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The Art of Account Management: Why Karina Guerra Is Standing Her Ground

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Officer & Gentleman's account supervisor on switching sides, being helpful and resourceful and why being an account manager is like being a mediator

The Art of Account Management: Why Karina Guerra Is Standing Her Ground

Karina Guerra is an account supervisor at Officer & Gentleman. Originally from Peru, she also worked in France and Italy before establishing herself in Spain in 2019 and joining Off&Gent some two years ago.


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

Karina> I first became aware of account management while working on the client side. A few friends of mine worked at ad agencies, mostly in creative and production, and it looked like an exciting work environment. I finally decided to 'switch sides' because it would give me the opportunity to work on more diverse assignments, from the strategy all the way to the production, and I felt like I’d learn a lot more in the process.


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

Karina> Being the youngest of five siblings taught me a great deal. It taught me to be independent which made me more eager to take on responsibility with the projects and clients I was assigned to which helped me to gain the trust of my bosses. It also taught me to stand my ground, which any account manager will tell you is an essential skill for dealing with clients, internal teams, and vendors.

Living abroad and working in four different countries – Peru, France, Italy and Spain – has also taught me a great deal about empathy and adaptability. Listening to others and understanding their points of view, needs and worries makes it so much easier to sell and defend the work and the reasoning behind it.

 

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

Karina> Be helpful and resourceful. Don’t just do your job or what you were hired to do, but if you see that someone needs help or you find yourself in a situation where something needs to be done and there’s no one to do it – even if you don’t know how to do it – take on the challenge.

Follow the work and the people. It’s easy to spot the agencies that are doing the most interesting and inspiring work. Try to get your foot in the door, find someone who’s willing to teach you and get you in the important meetings and the rest will follow.

Also, learn languages, they’re a fantastic asset for account managers, the more you know the more doors (and markets) will open. And if you’ve got the opportunity to work abroad, jump on it!

 

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?

Karina> It’s very hard to build and nurture a good client-agency relationship in advertising. Ours is both a business of subjectivity and a business of trust. We’re not coders or engineers that can instantly evaluate the success rate of what they put out. We don’t launch rockets, we launch ads. It takes a lot of guts, experience, and even a bit of clairvoyance for marketers to see how an intangible idea we pitch in a deck could solve a very concrete business problem.

 

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

Karina> The key to building a productive relationship is empathy, trust, and clarity; proving to our clients that we’re not simply suppliers or frustrated artists or rogue agents with a separate agenda. If we behave like partners that understand their business and the challenges they face, then we’ll all move in the same direction.

Clients have a right to be risk averse and it’s our responsibility to show them how the decisions they’re making will lead to success. What’s great nowadays is that we’ve got plenty of tools to prove it to them: Data about their consumers and products, about the results of the campaigns we make, case studies, etc.

 

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?

Karina> As I said, we do not work in a 100% objective business, our job is to make consumers feel something about brands and products, so we can only hope our meetings get passionate and emotional. The best ideas tend to be polarizing so we should accept and welcome disagreement and constructive discussions between ourselves and our clients. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘no’ as long as it’s followed by 'but…'. Productive and rational disagreement can open new creative doors and help us better understand what the brand and our clients really need.

 

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?

Karina> It’s true to say that we’re mediators, that we’re like the airlock in a spaceship, sealing the pressure out from both sides so that it doesn’t contaminate the work and everyone can do their job correctly. We’re also interpreters that make sure everyone speaks the same language. I think some relationships may still be adversarial, some clients and agencies clearly still have separate agendas and aren’t being truthful to one another and that surely accounts for the quantity of bad advertising that surrounds us. But I think these adversarial relationships are fading, CMOs come and go, there’s more and more project-based work, and for better or for worse, when relationships don’t work out, they just are put to an end.

 

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?

Karina> We need to be honest with ourselves and our clients. Advertising is getting more and more complex, brands have more and more ground to cover and tools available and we can't be experts at everything. That’s what I love about working at an indie agency: we know and own our expertise and our limits and we love to collaborate. Our responsibility to our clients and their brands is for our campaign messages to come through clearly and consistently no matter the channel or media. Luckily, we work with many brands and produce campaigns all year long so we have the experience to walk our clients through those complexities and bring together the right partners with the right skill sets to create the best campaigns possible.

 

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?

Karina> Lately, I’ve really enjoyed working with Opera GX (a browser for gamers), creating content and activations to help them attract new users. It’s a brand that’s competing with industry giants such as Chrome and Safari, but they understand that creativity and PR are an effective way to generate awareness and attract new users to their product. Together, we’ve created a housing development for gamers escaping to the tax haven of Andorra, promoted a fictional rage-proof controller to highlight mental health issues in gaming and, most recently, we partnered with TikTok and BlindWarriorSven, a visually impaired gamer, to raise awareness about accessibility in gaming.

Of course, working with Pornhub is also both fun and challenging as it’s a client that can’t communicate on traditional media channels. You’ve got to find ways to sneak into pop culture and that’s what Officer & Gentleman has been helping the brand do for years, through the pandemic, entertainment or even helping them create new types of content.

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Officer & Gentleman, Fri, 11 Nov 2022 13:50:24 GMT