Where ad agencies fail.

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Judging by the quality of most of the account execs I have had the misfortune to work with over the years, something fishy is going on in the ad world.

Here's a tip for ad agency principals everywhere: Your creatives rock. Your media buyers are the bomb. You're doing everything super well, for the most part... but most of your new account execs suck. They don't get the client's business. They don't take the time to understand the cultures of the markets they are assigned to work with. They have no worldly experience. They're ill-equipped to do their jobs, period. Most don't last a year.

So I have to ask: What's going on? What seems to be the problem?

Are you not paying well enough anymore?

Is it that difficult to find good people these days?

Or is it just that you've opted to just hire fresh batches of kids every few months so you can pay them as little as possible, work them to death, and then send them off to their next agency jobs with a few more fancy account names to paste to their resumes?

Is the HR revolving door your new MO?

What's the tenure of an account exec these days anyway? Ten months?

Is this really what's best for the client?

Check out this piece from Toad Stool.

Back in the Mad Men days, advertising agencies generally recruited out of the Ivy Leagues. Not a boon for diversity, but they did get the best people, smart, creative people who were attracted to a frequently glamorous industry that offered the possibility of serious cash. Ask any (very) senior account guy- back in the day, b-school grads all wanted to work for the agency, not client-side. These days the situation is reversed.

We are never going to be taken seriously if we don’t change this perception. If clients regard agency employees as a bunch of second-rate talents who couldn’t land a job elsewhere, they’re not going to take our opinions very seriously. Or even entertain the idea of treating us as equals, let alone experts. And while I realize that much of this is a result of most agencies being owned by publicly traded holding companies whose business models are based on getting more value from fewer people, I’m afraid the net result is just going to be fewer people, as the value of retaining an ad agency becomes less and less apparent.

Come on, ad agencies everywhere (except maybe in NYC): Why is it that you are ready to invest heavily in your creatives, planners and buyers, but not on your account execs? Am I missing something?

I invite your comments on this one.


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