How to recalibrate traditional mindsets for digital agency work

Some agency roles are changing a lot as communications pros switch to digital outfits. However, some parts of the job will never change.

Over the past few months, I’ve been immersed in a new advertising landscape—digital marketing.

I recently made the switch from account management at a traditional advertising agency to the same position at a digital marketing agency. The function of these positions is essentially the same at their core: acting as the liaison between the client and agency team.

Given this, I figured my new job couldn’t stray too far from my former in terms of necessary skills and responsibilities.

Traditional vs. digital advertising responsibilities

At a traditional agency, creative teams help craft brand strategy and execute messaging through mediums such as television commercials, print ads, radio ads, billboard ads and online display banners.

The main role of the account management team is to keep work flowing in the agency and also to help keep new work coming into the agency through establishing strong relationships with clients. With this comes a wide array of day to day responsibilities. As an account executive, I built timelines for campaigns, helped write creative briefs, communicated with partner agencies, trafficked creative deliverables, helped manage budgets and overall helped to ensure that client expectations were met.

A typical advertising campaign timeline can run upwards of a full year and normally requires partnering with a number of other agencies (i.e. media, PR, digital, etc). Given the vast number of deliverables required for launch, my skills were not specialized in any certain area and I had to know a little bit about everything.

As such, I’d specify my skills as an account manager as “mile wide, inch deep.”

However, during my time thus far at a digital marketing agency, I’ve found that my mindset as an account manager has shifted more towards an “inch wide, mile deep” perspective.

While the main function of an account manager is still the same (i.e. to help keep work flowing in the agency and new working coming in), the day-to-day role is quite different. Much of my time is spent digging into data and working with both our analysts and clients to ensure that we are doing all that we can to get the strongest results possible to solve client business problems.

One major change: We are able to get campaigns up and running in as little as two weeks. Furthermore, we are able to provide real-time results and optimize messages throughout the duration of a campaign. In traditional advertising, it takes much longer to get results from creative campaigns and given that creative work is so subjective, the results are never black and white.

As an account manager at a digital marketing agency, not only do you need to understand the various digital tactics that your analysts employ , you also need to be able to explain these to your clients so that they can understand how these translate to their business.

Instead of dabbling in countless deliverables across different platforms in traditional advertising, I am now specializing in far fewer deliverables across only one or two platforms.

Client and agency as partners

While there may be different day-to-day responsibilities for account management at a traditional agency versus a digital agency, the role is crucial at both. Given that the marketing landscape in general is shifting towards a project-based focus, it is important for agencies to be seen as more than just vendors to a client. They should be true partners.

This requires effective communication, something that account managers thrive on.

A breakdown in client/agency communication is often the top reason that relationships go south, and it is important for agencies to be able to anticipate problems before they arise.

Balancing the needs of clients and agency teams is pivotal.

This was something I worked on constantly at my former job, and it is also something that I am fully focused on at my current job. There will always be situations that arise when the agency team and clients do not agree on the best strategy or tactics to garner results, and account managers are integral in ensuring that both groups end up happy with strong results to boot.

At the end of the day, businesses are built on relationships and account managers help to ensure that these are as strong as possible.

Claire Brown is an account manager at Workshop Digital. A version of this article first appeared on Workshop Digital’s blog.

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