Make no mistake, business is tough these days. Many of us are on the go from morning ’til night, especially in service businesses. In today’s market, client’s demand service and usually get it. It’s even tougher in the advertising agency business where, in our experience, the typical client feels they own the agency, “lock, stock, and barrel.” What this means is that the agency must be ready to move whenever the client calls.
We knew an agency owner that lived by client service. He firmly believed in the rights of the client in the agency, and went to great pains to explain to anyone he employed the importance of the client to the future well-being of our agency. He loved to tell his snowy-day story. On the morning of a snowstorm, he would leave his house early and travel, no matter what the road conditions, to a good but distantly located agency client. He would walk into the client’s office at 8:00 a.m., often beating them there, dressed in boots and snow coat, carrying an armful of work for approval, scripts to read, and other incidental items of business. This made a huge, positive impression on the client. “If this man thinks enough of this company to service us on the worst day of the year,” they exclaimed, “then he deserves our business. Atta boy, keep up the good work.” No kidding, folks, this is a true story. This man believed with all his heart in client service. We're all for this. It’s the only way to run your life in the information age. In today's business environment, as Tom Peters says, “...there are no products, only service.”
The downside to all of this client service, however, is the “lost account executive.” Where are they when the agency really needs them for proper input, scheduling problems, design or copy approval? Usually catering to the client... the best thing for them to be doing.
When AEs Interrupt Creative Groove Time
Another challenge arising from offering instant client service is the on-demand meeting between account executives and agency creatives. You know what we mean. The account executive blasts into the agency after meeting with one client, with only minimum time available before needing to respond to another client’s groans, and demands to meet with creatives to review the progress of work. The creatives, who have full schedules, and more importantly have gotten into a production groove for the day, are forced to put work aside and deal with the AE then and there. Their concentration is spoiled and they probably will not be very productive for the rest of the day.
We struggled through this problem constantly at our agency, and came up with what we think is the only solution to combining on-demand client service with creating an effective advertising product, while still nurturing the delicate creatives: morning meeting time.
Morning Meetings, Groove Time the Rest of the Day
Second Wind has always advocated distributing a daily agency schedule. This production schedule should be on everyone’s desktop (or in their email, or shared through the agency digital workflow system) first thing each morning. After very brief departmental meetings (creative, media, production, etc.) to discuss the new daily schedule, say from 9:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., designate the next hour as agency meeting time. During this time, agency staff can meet with one another; account executives with creatives, creatives with production, media with billing. Any pre-scheduled meeting is acceptable. Many times even impromptu meetings can take place. The purpose of such meetings, especially between the creative staff and account executives, is to conduct the kind of in-depth creative interchange needed to properly fulfill creative assignments.
This specific meeting period usually enables the creative department to spend the rest of the day working uninterrupted on the creative product. Another side benefit is that the consistent early morning format enables account executives to plan and structure their days better. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t quite work out, with clients being the way they are today. But, the morning meeting time at your agency, along with the daily schedule, can bring a stability that will allow you to maintain balance.
See also: The Structured Day