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Client services director or just bag carrier

'Bag carrier', a dismissive nickname given to client services director by disgruntled creatives. Is this a true definition or simply sour grapes from a creative who has had their work rejected by a client once too often? asks Lucilla Duarte, client services director at MRM Partners.

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The role of client services director obviously varies between marketing disciplines and from agency to agency. But I think it is time someone tried to set the record straight regarding what their true position is.

The client services director has one of the most disciplined job descriptions within any agency. After all, their role is not just about dealing with clients -- a client services director has a duty to inspire their own team. The role requires a strong business sense, excellent interpretation skills, creativity, time management and a highly professional attitude. These are needed to ensure that both the creative team within the agency and the client themselves are well informed and know exactly what each can offer to work in an effective partnership.

A client services director is a frontline employee. He or she is the interface between agency and client and must at all times demonstrate an excellent understanding of the client's business and the marketplace within which they operate. It is the client services director's role to provide an insight into where the client's brand sits in the customer's mind and he or she has to know what connects brands to individuals. Ultimately, with the creative team, he or she has to create a campaign that demonstrates sound business acumen coupled with outstanding creative.

Of course, it is the relationship between account handling and creative that has in the past generated the most interest. In my view, it is vital that both parties work together from the start of a creative brief to ensure that it remains on track at all times. The client services director acts as a mediator between client and creative and both parties need to understand what the other is trying to achieve, keeping in mind at all times the dictum of "on brief, on time and on budget".

The client services director also has a vital role to play when it comes to evaluation -- while coming in on budget is a necessity, in the direct marketing world, it is cost per acquisition that really counts. For a client, cost efficiency is everything, and it is down to the client services director to ensure that expectations are set at a realistic level and are met.

The way in which clients and agencies work together is changing. Meetings involving PR, direct marketing, above the line, sales promotion, etc, are increasingly common -- with different disciplines working together to achieve a more holistic solution to a client issue. Where there may have been an unspoken pecking order in the past, there is, certainly in meetings that I have attended more recently, increasing debate and discussion amongst agency representatives. Strategy is no longer being exclusively led by advertising. This means that the client services director, as the agency representative, has a valuable opportunity to influence the direction of the brand strategy.

Ultimately, the role of the client services director is an extremely exciting one that requires a diverse blend of skills. Yes, he or she needs to be an effective negotiator, but equally important is business and financial acumen when it comes to delivering an effective campaign. The result? RIP the bag carrier epithet.

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