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Job Description of an Account Executive

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It is the job of the account executive to efficiently bridge the functional gap between the product manager (sporting a gray pin-strip suit, white shirt, wing-tip shoes, briefcase, Wall Street Journal, and computer-printed ROI estimates) and the creative specialist [dressed in a Hawaiian luau shirt, blue jeans, sandals, baseball cap, and Rollin Stone) to enable the best efforts of each to be attained.

The account executive is in a very real sense the person in the middle. To the client, the account executive represents and embodies the advertising agency. To the agency, the account executive acts as an envoi from the client. The account executive must act in three capacities: communications channel, program contributor, and project coordinator.
  • Let us assume a fictitious example-the relationship between the brand manager for Reese's® Peanut Butter Cups* and the account executive (AE).

  • In a meeting the two discuss the need for some sort of summer time promotion to get sales up. The brand manager describes the budget constraints and sales goals.

  • The AE meets with the account supervisor, recounts the conversation, and suggests some preliminary ideas. Through channels, an art director, copywriter, and media analyst-buyer are assigned.

  • The AE arranges a meeting with the art director, copywriter, and media analyst-buyer. Again the discussion with the brand manager: is recounted. Preliminary ideas are reviewed. Tentative plans are made for the next meeting when account proposals will be evaluated. The AE suggests something like "put a Reese's® in your freezer."

  • At the subsequent meeting, the art director and copywriter lay out their ideas on the creative, working on the theme "Reese's® Freezes.' Specific copy, rough sketches, and story boards are reviewed.

  • *Any similarity between these peanut butter cups and actual peanut buttercups, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  • There are two targets-mothers with children from ages five to fourteen and the children themselves. The media analyst or buyer suggests a combination of women's magazines, "kid-vid" prime time on Saturdays, spot TV prime time for families, and radio "top 20" for teens. The initial budget and production requirements are discussed.

  • The AE evaluates the creative and media plans and makes suggestions and criticisms. "Reese's® Freezes" is okay, but a second execution should be developed "just in case." Late night weekend TV might help the over-teen market, and point-of-purchase materials should be considered. The sales promotion personnel will be in on the next meeting.

  • The AE and the brand manager informally meet to discuss the progress made thus far. The brand manager assures the AE that everyone on the client side is gung-ho on the concept. The brand manager likes "Reese's® Freezes" but says that it doesn't seem "quite right."

  • The AE stops by to see the art director and asks for a push on the second execution. The media buyer-analyst, sales promotional personnel, and production specialists call to ask for a postponement of the meeting. They have not been able to make sufficient progress on the point-of-purchase materials because of responsibilities to other accounts. The AE reschedules for Thursday and calls the art director to let her know.

  • The art director stops by to ask if polar bears like chocolate. The AE isn't sure if this is a joke or what.

  • Thursday's meeting is a good one. The second execution is "Freez-A-Reese's®". The polar bear idea is never brought up. (Much to the relief of the AE.) All parties leave to put finishing touches to their work.

  • The AE meets with the account supervisor; they discuss the current status and set time for client presentation.

  • AE conducts presentation, calls upon media and productions specialist as required to explain technical aspects. Overall theme well received, but portions of execution both creative and media are strongly rejected.

  • In "post-mortem" meeting, the changes are discussed, criticized, and contemplated. The AE asks for drafts by next Wednesday. Not a bad showing, but could've gone smoother.

  • The AE and brand manager discuss the presentation and changes. A time is tentatively arranged to review the new work after Wednesday.

  • Following the review, additional "adjustments" are deemed necessary on the print advertisements. The account executive visits the art director and copywriter to inform them of the changes and to commiserate about the hard time they are having.

  • The subsequent meeting with the client goes well, and the campaign is sent into production. The AE meets with the production department to discuss shooting dates, the relative merits of various artists and production companies. Timetables are reviewed.

  • The ten-second radio spots don't "pick up" properly in reproduction and have to be retaken. The TV shots go well. A second round of frill advertisements is requested because of poor color reproduction.

  • The media buy is successful but slightly over budget because c changes in TV ratings and schedules. The AE advises the brand manager and talks over the options.

  • The convenience stores in Milwaukee are missing their point-of purchase materials. The AE calls the traffic department and tell them to ship new packets.

  • Campaign breaks! The AE calls the brand manager, "Did you see the TV spots last night?"
The balance among the three capacities (communications channel, program contributor, and project coordinator) changes, of course with the nature of the product and market, the demands of the client and the internal relationships and organization of the agency. But the demands on the account executive in terms of skills remain the same. The account executive position is frequently stressful and always complex. Without question, the job is visible and rewarding. [But if you don't thrive on stress, deadlines, and pressure, you may as well make reservations now for your rubber room!)
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