One of the most longstanding, silly, and harmful advertising myths is that account people and creatives are very different types of people — like, “mortal enemies”-type different. You know how the stereotypes go: Account people are obsessed with spreadsheets, rules, organization, and sucking up to the clients. But as a creative, if you want to do good work, rise in the company, and enjoy your job, it’s important to see past the stereotypes and embrace the idea that you and your account people are on the same team.
Building a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with your account team doesn’t have to feel like brown-nosing, and it’s about much more than going out for drinks after work. In fact, you can put these ideas to work immediately.
Show up for meetings
Once you get to a certain point in your career, it seems like you’re spending more time in meetings than doing work, and the temptation is great to skip a meeting here and there — after all, if someone from creative goes, they can take notes, right?
Even if you don’t think you need to, GO. It’s a sign of respect to whoever organized the meeting. It also lessens the workload for your account team, since if you don’t go, they have to do double-duty by taking their own notes as well as catching you up on creative input. Even if a creative colleague takes notes, you will be missing out on opportunities for input and discussion, you look less engaged, and you may find fewer opportunities for growth within the company down the road.
Before you start concepting, spend quality time with the creative brief
You know how you and your partner can spend a week (or more) concepting, hashing out ideas, going back and forth, and finally you come up with 10 amazing ideas, and your creative director blows through them in two minutes? This is kind of what it’s like for the account team when you spend 30 seconds to scan through the brief and then toss it aside.
Putting together a good creative brief is no small feat. It’s not something they open up a template for, jot down a few notes, and then spit out of their computers 10 minutes later. A good creative brief is the culmination of research, time spent understanding the client, and deep insight into business needs. It’s surprisingly difficult to write a good one.
Don’t just review it to make your account team feel better — do it because it will help you produce work that’s on target and will satisfy your client. It will lighten your own workload, since you’ll arrive at viable creative solutions much faster and spend less time creating work that the creative director will yank off the wall.
Invite them to review your work early
A good way to send your account team the message, “Hey, I respect what you bring to my job,” is to have occasional creative check-ins with them (of course, always make sure your creative director is OK with this). Even if it’s not much more than ceremonial, it’s a good way to make them feel like they’re being included in the process. And, if by some chance, the creative team has gone horribly afoul of the creative brief, these check-ins allow for quick recalibration.
One of the biggest complaints we creatives make about account people is that they don’t understand good creative. Here’s your chance to help them learn. Explain your way of thinking, give examples of different creative executions you could have used but let them know why your solution solves the problem. You may be surprised by how eager they are to learn, and how useful that is: a seasoned account executive can crank out a headline or a tagline that’s almost as good as anything your creative director can write.
Go out for lunch, happy hour, or team-building exercises
There’s a lot to be said for getting to know your co-workers as people, outside of work. You don’t have to become best friends with your account team, but the occasional lunch outing lets you get away from the pressure of the work environment and get on more friendly terms. Plus, it helps you dispel all those unflattering stereotypes that account people can hold about creatives!
And finally, remember you really are on the same team
Yes, at the end of the day — after you’ve included them, made them feel respected and shared the secret creative handshake — it can still be frustrating to work with people who don’t quite see it your way, pressure you to work faster, and make demands on your time. But don’t forget you both want to create fantastic work that will make your client a huge fan of the agency — as well as have a fun job that affords work/life balance. You and your account team can be partners in all of that together.
Lisa is a Creative Circle candidate and seasoned advertising copywriter who lives in Los Angeles. Her background includes both in-house and agency work on Fortune 500 and global accounts in the consumer and healthcare/pharmaceutical fields. She excels at words, fashion, and cats. If you want to work with Lisa, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.