I recently talked to an account man who was reminiscing about his time at Saatchis.

He was junior account man there when his client warned him their Chairman was coming into fire the agency.

The junior account man thought “I’m not taking the blame for that” so he went to see Saatchi’s CEO, Tim Bell, and asked him to come along to the meeting.

The Chairman came in looking like thunder, he said the campaign Saatchi presented was theexact same campaign that he’d turned down the previous year.

If that was all the effort Saatchi’s was going to make, he was taking the business away.

Then Tim Bell spoke, he said he understood why the client had turned down the campaign the previous year.

Although it was a very good campaign the time wasn’t right.

Tim understood the economic conditions would have placed a lot of pressure on the client’s business and, however good the campaign was, it was a risk at the time.

Tim said the economic conditions had changed over the last twelve months and they purposely presented the campaign again because it made more sense to run it now.

Tim said how smart the client had been in waiting for the right time to run the it and they were glad he did.

The Chairman’s mood changed, Saatchi kept the account and they ran the campaign.

The point of the story is, as they were leaving the meeting, the junior account man quietly said to Tim “I didn’t know we’d presented that campaign before”.

Tim said “No, neither did I”.

That story illustrates the role Tim Bell had in building Saatchi & Saatchi.

He sold work that other account men couldn’t sell.

Creatives can write the best campaign in the world, but if it never runs it isn’t advertising.

That’s what the best account men did, they made the best work run.

Mike Greenlees told me his favourite story about Frank Lowe.

CDP had just shot the most expensive commercial ever, for B&H in Arizona.

Now they had to present the finished film to the client.

Frank sat next to the client as the agency producer played the video.

When the lights came up, the client said he had a problem with a certain edit.

Frank Lowe said “Yes I wondered about that too.”

He said to the producer “Play it again 3 times without stopping and let’s see if we’re right”.

The producer played the film 3 times, Frank turned to the client and said “No I think we were wrong, I think it’s okay.”

That film ran in cinemas everywhere, it won every prize, and actually changed the way everyone made advertising commercials.

All because Frank Lowe got it to run.

Mike Greenlees used to say, “It’s okay to argue with the client but you’ve got to stop before they say no.

As long as they haven’t said no you can come back and try again, but once they’ve said no it’s almost impossible to retrieve it.”

I always knew getting a great account man was crucial to starting an agency.

Creatives always think great work will sell itself, which is why so much great work never sees the light of day.

Clients often don’t know what’s a great ad, they’ve never been trained in it.

That’s why Paul Simons’ mantra was:

“The client knows what they want. The agency knows what they need.

It’s the account man’s job to get the client to want what they need.”

Juan Fangio used to say: “All drivers want to drive for Ferrari because he has the fastest cars so they can win races.”

The same way all creatives want to work with an account man who can get their ads to run.