Evolution of the Account Manager


As I seem to do more often these days – reflecting upon a 40+ year journey in the advertising agency industry – and given I have a daughter who is an advertising agency executive, I began to think about how the role of Account Manager has changed. From Mad Men days (when I began) to today.

In the popular TV series “Mad Men,” viewers were transported back to the 1960s and 70’s, a time when the advertising industry was dominated by larger-than-life characters, whiskey-fueled brainstorming sessions, and glamorous pitches. All true. At the center of this whirlwind was the figure of the account manager, orchestrating campaigns, liaising with clients, and navigating the intricate world of advertising.

Fast forward to the present day, and the landscape of advertising has undergone a seismic shift. The rise of digital technology, the advent of social media, and changing consumer behavior have revolutionized the industry, transforming the role of the account manager in profound ways. But how much evolution really has taken place since the Mad Men days.

Well, in the Mad Men era (of which I was on the tail end) the account manager held a pivotal role within the advertising agency. Typically, suave and persuasive, they were the bridge between the client and the creative team. Their job involved understanding the client’s needs, developing strategies to meet those needs, and then collaborating with copywriters, designers, media planners, PR specialists and other departments as needed, to bring those strategies to life.

Client relationships were paramount during this time.

Account managers wined and dined clients, forging personal connections that often transcended the professional realm. Face-to-face meetings and phone calls were the primary modes of communication, and campaigns were primarily broadcast through traditional media channels such as television, radio, and print.

Then the emergence of digital technology heralded a new era in advertising.

Suddenly, the landscape expanded beyond the confines of traditional media, with the internet opening a wealth of opportunities for targeted marketing and real-time engagement. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram became powerful tools for reaching and interacting with consumers on a more personal level.

This shift had profound implications for the role of the account manager. No longer could they rely solely on charm and personal connections to win over clients. Instead, they needed to become fluent in the language of digital marketing, mastering analytics, SEO, and social media metrics. The job became more data-driven, with account managers using insights to optimize campaigns and demonstrate ROI to clients.

To that end, today’s account manager is a hybrid creature, part creative visionary and part data analyst. They must still possess the interpersonal skills of their Mad Men predecessors, but they must also be comfortable navigating the complexities of the digital landscape. Collaboration remains key, but now it extends beyond the walls of the agency to encompass partnerships with tech companies, influencers, and content creators.

Furthermore, the role of the account manager has expanded beyond simply managing campaigns to encompass a more holistic approach to client relationships. They are strategic advisors, helping clients navigate the ever-changing media landscape and stay ahead of the competition. They must be proactive in identifying opportunities for growth and innovation, whether that’s experimenting with emerging technologies or tapping into new markets.

Whew. Much more difficult than my early days in the business, and why my daughter is much smarter and talented than me. Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own in the digital world, but it is not second nature.

The job of account manager in an advertising agency has come a long way since the days of Don Draper.

While the core principles of building relationships and delivering compelling campaigns remain unchanged, the tools and tactics at their disposal have evolved dramatically. In today’s fast-paced digital world, success requires a blend of creativity, analytical thinking, and strategic foresight – a far cry from the whiskey-soaked boardrooms of yesteryear. As technology continues to advance and consumer behavior continues to evolve, the role of the account manager will undoubtedly continue to adapt, shaping the future of advertising for years to come.

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78Madison

78Madison is a full-service marketing communications firm – advertising agency – located in Orlando, Florida (Winter Springs). Have questions? Let’s connect. Email me at jbouch@78madison.com

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