to do the job of one. But that's the easy bit.

What do you do when promotion arrives? In many ways, this is the hardest step you'll have to take in your career. Promotion from Account Exec to Account Manager is exciting, and it's quite right that it should be celebrated, but the differences between the jobs isn't that huge - the role of an Account Manager comes with greater responsibility and there's inevitably wider scope, but it is, at the most fundamental level, more, and bigger of the same. But the step from Account Manager to Account Director is different - not least in the sense that you'll suddenly be asked to lead (or, if you like, 'direct') a rather larger bunch of people than you have before, something that I can tell you from experience can be pretty intimidating.

Fortunately, there's one simple rule that will help you through these tough times:

Don't be an arse.

Now, I realise that probably sounds a little facetious - hell, it is a little facetious. But there's a serious point to it.

You see, I have a theory about Account Directors: that there are two (no more, no less) schools. There's the 'Learn From What You Went Through' school, and there's the 'My Turn Now' school.

The first school are the people who, when working with AMs and AEs, look back on their experience in the roles, remember the good stuff their ADs did and try and do more of it, and remember the bad stuff and try and do less of it. They remember how tough things can get, and they remember how people helped them get through it - they are better at their job because of the tough times they went through.

The second school (and I'm fortunate to have worked with very few of these) tend to take more of an 'I got screwed over when I was an AM - now it's MY turn to do the screwing'. These are the 'I worked late every day when I was an AE - now YOU will work late every day. Just because.' people. Everybody has worked with at least one of these.

The lesson here is a quick one: be the first one; don't be the second one.

There will, of course, always be situations where you have to ask people to do things they're not particularly going to want to do - that's the nature of the job, particularly (although far from exclusively) at a more junior level. But making the effort to put yourself in the shoes of the people you get to boss around might just make it a slightly more pleasant experience for the lot of you. And as an AD, if the experience isn't pleasant, it'll be your fault. Because everything is.


Mike Berry said...

So true. All new ADs should read this on their first day in their new elevated position. Sadly the second school will probably just laugh. Rather nastily...

Dave Knockles said...

That's all really interesting, AdLand Suit, but I thought I'd just point out the most important quality an Account Director can ever possess from a client's perspective.

A credit card.

AdLand Suit said...

True, Dave, True. Surely, though, you can also buy into the idea that everything is the Suit's fault? Especially if the beers are late.

And Mike, I fear you're right. But they always get found out in the end.

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