Matt Charlton: why you will never be a great agency without great account management

When I ran Modernista! in the US I got rid of the account management department. It was a huge mistake on reflection. Huge.

Here’s why.

I have a view that the most successful companies rarely make stuff. Often the real money is in distribution. Rockefeller was perhaps the richest man that ever lived from oil, but he made money connecting the gushing well to the refinery. He didn’t own a single well.

Google don’t make anything, they distribute the internet. Facebook distribute conversation. IKEA got unbelievably rich because they invented a new way to distribute furniture. Flat packing.

So here’s the thing. You can strike the richest seam of oil ever found or, in our business, the greatest idea ever thought off. But if you can’t get that distributed effectively to the client, it’s worth zero. Literally zero. Every time that account man enters the room he is John D Rockefeller. He is bringing the big shiny silver pipe that can connect that idea to the client organisation.

A great account man spends years perfecting the art of distributing precious ideas. He understands that many factors have to be aligned to do it well. Great account men learn that every meeting is a platform to perform on, to create the environment to sell something that is probably going to terrify the person paying. And it is likely to be a bespoke experience. And it may take go after go, sometimes a year.

If you are an agency with this skill-set you have a chance doing something great. If you don’t, you are lost.

Every great creative understands this. This is why we see clients that have never had great work suddenly buy great work. A great Acc Man’s fingerprints will be all over it. Of course it needs great creative and strategy as well. But without a great account man connecting the pipe to it all you are just practising in front of the mirror.

Brilliant account management is an incredible craft and done well it’s entirely invisible.

Unknown-5Matt Charlton is CEO of Brothers and Sisters.

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