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The name game

By Tom Powell

Can changing a title change behaviour? Actually, it just might, says head of copy Tom Powell.

“The time to move from Client Servicing to Client Leadership is now.”


We recently had our monthly Huddle. If you don’t know what the Huddle is, it’s a chance for everyone in the agency to get together, share work, introduce new programmes, update on pitches etc… You get the idea.


It was here that Joe Braithwaite, our Managing Director, stood up and made an announcement.


“Our client’s business is being disrupted, media is being disrupted and our industry is being disrupted. In a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, leadership is not simply a useful personality trait, it’s a specialism. If we want to lead the charge, lead our industry and lead our clients, we have to focus on building up this specialism. Training for it, recognising it and rewarding it. The time to move from Client Servicing to Client Leadership is now.”


In a nutshell, we’re changing a title. How very advertising.


If you think that sounds cynical, you’d be right. If you’ve spent a few years in the industry, you’ll have been subjected to your fair share of initiatives that reposition, rename and reframe. Invariably, the emperor has just popped on some new clothes.  




There was something different about this one. An itch that wouldn’t go away. A persistent little tickle. After some reflection, the answer was obvious.


It’s great. Really great actually. A bloody brilliant idea. There are a number of reasons for this, but let’s start with the self-evident.


The title. The industry standard of ‘Account Services’, ‘Client Services’ or ‘Account Management’. As naming conventions go, all slightly servile. And the accepted status quo for decades. So from a language perspective, the new title nails it. With bells on.


Now go back and re-read Joe’s words. They’re worth scrutinising, especially this phrase: “…lead the charge, lead our industry and lead our clients.” Now THAT is a call-to-arms. If the change in name defines the purpose, this defines the ambition. And blimey, what an aspiration to get behind.


Katy Nyman, Head of Client Leadership, perfectly summed it up: “We hold our clients’ ambition, our creative people’s ambition, our planners’ too. And we hold the agency’s ambition. We’re the holders and shapers of these things.”


Joe and Katy really can write. Bastards.


The cynics will say it’s lofty, sub-Henry V baloney. Fine. As an industry, we revel in reminiscing about the good old days. How ‘the suits’ were infinitely better. Maybe they were, maybe there weren’t. It doesn’t really matter because what does matter is the here and now. That’s what makes Joe’s words so powerful and, attitudinally, a complete break from the past.


Joe also used a description we never hear: specialism. Eh? Define Client Leadership as a specialism? That would mean those who work in it are actually specialists at what they do. Well crack open the champers, get out the bunting and put on S Club 7’s Greatest Hits. Because working with specialists, those with a complete command and grasp of what they do, will make us all better.


But how do we actually achieve that level of specialism? Again, Joe is clear about what’s required.


“…Training for it, recognising it and rewarding it.”


Let’s be honest – there’s no shortcut or magic wand. This is going to be a challenge. A whopping one in fact.


A challenge we all can, and should, wholeheartedly support.


In time, we will be an agency of leaders. Quite a title.

Tom Powell is Head of Copy at Proximity London