Notes on Departments of Advertisement Agency
How Does an Advertising Agency Work? SHARE PINWorking of Ad agencies 1) Ad Agencies Have ClientsThis is a no-brainer, obviously. But the usual way an agency gets work is through a pitch. A pitch is an audition, with the client giving a brief to a number of advertising agencies, and choosing the one that best resolves the brief. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way (see The Pitch TV show), but for the most part, this is how agencies are paired with clients.After this, contracts are signed and the real work begins. Depending on the type of agency and client, the scope of works (SOW) will vary greatly. But in a nutshell, the agency agrees to produce a certain amount of work for a set amount of money (be it a retainer, hourly, or other agreement) and the client agrees to pay the agency upon receipt of the work. That’s as basic as it gets, but it’s the most simple explanation.2) Everything is Problem/Solution DrivenThe ad agency is there to solve problems for its clients. The client is there to present the agency with its problems, and when it needs solutions. The types of problems and solutions vary greatly depending upon the client’s business and the ad agency’s area of expertise.How this is done is different from agency to agency, but the basic steps are more or less the same.The account manager (and team) meets with the client to identify the problem that needs to be solved.The account manager writes a creative brief based on that problem. This will include competitive analysis, research, the assistance of the planner and/or creative director, and eventually, sign off from the client.The account manager briefs the creative team and includes a timeline, budget, proposed media and other factors.The creative team works on the project for several days (or weeks if they’re lucky) and brings the first round of ideas to the creative director.The creative director will cull the ideas that are not working, and direct the team to explore the good ideas.The creative team will continue to work on the ideas, but bring in the production department (if needed), account manager and other members of the agency to make sure the work is on track. If there are printed pieces, or a shoot is required, this is when the production department will begin estimates.The creative director approves the final ideas, and the creative team presents (hopefully) them to the client.The client will go away and discuss the ideas, before giving feedback to the agency. This may result in a reworking of ideas (repeat steps 3 to 7) or a green light to move into the execution of the ideas. At this point, a budget and timeline will once again be approved.The creative team works closely with the account team, media buying, production, and the creative director to produce the ads, whatever form they may take.The final ads are placed in front of the client for approval. Once the client approves, the ads are published, be it online, in print, outdoor, on the air, or any other media.The agency will monitor the success, and ROI, of the ads and give the feedback to the client.The client pays the agency. And then the whole process is repeated.Again, that is a very simplistic way to look at the day-to-day workings of an ad agency, but that gives you a brief insight into the process.3) Self Promotion and Awards are KeyIf the agency does great work for a client, that should be advertising enough. But ad agencies, for the sake of survival and success, must get out there to win more business, and have clients coming to them for work.Ad agencies will enter their best work into the awards shows. Only the best shows will garner attention from clients worth having. They will also develop a website and other forms of self-promotion to get clients looking in the right direction.The Six Major Departments in Any AgencySix very different, but essential, departments that make it possible to produce effective advertisements. These can be split into other sub-departments, or given various creative names, but the skeleton is the same.These departments are:Account ServiceAccount PlanningCreativeFinance & AccountsMedia BuyingProductionLarger agencies may also separate out the following departments:Human Resources & FacilitiesResearchWeb DevelopmentTrafficNow, let's take a look at the breakdown of those six major departments. Remember, although many agencies have different takes on these, the premise is the same. 1. Account ServicesThe account service department comprises account executives, account managers, and account directors, and is responsible for liaising with the agency's many clients.This department is the link between the many departments within the agency and the clients who pay the bills. In the past they were referred to as "the suits," and there have been many battles between the account services department and the creative department. But as most creatives know, a good account services team is essential to a good advertising campaign.A solid creative brief is one of the main duties of account services.2. Account PlanningThis department combines research with strategic thinking. Often a mix of researchers and account managers, the account planning department provides consumer insights, strategic direction, research, focus groups and assists helps keep advertising campaigns on target and on brand. Chris Cowpe described account planning as "…the discipline that brings the consumer into the process of developing advertising. To be truly effective, advertising must be both distinctive and relevant, and planning helps on both counts."3. CreativeThis is the engine of any advertising agency. It's the lifeblood of t he business because the creative department is responsible for the product. And an ad agency is only as good as the ads the creative department puts out. The roles within the creative department are many and varied, and usually include:CopywritersArt DirectorsDesigners Production ArtistsWeb DesignersAssociate Creative DirectorsCreative Director(s)In many agencies, copywriters and art directors are paired up, working as teams. They will also bring in the talents of other designers and production artists as and when the job requires it. Sometimes, traffic is handled by a position within the creative department, although that is usually part of the production department. Everyone within creative services reports to the Creative Director. It is his or her role to steer the creative product, making sure it is on brand, on brief, and on time.4. Finance & AccountsMoney. At the end of the day, that's what ad agencies want. And it's what their clients want, too. At the center of all the money coming into, and going out of, the agency is the finance and accounts department. This department is responsible for handling payment of salaries, benefits, vendor costs, travel, day-to-day business costs and everything else you'd expect from doing business. It's been said that approximately 70% of an ad agency's income pays salary and benefits to employees. However, this figure varies depending on the size and success of the agency in question.5. Media BuyingIt is the function of the media buying department to procure the advertising time and/or space required for a successful advertising campaign. This includes TV and radio time, outdoor (billboards, posters, guerrilla), magazine and newspaper insertions, internet banners and takeovers, and, well, anywhere else an ad can be placed for a fee. This usually involves close collaboration with the creative department who came up with the initial ideas, as well as the client and the kind of exposure they want.This department is usually steered by a media director.6. ProductionIdeas are just ideas until they're made real. This is the job of the production department. During the creative process, the production department will be consulted to talk about the feasibility of executing certain ideas. Once the ad is sold to the client, the creative and account teams will collaborate with production to get the campaign produced on budget. This can be anything from getting original photography or illustration produced, working with printers, hiring typographers and TV directors, and a myriad of other disciplines needed to get an ad campaign published. Production also works closely with the media department, who will supply the specs and deadlines for the jobs.Don't Forget TrafficIn small to mid-sized agencies, traffic is rolled up into the production department. It is the job of traffic to get each and every job through the various stages of account management, creative development, media buying and production in a set time frame. Traffic will also ensure that work flows through the agency smoothly, preventing jams that may overwhelm creative teams and lead to very long hours, missed deadlines and problematic client relationships. Traffic keeps the agency's heart beating.