Why your direct mail prospects deserve a better offer Mike Gunderson (Gunderson Direct CEO) and…
Sugar and Spice and Keeping Things Nice, Part 2—The Account Side
Agency life. It’s filled with quirky personalities, buzzing ideas, and the aroma of fresh coffee. But one dynamic duo—the account person and the creative—often takes center stage. Despite their differences, this pair often brings the magic when they work together: dazzling clients with campaigns that surprise, delight, and exceed expectations. Together, they can create a perfect balance of structure and spark. And together, they can make the unforgettable.
But how do such different teams create that singular balance? Join Jeremy Hainline and me for Part 2 of our chat, celebrating the unique bonds between account and creative. Through anecdotes, lessons learned, and a sprinkle of humor, we’ll share the highs, the lows, and the crazy adventures that come with being part of the agency world.
Talking the talk is Walking the walk
Let’s talk about alignment. Proper alignment is built upon communication. So, what does good communication look like to you, Lindsay?
Good communication is clear, concise, and timely. It also involves active listening, asking questions, and providing feedback. It’s essential to be open and honest and to keep your team in the know, including formal updates and changes.
A lot of it, too, is being mindful that when we initiate communication, we start with the positives and then identify the challenges. For both sides, it’s vital to put yourself in your counterpart’s shoes: understand how our goals could differ and ensure we have that perspective and aren’t just making assumptions.
I’m right there with you, Lindsay. Assumptions can lead to so many problems!
You said something great about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. And it all comes down to empathy: understanding, communicating, and responding to needs.
One must acknowledge the emotional content or subtext of a need: “I need this right now because I feel like I am stalling out, and I’m afraid I’ll disappoint the client,” for example. Whether it’s communicated or implied—that understanding is crucial.
What gets you moving moves the needle
So, as the head of the account team here at Gunderson, what motivates you?
It comes down to unraveling the mysteries behind the business. Companies are coming to us because sometimes they might not know all the aspects of their brand or customers—or they think they do, but they don’t know—so it’s our job to help solve that. We get to reveal something new and exciting that they might not have known about themselves, which is fun.
I also get motivated by the uniqueness of each client we serve. And we transform something from a concept into something tangible and impact people—I’ve always found that process rewarding.
So much of what you guys do feeds into what motivates me as a creative and how I try to frame the work for my team—to inspire them to create awesomely functional marketing machines for our clients.
We’re not here to do something precisely pretty or witty. It’s our job to create something hard-working. And framed correctly, that’s electric.
It goes beyond pretty. It goes beyond witty. We get to create something functional. It’s a craft, not art. The brand is the toolkit that we work with.
And the account team sets us up so much for that—a great brief and a special account relationship are the roots of all that motivation. You all set us up to turn insights into informed creative that can drive results: inspiring prospects to act.
One hundred percent.
Navigating pain and pleasing the client
So what are some of your pain points in navigating creatives? You can be honest here.
Sometimes, I think there’s this fear of not having all the information—or all the answers—right up front, which becomes a fear of failure.
Agreed! There’s nothing that strikes fear, panic, anger, frustration, resentment, or whatever into a creative team, like when they get a brief that’s missing essential info, and they’re told their clock starts ticking.
And there can be tension points when there is subjectivity. We must be objective; a good brief allows you to do that. Unclear feedback can create tension. And many times, we, as account people, want to provide the solution versus giving the creative team the problem and letting them solve it—that is their job. It’s easy to say, “Hey, change this, do that.” But we strive to be mindful and respectful, stopping and presenting the problem so the creatives can solve that.
One pain point I’ve often experienced—and thankfully, it’s not a Gunderson thing—is when a creative team feels like the account person is much more on the client’s side than the internal team’s.
It’s a fine line for the account team. Here at GD, you all do a great job of reviewing the work as “the client in absentia.” However, you’re still laser-focused on the fact that we’re Gunderson Direct, and it’s our job to represent the agency by delivering results for our client, not by being the client.
That’s right. It would be best if you struck a balance. Read the situation, read the room, advocate for your team, and find compromises that lead to solutions.
When navigating creative, the key is to give the client what they’re asking and what we recommend as an agency. Do what we think is right and let them choose: that way, we’re advocating for our team and our ideas, showing them work that showcases ideas and expertise that goes above and beyond the brief.
Have you missed Part 1? Click here to read!
Gunderson Direct has long-lasting relationships with some of the country’s largest corporations, helping them to lower their customer acquisition costs and increase profits using address-based integrated direct marketing programs.
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