How agency pros use business smarts to serve clients, boost morale, and grow careers
In my last column we talked about the line that divides the agency world between “suits” who run the business and the creatives who solve clients’ toughest business problems. That line is rapidly disappearing: Creative leaders may get into the business to make cool shit, but to stay there they need to know how to keep the agency’s lights on.
I sat down with Matt Calos, partner and global managing director at Your Majesty in New York and Matthew Eberhart, a longtime agency executive now vice president and creative director at Bloomingdales. We talked about how business smarts have helped them to build teams and run businesses. Here’s what they had to say about clients, team morale and of importance finance in growing an agency career.
Once upon a time, creatives were super-siloed from the people running business operations. Why is that changing?
Eberhart: Presently, the lines between creative, marketing, PR, product, and so on constantly overlap. Sometimes you have the opportunity to simply develop brand-building tools, but other times it’s about brand building, demand-driving millennial acquisition, and key-category value propositions in terms of digital, social, in-store, and more traditional means all at once.
These are complex goals that require people to juggle a lot of different ideas and stretch the definition of what “creative” actually is. Is it a photo shoot? Is it a Reddit campaign? Is it a brand mash-up?
Does pushing a creative to understand the business-side have implications on morale?
Calos: The motivation of a creative is to work on an interesting and challenging project. They want clients that are going to provide them that type of work, and they want to work at a healthy, successful business. All three of those are tied together in terms of morale.
As managers, we have to keep people informed about the types of new business coming in and get them excited about how that fits into the overall structure of what we’re doing. That gets everyone involved, motivated and challenged.
Eberhart: I’lI always tell my team that they should feel proud of anything they produce. So they tend to ask a lot of questions up front to dig deep into agency business goals. Then they can go to work trying to solve some a really interesting challenge–How can I create something that the client loves and I love, too.
What about spending time directly with clients? How handy should creatives be at account management?
Calos: I’d been with an agency for 10 years before I got to do that. I’d had no real exposure to the budgeting process or establishing goals with clients. I don’t think a lot of people in the creative group have any understanding of what a marketing client does. If you ask them they would say they sit on the phone with us and review creative all day.
I could’ve been a lot more helpful to my clients …read more