The Insider's Guide to Advertising Agencies

The world of advertising is a big one. There are so many different advertising agencies, each offering what appear to be similar services. Some specialise in particular markets, others will offer their services to a wide range of clients. But how do these agencies actually work?

Advertising agencies are complex. They have to be. How else can you combine creativity with mathematics and logic?

In one corner, you have the design team. They may look like they just stepped out of a rave club or heavy metal concert. You will possibly see more hair colours, tattoos and piercings than you thought could exist in a single group of people in a professional office.

In the other corner, you have the developers. They will not speak to you. They will not make eye contact. If you happen to find one not wearing headphones and you try to speak to them – be prepared to look into a scared pair of eyes and get a one word reply. Again – you may encounter more tattoos, piercings and white skin.

After all – the designers and developers don’t often face the clients. They are hidden away in corners where they can focus on the important things like letting the creativity flow and scrabbling away at keyboards creating amazing apps and websites. It doesn’t matter what they look like or if they can actually string a coherent sentence together when in public. What matters is the quality of their work.

Not in the office, you find (or not) the sales team. Ties, smart shoes and power suits are the dress code here. They spend more time on the phone and in meetings than anything else. Working lunch? Drinks with a client or potential client? Any time! Stuck in an elevator with a sales person – be prepared to be buying them lunch and begging them to sign you up for whatever product or marketing strategy they are currently trying to sell.

So how do these disparate groups of people who look strangely similar communicate? There is definitely very little common ground and they all speak very different languages.

That is where the project managers come in.

Project managers are the translators of advertising agencies and arguably have the toughest jobs. It is up to the project manager to take the AMAZING system or idea that the super social sales person sold to the client and figure out exactly what it is that the project entails. They will scope and document the entire project so that everyone knows what they are getting and what they are in for.

Then they have to get the designers and developers into the same room and tell them what is required. The designer will want to create something out of the box and amazing – this needs to be toned down a little. The developer will want to know all of the technical specifications and requirements before they will even look at a design. It is up to the project manager to get these two teams to work together and actually produce something amazing.

Of course, there is also the client facet. The client will not understand why it takes a month to get that design to a first draft. They want it yesterday, after all – they are paying big money for this project and they want it to start showing a return on investment as soon as possible. The project manager will have to take the seeming vague, creative speak from the designer and the technical jargon from the developer and turn it into information that actually means something to the client.

Of course, once the website or app is developed, or once the marketing strategy is put together and the advertisements are written and the creative banners created, everyone is happy again. Only to start the whole process again with the next project.

So how is it that advertising agencies are so good at getting leads for a business or launching a new brand identity or product?

The secret is in their complexity.

There is no way that a single person can be a true expert in every facet of creating and promoting brands and products. Some people are pretty good at a range of different advertising techniques. They may be pretty good at designing and developing. But it is far better to have an entire team working on your project.

When you have a team of people who are really good at what they do and a translator (read project manager) to keep them in check and on the same level, you cannot help but do a good job. That is what advertising agencies are supposed to do after all, right?