Some of the best career advice I’ve ever gotten: “Be someone who raises the company IQ” The giver of this advice, the Executive Creative Director of the second advertising agency I’d ever worked for, pushed me harder than I’d ever been pushed. In a good way. (Not like this guy.) He taught me to think beyond the assignment and look at the bigger picture. The problem I was solving. The contribution I was making. I don’t know who taught Maria this or if she came by it naturally, but she’s certainly one of my co-workers who raises the company IQ. As an Account Exec, Maria has to be the intermediary between clients and our agency. But these days, good AE’s have to do more than show clients they’re getting a good return on their investment and coddle creatives like me who want to see their brilliant ideas come to life. They need to be strategic thinkers brimming with consumer insights that they can help leverage across all channels. It’s a tough job in a tough industry, but Maria’s got some good advice on how to rise to the occasion.
What exactly does an Account Executive do?
An Account Exec handles the day-to-day responsibilities of an account, including the initiation and execution of various projects and deliverables for the client. While the Account Supervisor and Account Director focus more on big picture perspective and strategy, AEs execute the smaller projects ensuring they are always linking back up to that big picture strategy.
Tell us about your background and your career path. What did you study in school and what jobs led you to this one?
I actually began college pursing the world of health sciences and medicine. I wanted to help people and naively believed the only way to touch people’s lives was to be a doctor. I majored in Biomedical Sciences and then was brought to the world of marketing and communications through my position at Wellness USF. Here marketing and communications was seen through the scope of health promotions. I developed my fascination and passion for marketing and ultimately, branding and campaign creation through my position as the marketing assistant and social media coordinator here. This position showed me the power of communications. How through research and creative campaigns you could actually touch people’s lives. That to me was really powerful because I saw that I could use strategic thinking and pair it with creative solutions to help create campaigns that motivated people to do things like drink more water, get yearly health check ups, take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.
My day to day involves ensuring expectations, timelines, and questions/concerns are communicated with cross – functional teams at the agency such as the creative team, strategy team, production team, and account supervisors/directors. I work closely with the creative team by providing as much information that is needed to develop creative concepts or as I like to call them creative solutions to various projects.
How do you balance the demands of challenging clients and high-strung creative (like me)?
I think it is important to always try to place yourself in the shoes of the client and your internal team. If a client demands something that makes no sense I try to see it through their eyes and think of what is happening on their side (their boss is asking for it, there’s pressure to increase sales, etc). The same goes for any coworker in the agency. There is usually a clear reason why people get upset, frustrated or annoyed. I try to get to the core reasons behind the actions and bring solutions that answer those issues. Rather than being reactive, I take a step back and decide how to move forward. This helps balance out client and internal team demands.
What made you choose this career?
Knowing that campaigns had the power to reach people was what hooked me.
What’s the best thing about your job?
What stresses you out about your job and how do you deal with it?
Clients with little strategic direction are difficult and tend to be stressful to manage because there is no core rational for what they want to do. If something sounds good they’ll go for it and you are stuck developing campaigns and projects with no real direction.
I think it’s a learning curve for clients as well. As an account exec, part of your relationship with the client is to ask those tough questions that help explain why it’s important to have a strategy.
How is the advertising industry changing and what does that mean for account people?
I think in the age of digital globalization everything an advertising agency does needs to be measured. Budgets, campaigns, etc. need to be tracked in a way that shows their impact.
Where can you go with your career from here?
The strategic thinking, leadership, and problem-solving skills you learn at an agency can be applied in many different areas. I could work in a number of different industries that require creating connections with the public as a way to reach business goals.
My grandfather always said, “Any job can get boring, don’t expect the day to day to always be thrilling. What you have to focus on is the problems your career is solving and the questions it is answering.” So for me, advertising is all about connecting with people by understanding who they are as a person, how they act, what they think.
Any advice for young women interested in becoming an account exec?
It’s tough to say what one piece of advice I would give. I feel like as a young professional you learn so many valuable lessons your first few years at work. I guess I would say to believe in yourself. It is so easy to doubt yourself but you have to know that you will get better at whatever you want by working hard. And most importantly to be thoughtful and purposeful about where you want to go. Take your growth into your own hands and consciously make the choices to pursue what will fulfill you.
Ever considered a career as an account exec? What’s the best career advice anyone’s given you?