Having a creative input without being creative

Jeremy Bourton spoke to Little Black Book on building relationships, finding ways to connect and utilising your skills.

LBB> How did you first get involved in account management and what appealed to you about it?

Jeremy> I found my way into account management by accident. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but knew I wanted a fast-paced role that allowed me to have a creative input without being creative. That’s how I stumbled across the idea of working in client services. Once I looked into it more, I knew it was the right direction for me.


LBB> What is it about your personality, skills and experience that has made account management such a great fit?

Jeremy> Building relationships is key to the role. My ability to work with different people and make sure they all feel heard is what I think makes me successful. I like people and finding ways to connect, which is definitely useful in account management!


LBB> What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their career in account management?

Jeremy> Ask questions. I think you need to question everything in order to fully understand it and help deliver the best work. Whether it’s the internal processes, the client’s brief, how it can be achieved technically… ask questions, listen and absorb. You’ll be working with experts in various disciplines, so learn from them.


LBB> Thinking back to some of your most challenging experiences you’ve had in your career, what do you think tends to lie at the heart of the more tense or difficult client-agency relationships?

Jeremy> Most issues come from not interrogating what it is you’re doing at the start. If you start a project without everyone being clear on what they’re looking to achieve, client-side and internally, then nobody will get what they want from it. And that will lead to a difficult conversation with the client sooner or later.


LBB> And what are the keys to building a productive and healthy relationship?

Jeremy> I don’t think you can build a healthy relationship without being honest and reliable. Clients would rather have a difficult conversation than have you try and tell them what you think they want to hear. If you’re open and honest, you’ll gain the respect of your clients as they believe you’ll deliver.


LBB> What’s your view on disagreement and emotion – is there a place for it and if not, why not? If so, why – and what does productive disagreement look like?

Jeremy> Of course. We’re trying to change consumers’ behaviour, so how can we do that without emotion? If that emotion leads to disagreement, it’s not a bad thing as long as there’s a positive outcome. Focusing on solutions is key, and remaining professional within the emotional side.


LBB> Historically, account management has been characterised as the mediator in an adversarial client and creative relationship – what do you make of that characterisation, is there any nugget of truth in that or is it wildly inaccurate? 

Jeremy> Historically this may well have been the case, however I feel it’s changed. At Armadillo, our creatives, developers, and strategists are involved in conversations with clients. We ensure that there’s open dialogue between our wider team and client stakeholders so that relationships can be built everywhere, not just in client services.


LBB> These days, agencies do so much beyond traditional campaigns and as account management you’re pulling together creative, experience, data, e-commerce, social and more – and that complexity can often be mirrored on the client stakeholder side too? What’s the key to navigating (and helping the client navigate) that complexity?

Jeremy> The key to this is teamwork. As I’ve mentioned, there are experts in all these disciplines working within a business. If an account manager is trying to do all this themselves, they’re not utilising the skills around them. We work best while collaborating and all pushing in one direction, drawing on each other’s skills.


LBB> What recent projects are you proudest of and why? What was challenging about these projects from an account management perspective and how did you address those challenges? What was so satisfying about working on these projects?

Jeremy> Rather than one specific project, I am always proud of the way my team works together to get through a campaign.

Regardless of whether there are challenges, the most satisfying thing for me is being able to step back and recognise the effort we’ve all put in to achieving the end goal. As an account director I’m not the one writing the copy, bringing a concept to life in design or figuring out how to make it work in development, but seeing everyone work as a team to achieve something great is what makes me want to get up on a wet Monday morning to do my job.


Article originally published on Little Black Book on 03/04/23