McGarry Bowen Vs. Mother: A Study In Contrasts

Reading through AdAge this week, which highlights agencies of the year, I noticed an interesting contrast in McGarry Bowen, AdAge’s Agency of the Year, and Mother, Creativity Agency of the Year.
Here’s a bit from the McGarry profile, focusing on great account service as a hallmark of the agency:

“He is a class act and consummate professional,” said Verizon’s exec VP-chief marketing officer, John Stratton, of Mr. McGarry, who is renowned in the business as the epitome of the courtly, old-school account man. “He worked for two and half years to maintain the relationship, despite what were probably hard feelings. … John really understands how to manage relationships well. It’s not overbearing, but he doesn’t fall off the radar screen long enough that you forget about him and his company.”

And Mother? Well, they don’t have account people:

The agency’s account-people-less structure, (Agency Co-ECD Linus) Mr. Karlsson said, empowers creatives, who end up getting more involved in clients’ businesses. “[Account management] is a discipline that everyone in that group shares,” he said. “It’s one little thing but it forces everyone, including creatives, to not just be in their own world.” And along with dedicated account managers, Mother eschews a top-down management style. “We think that no one else should represent anyone else’s point of view. If you have a question about something that was written you talk to the person who wrote it. That engages the people who work on an account.”

I guess there’s something to be said for both approaches. Either way, you have to get involved in your client’s business. I’ve always tried to understand how my clients work, the market they’re in, and what they need to make money. And still I meet people in the ad business who don’t seem to care one way or another–choosing to focus on ideas solely, not the client’s business situation.
Is there an approach you prefer?



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.