The 4 essential ways you should leverage your account executive for success

Account Director

In a nutshell: Gone are the Mad Men days of massive budgets with limited accountability. Clients expect a measurable return on their marketing investment. See how a thoughtful and calculated approach to account strategy can influence strategic media planning and set your agency media team up for success.

Gone are the Mad Men days where clients would hand over millions and let the GRPs and where they may.

There is no greater pressure in modern advertising than on the media and account strategy teams to deliver measurable and actionable results for clients.

OK, that’s a little biased. I began my career in media, only to move over to account service. So, I’m boasting about not only one, but two of my own departments.

The point remains: Account service is the starting point for gathering useful client information that agency teams can use to reach key target audiences. But some people miss relaying the most important aspects of information to the media planning team.

Account executives (AEs) are responsible for arming media leaders with the goals, context, and nuances of a client’s campaign to set media up for success.

But how?

An AE who can support your media strategy team in these four categories will set you up for long-term success.

1. Define goals. Measure success.

I mean this specifically. Let’s start with the obvious: Every campaign needs a North Star. Increase measured market awareness by 5%, register 500 event signups, sell 100,000 TVs on Black Friday. That’s never changed.

What has changed are the granular metrics hiding underneath those campaign goals. KPIs. CPC. CPM. CTR. VCR. VTC. ROAS. YPC. (Yards per carry. Okay, not that one.) You know them all too well. The acronym carousel feels never-ending, and it never comes with a hierarchy.

Far and away, the best way a great account person can position their equally great media counterparts for success is working to define what the most key campaign metrics will be during the briefing process.

Take a stab at defining both metrics themselves, as well as what success could look like. Collaborate with media for refinement based on expertise and to help manage client expectations.

Just like that, you’ll have a clear roadmap to drive campaign setup, influence optimizations, and inform reports.

2. Understand the intricacies of the customer journey.

While all campaign goals and metrics should be well-defined and discussed in the briefing process, more nuanced “gray area” audience discussions will need to happen to take a campaign to the next level. These frequently focus on consumer action and, in an omnichannel world, are very much non-linear.

For example, in the past, when a customer requested a product sample, it tended to be a key indicator of intent to purchase. Fast forward to present day, when a customer may read reviews, explore user guides, and watch testimonials or other educational video content—all after requesting a sample.

It’s the AE’s responsibility to comprehend these tendencies and articulate them to the media team so media is in the best position possible to layer journey inclinations throughout their mix recommendations. 

3. Learn, learn, learn. As much as possible about your target audiences.

Ideally, at least some base-level research into each target audience is key for campaign success. Whether it’s focus groups, 1-to-1 internal and external interviews, survey-based, or an array of other options, research should be budgeted into any campaign plan exercise whenever client scale permits.

If that’s not possible, work with your client to identify distinguishable traits between targets they’re aware of based on their industry expertise. Bring your media planning team to the client table with you. They can likely add a unique and specific perspective that’ll help manage and inform client expectations.

From there, collaborate with your strategic services team to home in on the assumed demographic, contextual, and behavioral characteristics of each audience so that segments are clearly distinguishable from one another. If they’re not clearly distinguishable, you won’t have separate targets to try to hit.

Document key findings from these processes either as part of the brief itself or as a separate document and send to your client so there is shared understanding as to what the campaign is trying to accomplish.

4. Educate yourself and others about your client’s business.

It’s no longer enough to be well-versed in a single product that your client is asking you to promote. The best modern-day account execs go well beyond that into both the external and internal motivators of their client’s business.

Look for ways to better understand the market through your own industry research. Follow the right news organizations, trade publications, influencers, curators, and competitors to maximize your knowledge of those you serve.

Be on the lookout for educational content, whether from your client or others in their industry. Immersing yourself in the best information available will only benefit all involved. Apply this mindset to the martech stack they use, too. Google Analytics is the easiest and most common example. If your client uses it, your strategy teams need to talk that talk alongside the client.

Last, share and encourage reading of the educational content with your agency team. A high tide raises all ships. All agency personnel need to be accountable for increasing their own understanding, which will benefit all client work.

On the internal client side, be aware of inter-department dynamics and how marketing interacts, influences, and is influenced by others like sales, product, procurement, and c-suite. While this information may not make sense for the brief, it can help add context for your teams. For example, it can be beneficial to know that your client’s marketing and sales departments are in lockstep and are selling efforts to others in their organization.

Put these core service principles into practice and rapidly become your media strategy team’s favorite AE.

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Account Director
Josh started his near decade-long career on the media side of the agency biz before working his way to account service where he’s resided since. He views media fondly and admits bias to his colleagues when asked of his favorite non-service department. He’s passionate about exemplary strategy, pushing creative limits, and advancing the advertising industry as a whole. When he’s not writing his next brief, he’s pushing people towards the American Advertising Federation, where he’s served as a past president for AAF Buffalo and past governor of District 2. In the rare event he’s not talking shop, Josh spends his free time playing golf, traveling, or adventuring with his wife and their two energetic border collies.

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