AdSchool Account Management for Tomorrow: meet your presenter series. Katie Dally (Sydney) and Simon

Wednesday 18 March 2020

AdSchool Account Management for Tomorrow: meet your presenter series. Katie Dally (Sydney) and Simon Stewart (Perth)

Kate Dally and Simon StewartThe AdSchool Account Management for Tomorrow course offers the ultimate toolkit for an ambitious account person, brand manager or anyone who wants to master the process of commercial creativity. We chatted with Katie Dally, Managing Partner at CHE Proximity Sydney, and Simon Stewart, Group Account Director at Rare, about the course and their perspective on account management.

TCC: What do you love about the client service side of the advertising business?
Katie: You get to be involved in a project from the beginning to the end. You have to understand the commercials as well as you understand strategy, creative ideas and everything in between. You get to have an opinion at every stage, hold people accountable and you are the gatekeeper of the trusted client relationship that drives the success of the outcome.  It’s undoubtedly the best job in the business, because you never have to choose one department to specialise in, you get to do it all!
Simon: This is a pretty standard answer, but it really is the variety of industries/clients/projects you get to work on, and the learning opportunities you have. ‘Agency years’ and ‘client side years’ and like ‘Dog years’ and ‘human years’. One year spent in an agency, and you learn what takes seven years client side.*
*Not scientifically proven!

TCC: Anything you definitely don't love about it?
Katie: The crazy pitch life, it’s all in, silly hours and when you don’t win, you wish you could claw that time back. On the flipside, pitches are often when you see collaboration at its best and the pressure moments usually produce some of the finest work.
Simon: Being asked to execute something that I don’t believe in. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Sometimes clients are so fixated on executing an idea that it doesn’t matter, what we as the agency, have to say – we just need to get on and do it.

TCC: How has the client service function changed/evolved during your time in the industry?
Katie: It has radically evolved. I’ll try not to show my age too much here, but what used to be brand advertising realised on TV, a billboard, some press and radio, now looks like a detailed conversion funnel with touch points at every step, from programmatic to mass personalisation, the world of communications is hugely complex. We live in a time when we have to be upskilled more than ever and be on the front foot of what’s to come more than ever.
Simon: My time in the industry has been relatively short (6 years) but there has been some obvious change in that period. For one – the need to be fully integrated across all functions (digital and traditional offline) is now imperative and not a nice to have. It sounds funny to say that now, but it wasn’t the case 6 years ago. In addition, the move of a lot of clients to in-house design teams and other cost saving tactics has meant our job has become critical in demonstrating the value clients get out of using agencies – vs. the in-house model – so building relationships and trust is now even more important than ever.
TCC: In your opinion, what is the most important skill for any successful account manager to possess?
Katie: Communication Skills because that is all encompassing of the following top 10 skills for workplace success: active listening, non-verbal communication, clarity & concision, friendliness, confidence, empathy, open mindedness, respect and picking the right medium.
Simon: That is a very hard question to answer as our jobs are so multifaceted and require a large skillset. I definitely want a really solid marketing background and understanding, the ability to multitask, prioritise and re-prioritise, build relationships, communication, attention to detail etc. etc. – however if I were forced into picking just one – I would have to say resilience. It’s a tough industry, and for people getting started it’s important to know that. I absolutely love this industry and wouldn’t change my career for a second – but, it is tough and you need to be resilient to succeed.

TCC: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing account management in the next five years?
Katie: The skills gap. With the world changing so rapidly and clients expecting so much of us in the here and now, it is challenging to find the time to continuously upskill and be on the front foot of change.  Employers are going to need to prioritise training and development both from a time and investment POV if we are going to remain true communications experts into this new decade and beyond.  
Simon: Keeping up with trends, new technologies and new ways of working. Our days are already packed delivering the work and delivering for our clients – but the need to be constantly upskilling and learning has never been greater. I would encourage all people who work in this industry to just keep learning.

TCC: What key learnings would you like Account Management for Tomorrow participants to take away from this course?
Katie: With a bit of courage, a lot of passion and bags of determination, those that participate are the future of our industry, so I’d love for them to take away that by sowing into learning the fundamentals of client service excellence today, they will have built the right foundation to become the influential leaders of tomorrow the industry demands.
Simon: I think this is simple – I want them to leave the course with an increased level of confidence. Confidence in their knowledge base, confidence in their ability to interact with clients at all levels, confidence to present to large groups, confidence to stand up for ideas (at the right time – see point 1 below) and confidence to be themselves.
TCC: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self just starting out in advertising, what would it be?
Katie: We are not saving lives, so be committed and ambitious, but get your work life integration clear and live it. Long hours doesn’t equal a promotion, but harnessing your EQ to better understand the people you will end up calling your second family will get you everywhere.
Simon: I think there are 2 answers here, and I can’t decide which is more important so I’m going to give them both.

  1. Pick your battles and don’t sweat the small stuff. Starting out I took everything personally, every piece of feedback, every challenge, but you need to remember that at the end of the day – we’re just making ads.
  2. Prior preparation prevents piss-poor performance. This was a saying of my friends dad, and it has stuck with me and couldn’t be truer in our industry. Whatever situation you are heading into, whatever meeting (internal or with client), presentation or other – prepare, prepare, prepare.
All the details on the AdSchool Account Management for Tomorrow course here

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