AD INDUSTRY FAQ's
So, you’ve graduated from portfolio school. Or college. Or you’ve packed up and left your old, unappreciative industry in the middle of the night.
And now… you’re an advertiser! Like on that AMC show with all the cigarettes.
But you may have some questions about this exciting new time of your life. That’s perfectly natural. You also may have the inclination to hide said questions, because the monster of Imposter Syndrome is telling you that everyone knows exactly what they’re doing all the time and you should never seem uncertain. That’s perfectly natural as well.
The Atlanta Ad Club (and Friends) are here to help. With a panel including account, media, and creative, we’ve put together answers to questions we wish we’d had starting out!
Thanks to Philip Jones for copyediting these questions!
Media planning is evaluating and selecting the best mediums to optimize your clients goals. The media team evaluates the clients goals - think revenue, store visits, awareness, conversions, etc.
Based on the clients goals, the media then evaluates the proper media channels we want to utilize to reach those goals. Aligning the clients goals with media planning is very important because we want to be able to provide the client with tangible results in the form of reporting.
It is true that most of us who have pursued careers in media consider being called a NERD a badge of honor. But nerds are cool right? -- think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Dr. Fauci.
In all seriousness, if you fancy yourself a creative thinker, but are an excel wizard with a love for research and data, maybe media is the place for you.
As the media landscape has evolved, so has the interaction between the media and creative teams. Often the medium and the message are intertwined. The media team will have meetings with different vendors to find out about new and unique ad units. Then the media team will meet with the creative team to brainstorm creative ideas and how best to use the ad units. It’s crucial that the media and creative team are on the same page during the planning process. During the execution of a campaign, the media team will gather all creative specs to provide to the creative team to begin development of creative.
Traditional media is defined as mediums that existed before the rise of the internet (newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio, broadcast TV, and direct mail). Digital media is anything you see online (online advertising, search engines, social media, video streaming services, and websites) and allows for more detailed targeting.
Roles in media start out pretty behind-the-scenes, dealing directly with publishers that we buy our media advertising with. Beginner media roles communicate most closely with the Account Team within the agency, the publishers we buy media with, and the Finance department as the process invoices. However as you develop as a Media Planner, you do get more exposure with the client. Usually as a Media Planner you will begin to speak to the client on calls and chime in with context about media plans. From a Senior Media Planner role and upward, you will begin to work with the client on a regular basis as the face of the Media department. The client will consider you the expert when it comes to advertising plans, so you will be empowered to speak up directly and share your expertise with the client. In general, the Account team stays cc’d on all client emails and acts as a liaison between the client and media team to manage deadlines and jump in as needed to set expectations.
The Media team evaluates different publishers such as CNN, Pandora, Google, etc. Publishers are representatives who sell different media types (digital, billboards, etc.) and their main goal is to impress the Media team with their available offerings. The Media team ultimately decides which Publishers they do business with, based on which opportunities fit the client needs best. Because of this, publishers often offer to take the Media team out for lunches, dinners, coffee, or other events. Some publishers have direct relationships with Sports teams and will offer to take the media team out to a Sporting event. Our media team personally has received: mani/pedis, spa days, concert tickets, sports tickets, theater tickets, baked goods, gift cards, countless lunch/dinner/coffee/cocktail hours, clothing/household/electronic goods, and more. Publishers love to impress the Media team, so this is definitely a bonus to being in the Media department 🙂
While developing a media plan, the media, account, and creative team work together on brainstorming different ways to advertise for a client. Media presents the plan, and the account team works with the creative team on developing creative. Account ultimately works as the liaison between media and creative, confirming approvals with creative to begin developing and releasing creative to media/trafficking to vendors.
It’s different every day! Some days we’re gathering client requests and meeting with clients all day to help them determine exactly what they need (or are trying to say they want). Other days, we’re working closely with the media team to ensure they’ve honed in on exactly the audience our client is trying to connect with, and the plans they’re scheming and partners they’re being schmoozed by are delivering exactly what the client needs. And then on other days, we’re finalizing plans and building strategy. It’s truly always different. Account Managers are the “gathers of all” and ensure that all teams are connected and deliver what is needed to the client.
Yes. Some are mean sometimes. Some are mean all the time. Some are never ever ever mean. It changes!
It’s important to stick up for yourself and always be respectful. Don’t be scared to manage up to your manager or department lead if a client is behaving inappropriately. No one should be subjected to a hostile work environment.
Boundaries are so important, ESPECIALLY while working from home. It’s super common to be on a texting basis with clients. But setting boundaries are important.
Don’t answer if it’s not urgent and it’s outside of working hours. And definitely don’t be the one contacting your client with non-urgent requests or questions outside or work hours. This goes for any team, give yourself a work life balance to the best of your ability!
Being an Account Manager is all about balance. You’re truly an advocate in the role. It’s important to advocate for your client and your client’s business needs. They hired your agency to deliver on their business needs or to help solve a problem for them. It’s also important to be an advocate for the work. If there is a hard and fast reason why a client needs a very specific request, work with your creative team. Get to know them, make sure you’re working together to find the best route to get there for client. If you’re client just “isn’t feeling” a creative direction, help them reframe their mindset. Work with your team to come up with a new way to present an idea that shows them your team’s perspective.
By providing value! Work with everyone, instead of having them work for the requests you’re sending. Ask questions, how can you provide better feedback in the future? Is there important information your team still needs from the client that they’re not getting? If your client confused? Do they need more information or background from the agency? Make yourself available, and then make yourself proactive! Work ahead, always be prepared, and think big picture. Account Managers see each piece of the process, learn as much as possible and connect folks when it’s helpful.
Account Managers have a great breadth of experience that can lead them in many different directions! It all depends on the work you do for your agency and your client. For example, if you work on a very strategic account and do strategic work, you can parlay your experience into a Strategy role. If your account is very tactical, you can do Project management or Operations. Or if your account is Media-focused, you can also consider media positions.
You can also move into Marketing Manager roles where you do 360° holistic marketing for a specific product or initiative. These are more specific to in-house marketing departments on the brand-side.
No, but sometimes Account managers may do some Project management work, or may get hired to be an Account Manager/Project Manager hybrid (this is dependent on how the company is structured)
Project managers are mainly responsible for keeping the projects moving, as the conduit between the account person and internal teams working on the project. They build out timelines and estimates, set up creative reviews with the Creative teams, and do the final QA before it goes to the Account person and eventually, to the client. .
Your company may have a completely different Project Management department, and if so, you will work hand-in-hand with your PM to make sure the project is running smoothly.
Speak to how you make everyone on the team valued and heard. Remember, you are the face of the client to your internal team, and you’re the face of the agency to your client.
Highlight to how you keep many projects going at one time. Account managers have to wear a lot of hats - keeping the client happy while also advocating for their internal team and their work.
If you know the client or brand category you would be working on, and you have experience within that category, make sure to include that experience.
A “mantra” or “manifesto” is a more fully-realized, tonal explanation of a campaign or brand. It pulls in a sense of identity, the attributes of the brand, and aims to really build to set up your point. It will often kick off the creative portion of a presentation and should be an anchor piece. It’s virtually never a consumer facing thing, so can feel a little hypothetical, but can really help sell through an idea or give a clearer feel for it. It often ends with the proposed tagline and is presented with a dramatic flair.
That’s a tough one. Concept. Idea. Direction. Platform. Territory. Insert the word “Creative” before any of those. Or the word “Campaign” before any of those. As an industry we can be a little, well, self-important about our terminology. Generally, just go with whatever your agency has as standard. Apart from that, to me, a concept is one level higher than an idea. It’s a little broader, a little more thematic. But at the end of the day...they’re all ideas. I wish you luck avoiding ever having a drawn-out conversation about this.
There are ways to check copyright status and make sure there’s nothing in a related industry officially registered. Your agency may have access to these tools and the account team may be willing to help, or an in-house or client legal team could do this as well. Otherwise...google it! Google your main line. Look through competitors' work to make sure you don’t see something similar.
When I was asked if we wanted to do animatics for a TV spot, all my brain could conjure up was scenes of the Animaniacs. An animatic is just a rough storyboard, generally sketched, that’s actually blocked out as a video. It’ll typically be set to music and/or have a scratch-read of the script accompanying it, to give a better sense of the flow and feel of the spot.
More than generic stock images. Pull different elements to really get a feel for the idea. Think of the colors you want to use in the campaign, the sense of movement, the emotions you want conveyed. Create the ambiance. You can bring in type treatments if there’s something specific you have in mind--or even identifiable pop culture bits or well-known people if it helps represent the thinking.
A “whitepaper session” is when you’re just going through rough, initial ideas and directions. It’s like an outline or skeleton of the concepts. You want to provide enough details and context to see how it could come to life, without sinking too much time into one or getting too ahead of yourself. One of the guiding rules I’ve been told is to make sure your idea fits on a post-it note. Keep it simple, thoughtful, and enough to see where it could go.
Respectfully! It’s important to build good, two-way relationships with folks outside the creative department, This helps have more open conversations whether the pushback is internal or from the client. You’re on the same team with account and they have a tough job navigating the interests of 100 different stakeholders. Help them help you. Bullet out notes of rationale, try not to be biased, use calm and clear language. Be polite. Show the difference if possible--do it the way that’s requested and the way you recommend.
This is a cop-out answer, but that’s something you kind of know when you see it. It’s natural and a part of a lot of people’s process to find work you really like, see what’s standing out in the industry, check out the award winners. What you can’t do is just reskin an idea that’s not yours and that’s already out there.
Yes! Just don’t only pitch pie-in-the-sky ideas. And avoid suggesting the same pie-in-the-sky ideas for every project. You can’t create an AR mobile game or parody cryptocurrency for every account. It’s always a good idea to be ready to give at least the start of an answer to: how would we do this?
Do the dry assignment...but then also do a version with your spin on it. Seize those opportunities to really make something better and show the difference a fresh approach can make. Include some notes of extras or neat related ideas that could make an impact. Or just craft the hell out of it. Do it a couple totally different ways. Challenge yourself to write or design it in a really stylistic way that’s still within the ask. If there’s no wiggle room and no hours, just knock it out and do your own separate creative piece for the agency or yourself.
This is a semantic thing, but comes up occasionally, so worth attempting to clear up. An art director is about the ideas and concepts behind the visuals--and the work as a whole. They should be working with a copywriter to develop ideas together and then identifying ways to bring them to life in a compelling, visual way. Often the art director then also designs/lays out/mocks up/helps direct the actual executions. A designer is all about the actual nuts and bolts of the visuals. They create designs, version things out, work within all the relevant specs, prep files for release, and have an eye for detail. Sometimes people go from designer to art director, sometimes people love design but hate the idea of being an art director. Both are essential to great looking pieces.
Firstly: there is no one solution. Accept that and embrace it. We work in such a fundamentally subjective industry that it’s important to be able to step outside your own tastes and preferences. Everyone works differently! Try to adapt and find common ground. Spend time brainstorming together, which can be especially productive if you’ve both written out ideas beforehand. Don’t be a steamroller. Don’t belittle or make fun of ideas. The improv philosophy of “Yes and…” is a good guiding principle for a creative partnership. Try to avoid “No, because…” or “No, but…” and instead see how you can add or build on during concepting. And when you can--fight for each other, give each other credit. We’re all fragile egos trying to make something interesting. Having someone stick up for you or advocate for one of your ideas can make a huge impact.
Lighten the room up! The creative portion is supposed to be fun and engaging. A boss of mine always said that this should be the best part of the client’s week, it’s what they find most exciting. Try not to read verbatim off slides, be passionate and personable. Connect to cultural topics relevant to the client but don’t go off on too many (or too lengthy) tangents. Be confident and positive, show you enjoy and like what you’re presenting. Use the bathroom before and don’t drink a ton of water if it’s a long meeting. Never set something up with downsides or doubt, it’ll filter how the whole thing is processed. Wear an outfit you feel cool in while still being work appropriate. Show a united front--don’t cut off your own team or indicate within-the-agency schisms. Say “we” instead of “I” when talking about developing the work. Everyone has a different presentation style and way to prepare, but it almost always helps to have a practice run. For me, I don’t like to write what I’m going to say because then you get caught up trying to memorize a script and can fumble over trying to recall. You can cheat a bit and have a notebook on the table with a few bullets to keep you on track, points you don’t want to forget. Speak to people, not just one person, so members of their team don’t feel left out. Try not to go too quickly. Slowing it down or briefly pausing can help drive things home or let it sink in. When you’re done, either clearly wrap up or hand it off so there’s no ambiguity. Stay visually engaged after you’ve finished your portion. And don’t be afraid to let a little of yourself into the meeting--your perspective, a bit of your life--where it’s natural in context, that can be really disarming.
Everyone should have a line. Maybe your client wants to market opioids to elementary schoolers. Maybe you think there’s predatory bias in a strategy. It’s an individual choice but one you should be proud to make. Should you turn something down because you think it’s lame or not fun? Probably not, unless you freelance, in which case take whatever jobs you like. My gut on when to turn things down is this: if I do an awesome, creative, compelling job--will it cause more harm than good? We can debate the questionable merit of our late-capitalist society ad nauseum. But on that more direct level, it’s always felt important to not bypass your individual responsibility to speak up. A simpler approach: if you wouldn’t want your name associated with it from an ethical standpoint, that’s a pretty big red flag. Be clear, confident, and don’t condescend. Bring up your concerns in private with your direct manager or Creative Director. And remember that everyone’s line is in a different place.