The Diminished Ad Agency AE

Today’s Ad Agency AE

hey-it-s-not-so-easy-being-an-account-executive-men-s-premium-t-shirtA friend of mine, a long term Executive Creative Director and advertising professor, is writing a book on advertising based on his multi-decade major league career. He is asking a range of experienced colleagues and friends to add to his book’s subject matter (by the way, a great way to get smart content to bulk up your book). He asked me about my thoughts on today’s Account Executives – yes, the AE.

Here is a part of my contribution. As you’ll see, I think the role of the AE has been diminished. I view this as being a result of lower gross margins – we no longer can afford to train our AE’s and, in many cases, we don’t pay them enough to attract the best and brightest. Parsimonious clients are reaping what they’ve sowed.

As an aside, I once ran the Northwest Airlines account. Northwest left Saatchi & Saatchi because they got a new CMO. An insecure bloke who decided he’d give the account to his friends at Ogilvy. I ran into one of the client’s mid-level execs one day and she asked me why Ogilvy did not provide the same level of account management care as Saatchi. I reminded her that she was now paying an 8% media commission vs. the 15% she had paid Saatchi. Yup, you get what you pay for: Parsimonious clients are reaping what they’ve sowed.

My Take: The Diminished AE

Like much of advertising, the role of the account executive has morphed over the past 25 years. In the olden days, the AE was an agency’s highly valuable point person. The AE had daily conversations with the client, acted as the go between the client and agency services, tracked programs and, in the best of all worlds, was a strategic thinker and brand resource. Today, given the reduction in agency gross margins, we are not training our account people to be the best representative for the agency. As a result of this plus the fact that many clients want to talk directly with the “doers” i.e. the creatives or digital planners, the AE role has been severely diminished.

That said, the best AE’s do have a holistic understanding of today’s complex marketing options and know how to build a client relationship. The key difference is that we have fewer of this type of AE. Agencies simply do not pay enough to attract the best AE candidates (thanks in part to reduced client compensation) to be competitive with other career options.

My Experience

I started my first AE job at New York’s giant (over 1,000 people in the Crysler Building) Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in the 1980’s. We were eventually bought by Saatchi & Saatchi and I even got some lunch money. My first job was working on the large General Mills account. I quickly became the agency’s lead on  Total and Kix cereals and began traveling to Minneapolis. I felt highly valuable to my client and agency… it was fun.

Every week the agency had a two-hour training program that included client management, presentation skills, and strategy development. After 6 months I was promoted and had my own office with a desk and window — take that today’s large AE field of desks.

Over the years, I got to use my early management training to help train the employees of my own companies and agency.

….. I’ll let you know when the new advertising book comes out.

Personal Update

Yes, It’s Personal

mitchFirst

I was interviewed recently by Mitch Joel of WPP’s Mirum agency and its Six Pixels of Separation podcast. It’s the second time that we’ve discussed the “art” of business development and the state of today’s advertising business. While I recommend listening to ME!, I want to make sure that you add Mitch’s podcast to your podcast list. I think that Six Pixels is the best and most informative advertising podcast. It’s way deep too at 569 episodes. Search through it and you’ll find many industry leaders.

Second

Some of you know that I moved to San Miguel de Allende Mexico about one year ago. My wife and I are building a house here that should be ready for move in June (fingers crossed.) Very exciting. If you haven’t read my well-read blog post on moving to Mexico, here it is. 

SMA Valle de Maiz-35Third

After years of dabbling with my photography (I started life as a commercial photographer in San Francisco – then fled back to NY advertising), I am doing a serious project in San Miguel. My goal is to have an event, not a photo “show”, that will celebrate the people of San Miguel. I am well on my way to getting over 400 portraits against my portable white background. One is on the left.

More can be seen on my photography website…. HERE. The project is also on Facebook at @lagentemexicana – join my over 2,200 Followers.

Mary Meeker & The State Of Internet

Mary Meeker – Internet Trends Report

Just in case you haven’t seen Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends 2017, here it is. Highlights include (care of Quartz):

  • Smartphone shipments have continued to slow, with only 3%year-over-year growth from 2015 to 2016.
  • Global internet use continues to grow at 10% year over year, with 3.4 billion people on the internet as of 2016.
  • Internet advertising spending is expected to surpass TV spending in 2017.
  • Combined, Google and Facebook accounted for 85% of the total internet ad revenue growth between 2015 and 2016.
  • Images and voice are replacing typed words in advertising.
  • Google’s voice recognition has hit a word accuracy rate of 95%.
  • There are now 2.6 billion gamers, up from 100 million in 1995.

My primary takeaway for advertising agencies – “MOBILE”

How To Win The Advertising Agency Pitch

Hubspot Advertising Agency Expert Series: How To Win The Pitch

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 3.29.41 PMI won my first advertising agency pitch over 30 years ago and have been pitching ever since. And, channeling a bit of chutzpah, I’ve won more than my fair share at Saatchi & Saatchi, at my two Internet startups (I pitched VC’s and advertising clients) and at my own ad agency. In fact, I put my not so secret secrets in my book, The Levitan Pitch. Buy This Book. Win More Pitches. I say not so secret because the agencies that win more pitches do so by following a set of logical rules or processes and truly understand the needs of the client being pitched.

Frankly, I’d love you to buy the book. However, our friends at Hubspot will help you get going to more wins by having me deliver a 1-hour seminar on pitching in their Agency Expert Webinar Series.

The “Win” session is in a couple of weeks – so get it on your calendar…. June 14 at 11 AM ET that’s 4 PM GMT.

 

My online presentation: The Pitch: Present Smarter To Win MoreClients. You can sign up right here @ Registration.

My goal is to help your agency and people master the new business pitch process. This means more wins; more profits; more happiness; more craft beers and longer holidays (OK, more beers.)

About HubSpot’s Agency Expert Webinar Series

HubSpot’s Agency Expert Webinar series is an opportunity for professionals in the agency space to hear from industry leaders and learn about their areas of expertise.

Hear from thought leaders about their experiences in agency life in one-hour YouTube live segments, focusing on topics ranging from agency growth and brand experiences to finding new talent and procuring clients.

My Presentation On Pitching & Presenting

My presentation will track the key elements and advice from my book, “The Levitan Pitch. Buy This Book. Win More Pitches.”

You don’t have to buy the book to track the presentation. But, why not buy it anyway – you will win more advertising agency pitches. Hey, go ahead and buy multiple copies. You can do that with just a couple of clicks … and even get a free chapter at the top of this page.

What You Will Learn

I’ll track these key elements of the book…

Chapters One & Two:

These chapters reveal the very high cost of failing to run well-crafted, efficient pitches. Chapter One includes an instructive and humorous story about the worst advertising pitch ever… for the global Adidas account at Saatchi London. Chapter Two offers a system for how to choose which pitches to go for and which must be avoided.

Chapters Three & Four:

Chapter Three begins to help you position your pitch and presentation for success by learning how you will understand the client’s mindset, type of assignment and what style of agency and relationship the client is actually looking for. Chapter Four covers “The 12 Deadliest Presentation Mistakes” that must be avoided to win that new account.

Chapter Five:

This detailed chapter is a ‘how-to’ of 30 techniques on how to build a brilliant presentation that will increase your odds of winning. These ideas cover the three major elements of a successful pitch: process management, content development, and how to craft a compelling presentation. Each element is supported by an insight that offers a fast way to achieve these objectives.

Chapters Six & Seven:

These chapters deliver insightful interviews with advertising industry leaders. You’ll get valuable learning via 14 interviews with a range of clients, presentation gurus, and industry association experts. Finally, the book includes real-world insights from 16 of the world’s leading search consultants. Believe me, they’ve heard it all.

Expedia And Sales Chutzpah

A Lesson From Expedia On Sales Chutzpah

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 5.02.30 PMOK, we all have bad customer service experiences. I get it. But when the bad experiences go across four Expedia service phone conversations (that lasted about three plus hours over two days) and another six back and forth Twitter direct tweets and the customer who is spending over $5,000 on the trip is still unsatisfied (that’s me), there must be something wrong with how Expedia runs the humanbeing (vs. digital) sales service side of its business.

No, This Post Is Not About Expedia. It Is About Your Ad, PR, Digital, etc. Agency

Stick with me because this blog post is actually about a way to grow your agency – a way that requires a bit of chutzpah. However, before I get to your agency and an unignorable sales tactic, I have to share a tiny bit of customer service related background to set up the chutzpah recommendation.

A few weeks ago, I used Expedia to book two tickets from Mexico City to Budapest for a summer trip to see the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix race. This week, I called Expedia to change the trip by adding a few days up front and move the original first destination from Budapest to Vienna. I knew about and was willing to spend the extra $500 flight change charge and, before I called, I had also looked at all of the available flight options. I was prepared for the service rep call. But, I was not prepared for the following:

Expedia’s phone system could never recognize my itinerary number or phone number (the ones that are listed on Expedia’s original flight plan document). I knew I was in the system because when I finally got to a rep, she recognized the numbers. What’s up with Expedia’s automated phone system and the interface with its database?

While it took me about 30 seconds to get to the Iberia Airlines and Expedia sites to find my reservation detail, it took the multiple Expedia reps I talked to at around two minutes.

I was repeatedly asked if Mexico City was my origination airport (I live in Mexico) and if I was to change flights in Madrid as stated on my reservation. Um, yes.

The reps took forever to find alternative flights although I was helping them find the alternatives. And on. I won’t bore you with more including the third rep who apologized for how sloooooow Expedia’s computer was working.

Taken individually, these don’t appear to be too onerous. However, in aggregate, they were and I gave up without making the flight change.

OK, two more points.

I was so pissed off that I sent LinkedIn InMails to three Expedia marketing execs gently complaining about the service and asking them if they ever sat in on customer calls – consider this action an internal “Store-Check”. It’s been four days since I sent the emails. Any response? No. Sure these folks get lots of emails. But, I used attention-getting customer-centric subject lines.

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