A question I see come into our website or emails frequently is, “What is it like to work for an advertising agency?” It’s a question that a lot of the time, we don’t have the time to answer. A lot of things come into mind when I see that question come in.
At its core it is similar to a lot of other creative agencies. It is problem solving for the basic problem, “How can I represent this [product, service, job, idea] in a way that will interest people?” Sometimes it comes to us easy. We’ll have an immediate idea for the direction of an ad and creative will run with it and get it created and it moves along smoothly. Other times its a struggle with what is going to look best, what makes sense, how can we rethink this in a newer way that won’t just be ignored?
There are several steps to any project and it goes through multiple hands so by the time it reaches completion it’s a different beast than you thought it would be but ultimately (ideally), it solves the problem.
First Step: The Idea
The way any new project starts is an idea or a question. Usually this comes from the client of something they need (branding, website, stationary, signage, etc) or something they want to promote (ad campaigns, direct mail, eblasts, commercials, etc). Sometimes from looking at a business we can assess what they should promote and present projects to the client as something they should pursue.
Second Step: Planning
Generally there will be a meeting with everyone involved in the project to discuss ideas and artwork. Does there need to be a tagline? What sort of photography/illustration needs to be used? Do we need existing imagery/information from the client? What feeling are we trying to convey? How long do we think this will take? Will the artwork be reused for multiple venues? These and a few others are all questions that need to be answered in this meeting in order to get the project rolling. Then it can move to the project managers for distribution of tasks.
Third Step: Execution
Design, Edit, Edit, Edit, Edit, Edit, Finalize
This is where it helps to have a project management program. I’ve managed everything on paper before. But it can get messy quickly and things can be forgotten without constant attention. This process may sound manageable but when you multiply it across 100+ projects it can get out of hand. So my recommendation would be to look up project management sites and see what best fits your business model. We have been using ProWorkFlow for some time and it helps keep us on track. Everyone has their assigned tasks and due dates, files can be easily exchanged, projects near due date will be highlighted that we need to finish, etc. Good project management is the heart of what keeps our team clicking along like a well oiled machine. Knowing what you have to get done and the priority of it makes sure everyone gets what they need on time. Some projects can be extremely time sensitive due to events that are already scheduled or ad placement deadlines so being strict about when things get done can be the most important thing that we do.
When a project is completed, this is where projects can split with what will happen next. Print, video, and digital projects you may never look at again but it is important to keep all working files in case you want to use an earlier idea that never got published or incase you want to run the same campaign a year from now.
Web projects generally need constant maintenance. Websites need to constantly be updated with the growing technology industry. 15 years ago seeing websites on cellphones didn’t happen often and it wasn’t very important to consider. Today, we need to consider how every part of the site will size down and function for smart phones, tablets, and still look great on a desktop. How does the site function on different browsers? How does it show up on google? SEO is an always growing an evolving part of websites. Practices in SEO that were common 5 years ago aren’t necessary or encouraged now. Staying up to date is important to stay informed in this quickly evolving world we live in.
All in all, it’s a ton of work and a very long process. Projects can bring out the best or the worst in your team but it’s a learning process also. Every project makes you better, advances your skills and your communication abilities, adds to your creative toolbox of options. At the end of it, you’ve created something new and beautiful to add to the world and to show the public. That’s worth it to me, and keeps me always asking for more projects.
Web Projects Manager