Account Handling : Tips & Advice

From Lively Pup to Top Dog

Recently, there was a Friday Morning Energiser session by the IPA called “How to be the best account handler in your agency”, advising us on how to turn from a Lively Pup to a Top Dog. It was run by Paul Burns, who has had account handling experience for 26 years – 24 of them at Saatchi & Saatchi. So as a relatively new account handler, I was eager to attend this session and was already dreaming of writing about it. It was either going to be a positive review or a negative one… But it was a great session so I haven’t got any negative comments, only a summary of what was taught and discussed.

What is Account Handling?

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half” (Lord Leverhulme, John Wanamaker and Henry Ford)

All suits can face questions like ‘What do you do? ”Creatives, Planners, Producers…. They do exactly what their title says and with Account Handling it somehow confuses people. WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY DO?!

Instead of pointing them at the direction of an episode if Mad Men, Paul Burns describes it as “Seeking out new opportunities and winning new business is not Account Handlers job however it is their job to grow our existing business with the client.” Understanding and nurturing client’s business is one of the things that make a Good Account Handler a Great Account Handler. Become like a partner to your client, own all market & competitive knowledge.

Account Handlers Required Skills

Most Account Handlers have personal skills, technical skills and attitude.Best account handlers have good client relationship, creative product and atmosphere.

Account Handlers create strong first impressions, are great team players, have high standards, are efficient, effective, proactive and reliable… The list goes on.

It is humanly possible to be all these things… And sometimes it is OK to ‘go into the fetus position’ (as one of our AM likes to put it) as things start going downhill right in front of your eyes – but a great Account Handler will know everything will be OK because they are surrounded with the best people in their respective fields – from creatives to production – that help make everything & anything possible.

What do Clients want

The top 3 things that Clients look for from Agencies are;

  • Value for money
  • Creativity
  • Most importantly ability to understand their business and their markets.

Alex Lloyd Davies (from P&G, the company with the biggest advertising spend in the world) advices us to:

  • Show how work will make the client’s business grow
  • Show why the work is clever
  • Work with the client like they are a partner.

The main reason given by clients for parting with their Agency is;

“They didn’t really understand my business”.

Alex Lloyd David’s advice to Agencies proves just how important it is that we understand marketing.


To Affect peoples’ feelings, attitudes, opinions, preferences, behaviour


To influence, sales, market-share, price, products, distribution


To grow profitability, margin, return on investment, share holder value

We think our clients can be unreasonable and sometimes a pain in the backside, but it’s most likely they are also under great pressure from their boss to reach X amount of sales and X amount of new customers within X amount of time…. So no wonder they get how they get sometimes.

One of the main things we, the Account Handling team, has to really grasp is their marketing objectives. Yes, they want to increase in sales – Great who doesn’t? But understand how, why, when… Don’t just nod, but question. Increase sales by generating trial among non-users? By getting lapsed users to reconsider? By reinforcing the behaviour of loyalists….?

If you don’t understand your client’s business, know what their most profitable product is, don’t understand where they want to get to & why, the input you can have in their business is limited (creative and/or strategically) and when you want to try to sell an idea to them you might hear an angry tone “Why would I do that? You don’t understand my business!”

Paul Burns revisits the importance of this in his session by saying “Understanding your clients’ business will be a real and tangible way to start ‘swimming’ and becoming the best Account Handler in your agency.”

Please also see the slideshow for Tips & Advice that I’ve gathered, not only in the IPA Morning Energiser, but also from AMs in the industry.


~ by nessahinkaya on May 26, 2010.

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