Yet, if you want to locate London's best suits, you follow the great ads. This is what makes the top account executives utterly indispensable: in the interest of the client they will risk being hated to extract the best work from the creative department, but they also must persuade clients to take chances with ground-breaking advertising.
It is this duty to serve two masters that makes good account management such an art. Jeremy Miles, now the chairman of Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, was the account man on some of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's all-time great ads, working very much in partnership with David Abbott. Miles says the best suits have the total trust of the client as well as that of the creative department.
He recalls: "The Economist client nearly always gave the agency the benefit of the doubt because they trusted the account man."
But he adds: "A good relationship with the creative department is also crucial so that you can draw on the best talent in order to get the best work for the client. It is vital that creatives believe that, once you go out of the agency, you will do your utmost to ensure that the work runs."
In looking after the interests of the client, the better, and braver, account people will refuse to take what he or she believes to be sub-standard work and put it before a client.
This requires the best account people to be very good judges of what is or is not a strong advertising script. A suit with good judgment will earn the respect of his or her creative director and therefore have the kind of bargaining power needed to keep the client's interests at the heart of the proposed advertising campaign.
Charles Inge, the creative partner at Clemmow Hornby Inge, explains: "The best account people take their responsibility to the client very seriously and they inspire the creative department." Inge, a former Lowe creative director accustomed to working with the formidable Frank Lowe, refers to "Frank's trick" when he explains what makes a talented account man. The trick in Lowe's case was simply to repeatedly refuse to agree to show creative work to his clients. "He got the respect of everyone," Inge recalls.
Nevertheless, account men remain a detested breed, especially within the creative community. Chris O'Shea, a veteran creative and the head of the IPA's Creative Directors Forum, thinks this is a very unhealthy situation.
"Lots of creatives regard account people as the enemy, which is counter-productive. They do a very important job, particularly in selling the stuff. A good account person will put as much trouble and planning into selling an ad as the creative team puts into creating the ad. It's a military operation," he says.
"Treating them as the enemy often leads to excluding them from the creative process - you hear stories of account people being banned from creative floors - but that's stupid because when they are part of the team they have a vested interest in selling the campaign," he adds.
One of the reasons account people are unpopular is that the bad ones fuss around, get in the way and give the rest a bad name. O'Shea confirms this is the case, but points out that they will not get better until they are included in the creative process.
O'Shea feels so passionately about the subject that he plans to introduce a new category to the IPA's Best of the Best Awards later this year. You guessed it: best account management.
The account executives featured here have several traits in common: brains, love of advertising, vision and passion. The combination of such characteristics equips them to persuade the best work out of the creative department and to persuade clients to make the leap of faith required by the very best advertising campaigns.
SARAH GOLD - Age 31
Career history 1993-2002: Lowe (Weetabix, Heinekin, Reebok, Olympus, Orange); 2002 to date: Clemmow Hornby Inge (Britvic, Liverpool Victoria)
Sarah Gold was so pivotal on the Orange account when she was at Lowe that her resignation to join Clemmow Hornby Inge contributed to Lowe's decision to resign the £43 million business. She had the total faith of the client, Jeremy Dale. Her career to date is littered with clients who have trusted her enough to buy some of Lowe's finest creative campaigns: Reebok "belly", Weetabix "Withabix", and the Tony Kaye-directed Olympus film starring Joan Collins.
Charles Inge is a big fan: "Any bit of work she works on is the best the agency does that year. She's a very good judge of advertising and is often the first person I show scripts to." He was particularly impressed with the persuading job she did on "belly"("she got them to buy it against their wishes") and also recalls how, together with Lowe's managing director, Jeremy Bowles, she managed to convince a conservative German Olympus client to buy an English language spot, use Tony Kaye and then run it across Europe.
Paul Silburn, the deputy creative director of TBWA/London, worked with her when he was at Lowe. He says: "She takes it as personally as the creatives if an ad doesn't get bought."
To illustrate her commitment, Silburn tells a story about how when the notoriously hard-to-handle Naomi Campbell was cast in an Olympus ad, Gold attempted to befriend her and took up smoking to keep her company in breaks from shooting.
DAN WARRELL - Age 28
Career history 1998 to 1999: Leisure Process; 1999 to date: TBWA/London (five, Hutchison 3G, Marlboro)
Dan Warrell is proof that good account management is not a thing of the past. TBWA/London's joint managing director, Jonathan Mildenhall, and chairman, Trevor Beattie, are both impressed by young Warrell's achievements to date.
It was his success in persuading five to run a TV and cinema ad that marked him out for great things. Mildenhall recalls that five was planning a print-based relaunch, but Beattie's creative department went off brief and wrote the "morphing Michael Jackson" spot. Warrell realised that to persuade the client to buy a TV spot he would have to nullify any of the client's reservations before meeting him with the idea. He set about finding the budget and talking to five's media agency, Walker Media, about finding airtime before presenting his case.
TANYA LIVESEY - Age 30
Career history 1995-1999: Lowe (Stella Artois, Weetabix, Heineken); 1999 to date: HHCL Red Cell (Molsen Export, AA, Pot Noodle)
Steve Henry, the creative director of HHCL Red Cell, thinks it's Tanya Livesey's ability to convey that campaigns that push boundaries are part of a measured process, and not just the agency having a laugh, that sets her apart from her peers. This knack saw her convince the BACC and Unilever that "the slag of all snacks" was a serious marketing proposition for Pot Noodle. She also became embroiled in controversy in Canada when she had to persuade the local vetting authorities that the message that Molsen was a beer for people who've had too much sex was something their TV stations should be allowed to transmit. Henry adds: "What really marks her out is her inclusiveness and her vision for the end product."
Charles Inge worked with her at Lowe and remembers that she refused to take a Stella campaign to the client, saying "we can do better". What eventually emerged was the print campaign that won the Grand Prix in Cannes in 2001.
CLIVE TANQUERAY - Age 39
Career history 1987-1989: BBDO; 1989-1994: Ogilvy & Mather (Guinness, Golden Wonder); 1994-2003: AMV BBDO (Guinness, Sainsbury's, Wrangler); 2003: Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam (Nike)
Clive Tanqueray moves to Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam to run Nike this month, and, despite many years working in London advertising, has never had his picture appear in Campaign until now.
Yet he was the figure behind some of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's best recent campaigns, according to Farah Ramzan, the agency's managing director.
She explains that although he was not involved in Guinness' "swimblack", he inherited the account and persuaded the client to continue the "good things come to those who wait" campaign. This paved the way for the all-time great "surfer". Tanqueray shows his talent, however, when he explained that on Guinness it was better to let Tom Carty and Walter Campbell, the creative team, run the show. "It depends on the team. With Tom and Walt, you go with the flow. It involves reading people and knowing how they want to work," he says.
Tanqueray is proud of the "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" Wrangler spot he worked on with Nick Worthington and Paul Brazier. For this, Jonathan Glazer-directed film, he persuaded the client to sign off a massive £1.1 million production budget. Worthington is a fan. He says: "Clive gets excited, which is a rare thing. He has passion and says the unsayable."