Meet Frances Angus – she’s the Account Director at BnBC. Gutsy, strong-minded and armed with a decade of knowledge, she’s been in the whirlwind of advertising long enough to conquer the ropes around this competitive business.
Spearheading our team of suits (the servicing squad), she’s finally settled after making her comeback to BnBC for the third time. That’s right – the third time.
“I have the best team to work with. I’m everyone’s mother apparently,” she says of our close-knit team. But don’t let this mother-of-one’s maternal nature fool you, because underneath her warming presence, she’s our hard-hitting and fearless head of suits.
No doubt, client servicing is key in advertising – they’re the front-liners when it comes to keeping the business afloat, taking lead when it comes to the clientele. But contrary to the stereotypical description, being a suit is much more than just meeting clients and typing out briefs.
Commenting on this matter, she states: “[People think] that we’re afraid of the client and that we don’t have much work beside doing briefs all day long. Not true at all.”
Almost on a weekly basis, we’ll see her armoured with her best outfits, ready to meet or pitch to clients – old and new. Despite the movies and the advertising typecast, it’s not just about the art of convincing and after-work drinks; they weave their PR skills, advertising abilities, marketing chops and even salesmanship all under one title.
“Marketers were doing their jobs then, now we’re doing theirs. The quality of a client’s brief has dropped tremendously or to NIL,” she comments. “We had the respect of clients coming to us for our expertise [before], now we’re the magicians.”
Her advice when handling such a hefty role? “Have passion, curiosity and common sense. Be willing to take the hit from creative and clients and if you have thick skin and balls – great!” she exclaims.
By “thick skin and balls”, she basically means facing the music when things go south because managing the opinions of many, along with your own, is no easy task. Just like any other relationship in life, perceptions are bound to clash and when it does in advertising, suits serve as the middle agent that neutralises the ‘war’ between the agency and the client.
While managing conflict is undoubtedly a tricky situation, she advises: “When being objective with clients, they understand that I would not need to be there trying to convince them an idea, if not for them actually wanting it in the first place – it’s a mind-game. But always with a smile!”
But what’s the worse thing that could happen to a suit? “[When] you have diarrhoea when stuck in a jam to a meeting,” she jokingly answers before furthering, “As a suit, not having a pen. We write everything down.”
The biggest challenge yet – in her eyes – she says: “clients are not daring enough to be bold and to trust the work.” Hence, this is one big factor as to the importance of a great servicing team. Client-agency relationship management is imperative, as agencies need to gain the trust of a client for the client to actually trust our opinion and ideas. And establishing this, is another difficult task on her plate.
There are, of course, changes in the advertising era today versus years ago. “We were jacks-of-all-trades then, even dispatchers. Now everything is so easy, it is all online and with a click of a button – this younger generation are rather spoilt for choice,” she says.
The main difference nowadays, are with the clients themselves. With the evolution of technology, clients are becoming harder to bait. “We could work a 360 campaign with the right partners for a better campaign – media or production, but now, clients go straight for the cheaper [alternative],” she summaries. “Now, everyone [the clients] is a creative or has a creative department.”
Though this only makes her job a greater challenge and a little crazy hectic, she has managed to climb the corporate ladder with a good work-life balance – which in advertising sometimes can be a bit tough to achieve, as we’re known for the long hours. She contributes this to “time management and a trust-worthy team that supports you and vice versa. We all have a life but with good time management, the hours are not all that long.”
Conversely, making her way to Account Director wasn’t an overnight miracle, because like the rest of the working population, the climb to the top starts from the bottom.
She was first exposed to advertising during her foundation years at Taylor’s University Business School and with that, she pursued and graduated with a double degree in Marketing and Advertising from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
“When I did my two years at University of Technology Sydney, I had great exposure to the idea of creative work, strategies, ideation, and conquering ‘The Brief’ – that’s when I knew I chose the right line to be in,” she remembers.
Returning to Malaysia as a fresh graduate, she first applied to BnBC Advertising in 2005 via snail mail – the main medium of job applications back then – and within two weeks after the interview, she was offered a job at BnBC Events & Production; our assistant company. Regardless of the fact that it wasn’t the advertising side, she accepted.
Recalling her experience she says: “I was young and energetic then. I handled Digi’s Nationwide EDGE Roadshow, 3MOG launch and premieres, Sampoerna Nationwide Tour (SCCT 1, 2 & 3), HOUSE Of BOSCH and many more.”
However, due to the slowing down of events, she was finally given the chance she’d initially applied for – joining the advertising side of BnBC.
But being an ambitious young gun, she craved to explore the industry. So, after three and half years at BnBC, she resigned. “Being young and naïve then, you absorb everything pretty fast. But after three and half years, I was burnt out,” she says.
She went on to join the AMP Astro Radio’s Sales team, a similar but seemingly different job scope. But within just a couple of months delving into the world of sales, she started to realise that her heart wasn’t in it recollecting, “I cared more for the idea than the sale I secured or could broadcast; the people were great but I was unhappy – I lasted short of a year.”
It was then BnBC Advertising reached out to her with an offer, and while still trying to figure her path, she took job anyway knowing that she wasn’t even near ready to settle down. “By then, I was more exposed to the industry and I wanted to challenge myself to venture into an international agency,” she expresses.
So, on the day of her three-month confirmation at BnBC, she declined the offer and embarked on a quest to secure a position at one of the world’s largest international agency – Ogilvy & Mather (O&M).
“I liked their colour – Red & Black, coincidentally mine [favourite colours]. Superficial but I was drawn to O&M,” she reasons. Applying to O&M through a friend, she managed to secure a position at the advertising giant – but for a pay cut. Nevertheless, she went on to sign on the dotted line.
Expectantly, she was assigned to Maxis saying: “[I knew] if I were to join [O&M], I would be handling a Telco and I knew it would be Maxis. They would say back then “if you handle Telco, Airlines, Banks or Property accounts – you won’t have a life’”.
Undeterred, she began her journey into the big leagues and found herself “culturally shocked with the processes,” she recalls. “I realised they had specific departments to do the various jobs I was solely doing myself in BnBC – I only had to do servicing. Easy right? No. In Maxis, every deadline was a yesterday and it was broken into different key suits on Brand, Postpaid Acquisition, Broadband, Business and Loyalty.”
Led by the “most knowledgeable but most difficult client”, she handled Postpaid Acquisition, Loyalty and Business guided by her then Account Director who she calls, “the best mentor”. Under his strong leadership, she was moulded into a multitasking super suit. “I had trainings, insights, webinars and case studies – any kind of resources I required,” she reminisces.
After losing Maxis, she was assigned to handle the pitch for BMW Malaysia as the sole account management. With previous experience in handling the high-status account at BnBC (BMW Malaysia was our client for four years), she brought the team to victory.
Later on, she moved to handling Nestle in the launch of their new healthy variants 3in1 segment – MILO UHT, MILO Cans, BLISS yogurt and Nestle Omega Plus.
Remembering her experience with the food and beverage corporation, she says: “There were proper research and development, workshops and insights with agencies before a product or communication was launched.”
While that was perfect on brand level, she had no interests in the backend and decided to leave her O&M days behind. Subsequently, BnBC approached her for a third time with an offer she couldn’t refuse – to lead the account management department (her current role). And having just had a son, she gladly accepted, knowing that the flexible hours would allow her some family time.
Today, she counts her blessing for starting with a medium-sized agency, having learnt the best of the basics by “multi-tasking 360 [degrees] of the ropes from ideation, strategies, paperwork, creative, production, colour separation, being a dispatch and more,” she says. “There was no digital then. Everything was in print – even WIP’s were printed – or film base. You also had to dispatch yourself to media owners!”
She even still remembers her first creative brief like it was just yesterday saying,“I stared at my desktop for an hour! That’s how much degrees give you – certificates are nothing in this industry. The passion, the curiosity, the common sense are.”
Growing up, she’s always looked to her father as her inspiration and encouragement, as he’s moulded her into an open-minded individual – a trait you need to have in this line – while always supporting her to pursue a path in line with what she loves.
“We always had cycling trips to wherever he wanted to go and I would tag along on my own little BMX,” she reminisces. “He would make me see the bigger picture of life through those kampung [rural] roads – the kind people we meet, to see nature, animals and the outback all in my hometown, Taiping.”
But who influenced her directly into advertising? “My ex-Account Director; Darren Ho,” she answers. “He’s a small man, with a smart brain and a big heart; he really inspired me and taught me the tricks of the trade in this industry.”
Contrariwise, she hasn’t always pictured herself here. In fact, she’s mentioned that she wanted to be a judge, a professional tennis player, a lead guitarist in a rock band and a florist, but her biggest dream is to open her own zoo, a “Noah’s Ark on land,” she calls it.
“When I was in Sydney, I wanted to be a zoo cleaner in Taronga zoo,” she says. “I want to work and live in my own Yellowstone-National-Park–sort-of haven.”
Well, with a go-getting mind, who knows? She might just own that zoo because she’s Frances Angus.
To end this, here are Frances’ Five Rules To A Good Suit:
- Kindness– When people know that you truly care, they will be more willing to work with you to achieve your objectives.
- Courage– To say no, or to say yes. Or to take the team or client past their comfort zone. With courage, there’s no limit as to for far one can go.
- A Sense of Humour– Never take things personally, so you can always keep yourself separate from the chaos. It’s important to stay sane, because something is always bound to go wrong.
- Being Aware Of Your Surroundings– It’s easy to get buried in work, but it’s more important to look around once in a while and find out what’s happening beyond our desks. Being clued in on current affairs makes us more valuable to our clients, and its way more interesting than formatting keynotes.
- Having a Life– If you’re contented with your non-work life, its one less thing to worry about and makes work that much easier.
Her best rule of all? “Common sense,” she concludes.