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Becoming a Strategic Partner and AOR for a Line of Business

As a 17-year veteran of account management for pharmaceutical advertising, I have learned that your ability to think strategically is key to being successful. The number of creative concepts presented, or the analysis and understanding of the science behind a brand, is what will secure the business. While these contribute to the success of the account and the team, the relationship and ability to connect on a personal level is what really seals the deal.

Having your team embedded in the business you support, fully understanding the company your clients work for and their mission and goals, living that mission and supporting those goals yourself are all invaluable to an in-house team. Being where your clients are when they need you is an essential advantage for an in-house team. After all, you are not a vendor, but a colleague.

Merck Creative Studios (MCS) was recently named “Lead Creative Agency” for a group of brands that are part of the Merck Animal Health division. Recently, colleagues have asked, “What did you do? How did you get the coveted ‘seat at the table?’ What ‘s the secret?”

This win came about through being on location and it took time, more than four years, to be honest. It has taken determination, hard work, time and being present. A little over a year ago, I was in the office and a client asked me to introduce myself to one of her colleagues. I stopped by his office and, to his amazement, said I was part of MCS, the in-house agency team. He said, “I knew it! There had to be an in-house team here!”

As he (and almost his entire team) was new to the organization, being there that day made something easier for him. I gave him the elevator speech about what MCS could do, scheduled a capabilities presentation for his team of 10 the following week and walked out of his office with our first job. Fast-forward 10 months or so, and we’ve provided flawless customer service and quality work, but more importantly, we’ve been there. The clients saw my face and those of my team regularly and stopped us in the hallway to chat, ask for help or request work.

Additionally, a client we had been working with on a limited basis had begun to realize the benefit of working with our team and requested a capabilities presentation. She had had a rough year with her AOR and wanted to know if MCS could take on the lead role. That conversation, which happened when I “stopped by,” lead to MCS being appointed the new lead agency for her brands.

The ability to make their office your office and their business your business is where relationships start. Being a part of their everyday lives and seeing the faces of your team builds relationships. Never underestimate the power of “stopping by.”


Jennifer Mans

Jennifer is an account lead for Merck Creative Studios and has been with the company for five years. Jennifer currently supports the Merck Animal Health division and leads a dedicated team of project managers and creatives. Prior to joining Merck, Jennifer spent 12 years in pharmaceutical advertising working at Torre Lazur McCann and Ogilvy CommonHealth.