Karina Guerra is an Account Supervisor at Officer & Gentleman. Originally from Peru, she also worked in France and Italy before moving to Spain in 2019 and joining Off&Gent around two years ago.
LBB> How did you get involved in account management and what appealed to you?
Karina> I first became aware of account management by working on the client side. A few friends of mine worked in advertising agencies, mostly in creative and production, and it sounded 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 strategy to production, and I felt like I learned a lot more in the process.
LBB> What about your personality, skills and experience made account management such a good choice?
Karina> Being the youngest of five siblings taught me a lot. It taught me to be independent, which made me more willing to take responsibility with the projects and clients I was assigned to, which helped me earn the trust of my bosses. It also taught me to stick it out, which any account manager will tell you is an essential skill for dealing with customers, internal teams and vendors.
Living abroad and working in four different countries – Peru, France, Italy and Spain – also taught me a lot about empathy and adaptability. Listening to others and understanding their perspectives, needs and concerns makes it much easier to sell and defend the work and the reasoning behind it.
LBB> What advice would you give to someone 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 they don’t there’s no one to do it – even if you don’t know how to do it – take up the challenge.
Follow work and people. It’s easy to spot the agencies doing the most interesting and inspiring work. Try to get your foot in the door, find someone willing to teach you and bring you into important meetings, and the rest will follow.
Also, learning languages is a fantastic asset for account managers, the more you know the more doors (and markets) will open. And if you have the opportunity to work abroad, jump on it!
LBB> Thinking back to some of the toughest experiences you’ve had in your career, what do you think tends to be at the heart of the most strained or difficult client-agency relationships?
Karina> It is very difficult to establish and maintain a good client-agency relationship in the field of advertising. Our business is both a matter of subjectivity and a matter of trust. We are not coders or engineers who can instantly gauge the success rate of what they post. We don’t launch rockets, we launch advertisements. It takes a lot of guts, experience, and even a bit of foresight for marketers to see how an intangible idea we present in a deck could solve a very real 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; prove to our clients that we are not just frustrated vendors or artists or rogue agents with a separate agenda. If we behave like partners who understand their business and the challenges they face, we will all be headed in the same direction.
Clients have the right to be cautious and it is our responsibility to show them how the decisions they make will lead to success. What’s great today is that we have plenty of tools to prove it to them: data on their consumers and their products, on the results of the campaigns we run, case studies, etc.
LBB> What is your view on disagreement and emotion – is there a place for it and if not, why not? If so, why – and what does a productive disagreement look like?
Karina > As I said, we don’t work in a 100% objective business, our job is to make consumers feel something about brands and products, so we can only hope that our meetings become passionate and emotional. The best ideas tend to polarize, so we must accept and welcome disagreements and constructive discussions between us and our customers. There is nothing wrong with saying “no” as long as it is followed by “but…”. A productive and rational disagreement can open new creative doors and help us better understand what the brand and our customers really need.
LBB> Historically, account management has been characterized as the mediator in an adversarial and creative customer relationship – what do you think of this characterization, is there a nugget of truth in it or is it wildly inaccurate?
Karina> It’s true to say that we are mediators, that we are like the airlock of a spaceship, sealing the pressure on both sides so that it does not contaminate the work and that everyone can do their job properly. We are also interpreters who make sure everyone speaks the same language. I think some relationships can still be adversarial, some clients and agencies clearly have separate agendas and aren’t being honest with each other and that surely explains the amount of bad publicity that surrounds us. But I think those adversarial relationships are fading, CMOs come and go, there’s more and more project work, and for better or worse, when relationships don’t work, they just break down.
LBB> Agencies these days go far beyond traditional campaigns and as account managers you bring together creative, experience, data, e-commerce, social media and more – and that complexity can often also be reflected on the customer stakeholder side? What is the key to navigating (and helping the customer navigate) through this complexity?
Karina> We have to be honest with ourselves and with our customers. Advertising is becoming more and more complex, brands have more and more ground to cover and more tools available, and you can’t be an expert in everything. That’s what I like about working in an independent agency: we know and own our expertise and our limits and we like to collaborate. Our responsibility to our clients and their brands is that our campaign messages are clear and consistent, regardless of channel or medium. Fortunately, we work with many brands and produce campaigns throughout the year. So we have the experience to guide our clients through these complexities and bring together the right partners with the right skills to create the best campaigns possible.
LBB> Which recent projects are you most proud of and why? What was difficult about these projects from an account management perspective and how did you overcome these 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 competes with industry giants such as Chrome and Safari, but they understand that creativity and public relations are an effective way to generate awareness and attract new users to their product. Together we’ve created a housing estate for gamers fleeing to the tax haven of Andorra, promoted a fictional anti-rabies checker to highlight mental health issues in games, and most recently partnered with TikTok and BlindWarriorSven, a visually impaired gamer, to raise awareness of accessibility in games.
Of course, working with Pornhub is both fun and challenging because it’s a client that can’t communicate through traditional media channels. You have to find ways to weave your way 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.