I’ve nearly always had a very tough time explaining my job to anyone outside the world of advertising.
When I first started out in account services, it was difficult enough to explain my job. “Account (coordinator/manager/supervisor/director), what does that mean?” I’d get asked by everyone from my mother to my friends in more tangible fields like medicine or law. Some folks would confuse the role with that of an account manager in a sales organization; others would assume that every advertising job was in the creative department. Over the years, I tested out various answers to this question, the most expedient of which might have been “I’m a juggler in a 3-ring circus”. But, as a great scene in this week’s episode of Mad Men shows us, the job of account man (or woman) has been around for decades and has been misunderstood for just about the same length of time:
Pete Campbell: “So, I manage those accounts.”
Émile Calvet: “I don’t understand. What do you do every day?”
Pete Campbell: “Well, what do you do? You’re a scholar and an intellectual, right? Actually, from what I hear, you’re a bit of a trailblazer. [ . . . ] I bet the world would be better off if they knew about the work you were doing.
Emile: You are very kind.
Pete: That, Émile, is what I do every day.
– Mad Men, Season 5
Strategic planning has always been a core component of my job, but it’s only in the past few years that the word “strategist” has appeared on my business cards. And here, it seems, I’ve finally found a title that’s even tougher to explain than account services.