An interview with Michael Emerson from REDBOOKS.COM
and a former Managing Partner of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.
Sure, the business has changed, but more likely than not, some dichotomy between creative and account functions will always exist. As a progressive creative I’ve never been afraid to bridge the aisle and engage with a few suits. I’ve always admired their people skills and my cafe chat with Michael Emerson did not disappoint. While I searched for a quiet corner table he had already made friends and began his story…I was all ears.
Q: Most agency people have heard of REDBOOKS.COM and already know it’s a great tool for new business, could you tell us about some of your favorite features?
Michael: I think the more “seasoned” marketers are more familiar with REDBOOKS as a resource usually enlisted for an urgent pitch opportunity or accessed to help defend an existing account relationship. Over 100 years later, here comes REDBOOKS.COM, the updated daily digital database evolution of the REDBOOKS and for many passionate marketing practitioners, more of a daily utility, like Facebook or LinkedIn. REDBOOKS is clearly the most comprehensive database for global business development and competitive intelligence.
To that end, my favorite go-to feature is the REDBOOKS “Opportunities” tab (updated daily) which highlights advertising account reviews, Agency of Record (AOR) awards, people changes – this is by far, the fastest and most efficient way to keep apprised of the Advertising & Marketing community. I also love the news tracker that sends me alerts on the advertisers, the agencies and the decision-makers and influencers I want to keep informed on. As a business development consultant REDBOOKS keeps me at the ready to take action.
Q: I like that REDBOOKS has features for searching both advertisers and agencies alike, can you talk a little bit about how this effects competitive research?
Michael: I encourage subscribers and prospects to consider REDBOOKS as a competitive intelligence engine and in many cases an advertising account “standards driver”. In minutes, subscribers can build company dossiers that include a background description, the key marketing and advertising contacts, agency relationships, creative (TV, print, display), media spend, and news by company and the key contacts. I’ve had the opportunity to work with several ad agencies on how to monetize their competitive intelligence by packaging their clients’ competitive landscape highlighting strategic, creative and media allocation insights – weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually — depending on the industry, an expense could become an valuable client asset. You can also take it a step further and see how showcasing competitive intelligence can raise the agency’s service bar of your account management, creative and planning teams – showcase your people delivering market insights — demonstrate ongoing value, your clients will love you for it, whether you charge them for it or not.
Q: Sounds like a great service how do people sign up?
Q:How has your experience at REDBOOKS been different than some of your past career roles?
Michael: The reality is regardless of what business we’re in, we’re always selling something. When you’re in account management, especially for an ad agency, you are selling lots of things: creative ideas to clients, budgets and resource allocation to your CFO or boss or probably most importantly, building trust with clients and agency colleagues – any and all requiring salesmanship, eloquence and finesse.
Q:Over the course of your career have you found any Account Management philosophy that works better than another?
Michael: Philosophically speaking, my keys to Account Management success are rooted in tireless enthusiasm for your clients business, having an articulate (and endorsed) short and long-term brand plan and lastly a huge dose of patience, persistence and conviction – make your approach infectious.
Q: Being a creative I’ve seen the industry change radically over the past few years. I’m curious how it looks from your perspective?
Michael: I’d say, yes the industry has changed and so has the world. Regardless of whether you’re creating ads or managing clients, the facts hold true: in many cases, you have less time, less money and collectively less patience which heightens the pressures — however, great strategy, leading to a great idea and great execution will always win the day. It sounds easy, and it can be, with the right partners from the client and the agency, whether you’re a writer, an art director or in account management.
Q: Where do you see the role of account executives going from here?
Michael: Account Management is all about value — value in understanding your client’s business and value in representing the agency’s work, that will remain consistent. Account Executives sadly are a bit misunderstood, they represent much of the account frustrations: deadlines, budgets, approvals and rejections, yet without them the workflow would certainly be compromised. The best AE’s I’ve ever seen are preemptive, they lead with a delicate but authoritative touch and most definitely have a tremendously thick skin.
Q: You’ve worked on accounts large and small, have worked internationally and locally. Is their any wisdom you could share with mid-levels and students getting ready to enter the field?
Michael: I’d say, treat everyday like a pitch. Big or small accounts, international or local, you’re as good as your last ad or campaign. If execution fails or expectations are not met, your experience will not be that enjoyable and you won’t last long. On a slightly more aspirational note, if you have an opportunity to work on a global piece of business, go for it – those sensibilities and cultures will make you a better colleague and thus a more valuable team asset.
Q: Besides REDBOOKS, what are your favorite resources?
Michael: I religiously read the New York Times (yes, the actual paper version), it keeps me sharp. I find great creative stimulation in magazines like Men’s Health, Esquire, GQ, Cigar Aficionado and Vanity Fair. I might peek at Page 6 in the NY Post when I get a chance, plus I can almost complete their crossword puzzle without cheating.
Q: What’s the most important thing a reader should take away from our conversation today?
Michael:I’ll leave you with one of my favorite situational quotes, which to me is a constant reminder that you can be anything you want to be, provided you have some vision and some balls: The evaluation of Fred Astaire’s first screen test:
“Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.“
Believe it, be it, enjoy it.
As a creative with a wide passion base I’m always on the lookout for people I can learn from and pass on those key insights to my followers. If you are a thought leader, trendsetter or just have an interesting viewpoint please contact me to be part of this interview series.