Home > Uncategorized > Mark Lund’s Advice To Suits

Mark Lund’s Advice To Suits

Mark Lund is, as most of you will know, the CEO of the Central Office of Information, the COI – in essence, the marketing department of the Government – and the man ultimately responsible for the largest advertising spend in the UK. A legendary Suit, he was, obviously enough, one of the founding partners of Delaney Lund Knox Warren, the Agency where I’ve worked for the last 5 and a half years; a large part of which I spent working with him, on Vauxhall, Opel and the RAF. For all those reasons, when he talks about how he thinks Agencies should work, it makes sense to sit up and listen.

I met up with Mark the week before last and we chatted. We talked about a lot of stuff, all of which is contained in an mp3 on my desktop, waiting for a weekend free of work (or tennis) so that I can transcribe it all, and write it up: we talked about his career in advertising, and how he’d ended up launching one of the most successful advertising agencies of the 21st Century; we talked about life at the COI, and the differences he was experiencing now he was sitting on the Client’s side of the fence; and we talked about the future of the industry, how he saw things panning out, and the role he envisaged Suits playing in that. All of these things will come up in posts over the next few weeks – it’s too much to cover off in one.

In this, though, the first of the Mark Lund posts, I wanted to run through some advice he gave to the Account Handling department at DLKW shortly before he left. Some parts of it will be familiar – for obvious reasons, he’s been quite a big influence on the way I believe the job of a Suit should be done. This post is based on the notes I took at the time – you’ll just have to imagine it delivered with the traditional Lundy pizazz…

1. Suits need to be the Big Bang. The natural state of the universe is inertia – the same is equally true of an Agency. Account Handling are responsible for getting everything moving – for being the catalyst in that initial reaction from which everything else originates. Without Account Handlers, nothing starts, and nothing happens. It’s a truism to say that there is never enough time, and never enough money – Suits are responsible for making sure that things happen regardless, and that stuff gets done. As Churchill once said (Lundy LOVES a Churchill reference), “History will not criticise us for doing too much.”

2. It is the job of a Suit to tell the truth in the best possible way – we are the ambassadors for the Agency with the Client, and responsible for reflecting and understanding the Client’s view within the Agency. This is not about being machiavellian, and it’s certainly not about lying: it’s about distillation of the truth, and ensuring that it’s represented in the most practical, pertinent and useful way.

3. A Suit should always have a point-of-view, and should be looking to add value at every stage of a process.You should have a view on everything, from the data through to the final work, via the complicated world of Client dynamics and politics – if you don’t have an opinion, you’re not adding any value, and there’s little point in you being there. (Choosing the appropriate time to express those views is, of course, a skill in and of itself…)

4. No Suit is an island. This is something I’ve touched upon before – we have to work together. Problem-solving is a group activity, and Suits should be responsible for harnessing the power of that group. Pitches are won and great work created by having the right people working together in the right way – the best Suits are selfless, and will lead that process.

5. You have to love the thing you’re making – you have to love the work. There are an infinite number of details involved in any kind of creative production, from the casting to the cut, the VO to the wardrobe, and a Suit has to care about each and every single one of them. That isn’t going to happen without an enormous amount of enthusiasm on your part – nobody else has to care as much, or for as long as the Suit does.

6. But that said, a Suit must maintain perspective, keeping enough separation from the creative work to allow him to do so. Mark illustrated this point with an anecdote about a group of people on the Melanesian Islands, who had ended up worshiping abandoned cargo planes – they had no idea what they were supposed to be used for, and so worshipped the form rather than the function. A Suit must NEVER forget that the most important, driving element in any brief is the Client business – we should always be conscious of that, and we should always ensure that it is that which is driving every decision.

7. The things we fear most in organisations – fluctuations, disturbances, imbalance – are the very things that drive creativity. As Suits, we have to get used to walking the wire, and to love the act of doing it – successful creativity is all about balancing and harnessing those disturbances, and we have to be the ones that take control of that.

8. Whatever the brief or business problem may be, we are always dealing with PEOPLE – a Suit is responsible for eradicating any ‘them and us’ thinking, be it between the Agency and the Client, or, equally importantly, internally. Relationships should always feel like two adults working together – there’s no room for parents or children in Advertising. This is true of relationships with Clients, Creatives, Planners and pretty much anyone else you care to mention.

9. The consumer is your new boss. They are also your old boss. The whole idea of interactive conversations or social media is not a new way of thinking – it’s just a modern acknowledgement that consumers have always controlled brands; that brands have only ever existed in the hearts and minds of consumers. The internet has given consumers a much quicker and more convenient way of sharing their thoughts, for better or worse. A good Suit remembers that the most important Client on any project is rarely sitting in the meeting room.

10. Ultimately, a Suit’s job is all about creating an atmosphere in which others can do stuff well – in which creative thinking and implementation can thrive under your encouraging eye. It is not about being the hero, it is not about taking the applause. Or, as he put it, “there is no limit to what you can achieve if you are prepared to let others take the credit.”

And there we go. He started the presentation by talking about Account Handling being far and away the most important part of the Agency – a department that has to be sensitive to, and good at, all the other things as well. As you might expect, it’s a view I wholeheartedly endorse.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 1, 2010 at 10:38 am

    A very conversant post Dan. Chats with prolific characters such as Mark always give rise to a pause for thought. It’s worth many in an agency, and indeed creatives, taking note. The harmonious relationships within an agency must be understood and nurtured. As in any relationship if this balance is upset – albeit with egos or misapprehensions – then open minds and progress are stalled.

    Greg, Mark, Tom and Richard have long understood such how collaborative minds benefit creativity, and importantly both client and agency profits.

  2. Bigalrick
    February 1, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Points 6 and 9 are two of the best things I’ve read on a advertising/marketing blog…well…ever.

    Very wise man that Mr. Lund.

    • February 8, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Glad you liked it – he is wise indeed. Or, as Bill Murray says in Groundhog Day, perhaps he’s just been around so long he knows everything? (Bill Murray was not talking about Mark Lund; he was talking about God. Mark Lund is not, to the best of my knowledge, God.)

  3. February 1, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Wise words, indeed. For me, point 3 is the critical one – too many suits see themselves as there to traffic information, between the client and the agency, rather than use their intelligence to shape it and ad value. Consequently, this forces them to rely on relationships forged out of friendship, rather than mutual respect.

    Obviously this excludes yourself, ALS.

  4. Nic
    February 2, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Agree with most of that. Apart fom the most important department part. Which is evidently nonsense.

    • February 8, 2010 at 10:27 am

      You have to remember that we were talking in the days when #mangojuice departments weren’t even a twinkle in Colman’s eye, Nic. That changed EVERYTHING.

  5. February 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Can’t agree more with points 3 and 6. As an anthropologist/market researcher, I got a kick out of the cargo cult analogy. Anyone is creative must always have a POV, if not, what are you getting paid for, processing numbers? Think about it.

  6. Frederik
    February 2, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    What mega agency of the 21st century did he set up? I’m intrigued….

    • February 8, 2010 at 10:25 am

      Oh, Frederik. You REALLY are too much.

  7. adam
    February 5, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Why not upload it to the site as a podcast? Life’s too short to transcribe.

    • February 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

      I’d love to – sadly, there were one or two off-the-record moments. Plus the sound quality is awful.

  8. dave trott
    February 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Personally I wish points 1 and 10 were made mandatory learning for all junior suits.
    And older suits had refresher courses in these two points.
    All great agencies start with suits like this.
    Mike Greenless used to say that everyone else is the bricks in the wall, the suits are the mortar.
    Great post.
    I will definitely nick point 6.

    • February 8, 2010 at 10:23 am

      Thanks very much, Dave – I appreciate that, and would be delighted if you nicked the cargo cult anecdote. In turn, I’m having the Greenless quote, so we’re even.

  9. Tim
    March 2, 2010 at 4:07 pm


    How would you feel about coming to the Baltic in Newcastle to discus such suit related wisdom? I’m producing an event as part of the Northern Lights Film Festival – all about ‘rule breakers and mischief makers’ I’d like to invite you along? Please twitter.com@chasinelvis to get in touch. Got all the details here if you’re interested. Regards Tim.

  10. nic
    March 25, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    sorry, late to this. the new world has nothing to do with my point. creative has always been more important than account handling. planning is now also more important than account handling. reception may also be.

  1. February 1, 2010 at 10:59 am
  2. February 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm

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