A few days ago I was chatting with Iván Sánchez, one of the account managers at Birth Group, about the background of this very representative person within the agencies and he told me that one of the figures that seems to have been present since the early years of advertising, indirectly or directly since the position was formally established, is that of the account manager, the person who currently serves as a bridge between the client’s vision and the recommendations of the entire team involved, in addition to the guidelines of the agencies to which they belong. And I completely agree with him.
And it is that, although this definition has not been altered too much over the years, what has had to change drastically is its perspective of action, its knowledge beyond the focus on sales and its level of involvement.
We both said that according to Adrian Mackay, we could consider that the first advertising agency was born around 1786 with the pioneer of advertising agents William Tyler, who although his work did not go beyond selling advertising space in London newspapers, would mark the beginning of this dynamic between the client and the agent as representative or negotiator of the medium.
Until 1865 where, after the implementation of the open contract by N.W. Ayer & Son (officially the first advertising agency in the US) marked the need for a new perspective of advertising agent, the « wholesaler » or « media wholesaler ». It is at this stage that Iván told me that he dared to imagine that the agent begins to give importance to the relationship with his client, to become more dynamic and close, to know his needs and those of his product better and better.
Now let’s jump back to the golden age of advertising during the 1950s and 1960s, that’s right, right in the years when Mad Men is set. So we tell you that in these same years it was also the golden age of capitalism, which led to the advertising boom in this period.
With this new great stage in the history of advertising, the roles in the agencies begin to be formalized and the role of the account manager becomes official. For those years, his main task was to get new clients and it is important to note that due to the change in social, economic and media dynamics of the time, the importance of a creative strategy began to be forged, which also set the action guideline of The account managers of the time, although their work continued to focus mainly on sales work.
Let’s take another leap, a few years later between the 90s and the first years of the 21st century with the arrival of one of humanity’s favorite and crucial inventions, the Internet. This redefined how the advertising industry had to work and returning to the role of the account manager, he begins to separate a bit from the sales role and begins to take a more strategic role in the client / company-agency dynamic.
Not only was he in charge of getting and keeping clients, but now his work should also focus on obtaining as much information as possible about his product or service for later, knowing how to transmit efficiently to those involved in the account and guaranteeing that the objectives are met by foot of the letter. The executive goes from being more than just a bridge or link to a key job manager.
All these new factors made it necessary for the account manager to expand their knowledge and strengthen their skills in topics, for example marketing and design, in addition to better understanding the work dynamics of creatives. This new stage was undoubtedly demanding a more proactive role and greater involvement from the executive.
This is how Iván and I concluded that today, in many advertising agencies in Mexico and around the world, the figure of the account manager has been renamed to that of the project manager, who, although partially maintaining a focus on sales, today is more aimed at meeting quality and objectives, measuring results, developing strategies and, of course, customer satisfaction.
With this retrospective and knowing in broad strokes the history behind advertising and how it has marked and will mark its dynamics, we are sure that over the years and as long as advertising continues to have a place in our social and consumer dynamics, we will be able to continue talking of the subject and analyze the new roles and challenges that the future holds for today’s project manager.
Let’s just contemplate what the pandemic has made us reconsider, in a forced way but not without obtaining certain benefits, to try new ways of working, of relating to our customers, the way in which people consume and acquire products and services. Almost a year was enough for our entire world to change radically and for now we can only hope to see what the years to come will bring us and how we will gradually adapt to what they bring with them.
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