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Monday, December 8, 2008

Account Managers and Project Managers: Partners?

The relationship between the Account Management and Project Management teams is one that needs constant attention and definition. Like any partnership engaged in complex endeavors, there are complementary areas, supplementary areas and grey areas.

I've seen all points on the map from clear distinctions to planned reinforcement that form the foundation of strong partnerships. These models benefit both clients and agencies. Some agencies have Account Directors only and everyone else is a project manager. Some relegate the ugly, "just-get-the-job-done" details to the project managers and the glory to the Account team (and Creatives). Many agencies either don't understand the project management role or don't have it at all.

I hate (well not really) to put things in a competitive light, but the Account Managers do have an edge in that the role has always existed in the agency world and they benefit from external recognition. Guess which discipline is missing from the Agency Discipline's section on the AAAA's Web site. Project managers have a pretty uphill battle to define and claim their position in agencies. This funny video from Monster , which made the rounds a while ago, almost touches on the role when it mentions producers toward the end. Sadly, project management remains off the radar - even from a company like Monster that earns its keep selling the role to agencies.

This post by Lindsay Cotter on the Hill Holiday blog, HHblog: Rethinking Marketing, is inspiring in that she opines about the value of Account Management in, The Best Job in Advertising? . However, worse than no mention, is when your thunder is stolen. She concludes, with pleasure when describing the AAAA's 2008 Account Management Conference:

"Finally, we did not forget to tell our co-workers that the conference stressed the importance of account managers to an agency, as one peer put it, account management folks 'make sure the trains run on time.'"

Thoughts? Feelings feelings about our "partners"? About elevating Project Management?


  1. I was actually looking for more information on the subject, eg. specific difference between Project Managers and Account Managers.

    AFAIK, Account Managers mainly deal with the client, and make sure that the client is satisfied all the team, they rarely or never deal directly with the resources (contrary to the Project Managers).

  2. Your "mainly" qualifier is appropriate and important. One must be careful not to draw lines that are too rigid. Client/Team interactions are one of the things that I find fall into the gray area of shared responsibilities and make for a strong Account Management / Project Management partnership. One team-oriented interaction that I find is most appropriate in the hands of Account Managers, is briefing - especially as it relates to marketing strategy.

    I have done a fair amount of work with both Account Management and Project Management colleagues at advertising agencies in delineating many of the role/responsibility distinctions during RACI workshops and in supporting documentation. Happy to share.

  3. Sounds really interessting with this RACI that you have done - please share :-)

  4. Happy to. Send your contact info to

  5. The agency I work for has a real problem understanding the PM role. I started the PM group in our interactive practice which has operated differently than the offline side of the agency. Now management wants us to integrate but the offline account managers see us as nothing more than traffic. Would you share your RACI with me as well?

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