Anomaly’s Johnson on the Joys of Being a ‘Suit’

NEW YORK Anomaly co-founder Carl Johnson, speaking at a daylong account management conference in midtown Manhattan today, argued that being a “suit” is the best job in the business. In fact, if he entered the business today, that’s the role he would choose.


Johnson cited the “all-access pass” nature of working in account management, the breadth and variety of tasks associated with the role and the “sheer unexpectedness” or unpredictability of it all. “It’s the agency’s only white-knuckle ride,” he said.

But the job’s virtues are also its challenges and you have to love being a suit to do it well, according to Johnson, who addressed a crowd of about 250 at the conference, which was hosted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies as part of Advertising Week.

“The problem is, it’s a damn difficult job,” said Johnson, who before Anomaly was worldwide chief operating officer at Omnicom Group’s TBWA in New York. “You have to love it because it’s painful, it’s difficult, you get a ton of abuse, you work hard.”

What’s more, if done badly, account management can be the worst job in the world. The key, according to Johnson, is to focus on what will drive client business, not keeping the client happy. Also: take responsibility for whatever happens.

“The fundamental principle is: It’s all down to you — good and bad,” said Johnson.

Johnson spoke during the afternoon session of the conference, which took place at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. Other speakers included Ogilvy & Mather worldwide CEO Shelly Lazarus, R/GA CEO Bob Greenberg and Starcom MediaVest CEO Laura Desmond.

The CEOs of McKinney in Durham, N.C., Colle + McVoy in Minneapolis and Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif., also reflected on how they’ve reshaped and modified the role of account management at their respective shops.