Streamlining Policies and Procedures-Inside An Advertising Agency

The thought of streamlining policies and procedures seems like a good idea. It sounds like it should work. It seems like it should be easy. So why don’t we always follow it?

Good question.

Of course most successful companies have some sort of systematic workflow, a streamline of policy and procedures and believe that if they follow these steps they are guaranteed success! In the Real World, no matter what company structure you consider, this isn’t always the case. Companies set forth policies and procedures and try to abide by, but there is always an exception that seems to arrive, unannounced and unexpected.

In the fast-paced advertising industry, there must be an absolute streamlined process in place. It is essential, or the initial expectation won’t be met and the final deliverable won’t be realized. Our seemingly simple process works quite well when it is adhered to, and goes something like this.

1. The account manager meets with Client to discuss scope of project. The projects could be the brainchild of the client, but moreover, from the agency, through internal brand-building meetings or from our creative director, copywriter, media planner, account planner or a combination thereof

2. The account manager writes strategy brief and outlines task(s) with mandatory elements, point of difference, primary target, main objectives and due date

3. The account manager opens a new project in our online job trafficking system and outlines the deliverable(s)

4. The account manager, creative team and any needed outside services/ vendors needed have kickoff meeting

5. Account Manager writes a creative brief and summarizes the kickoff meeting and any additional elements, concepts, ideas etc. outside the strategy brief

6. Job gets turned into traffic where the initial tasks are assigned

7. First proof is drafted and is reviewed by four accountable departments—art director, creative director, copywriter and account manager. Revisions, if any, are made at this time before the client sees the first draft

8. Client is sent first draft of print or electronic medium via e-mail or, preferably, in-person presentation

9. If there are revisions, go to step 5, if approved, continue to send job to final destination (media outlet, printer, make live on Internet or upload online)

10. Follow up, tracking and metrics to measure success of main objectives via the strategy, and if necessary, apply any lessons learned in future executions and deliverables

That’s a brief description, but you get the gist. So why don’t we always follow this? It’s so simple!! Answer: Earlier we mentioned the Real World. Well that’s it. We live in the Real World—not an “Easy Button” fantasy land where there’s an “F 12” key that creates perfect advertisements, campaigns, websites, media plans and marketing strategies or promotions at the press of a key command. The reality is that a litany of considerations and factors make or break our strategy of streamlining. Such examples include, but are not limited to: changes in project details, changes in the marketplace, sector developments or current events, late discoveries, grand changes of project scope or deliverables, wrong file formats, run/print-dates sneak up, missed appointments, scope creep, memory loss, vacations, computer and sever melt downs, too busy multitasking, sickness, contact no longer with the company, budget cuts—insert your own here.

To recap, and since keepings lists helps keep us on target, on budget and on time, here’s another list of some behind the scenes scenarios that get in the way of our “seemingly simple” ten steps to streamlined policies and procedures:

1. Extensive industry research
2. Comprehensive market analysis
3. Primary target ethnography considerations and utilization
4. Changes in product or service sector due to current events, natural disasters etc.
5. New direction or any change of scope or goals
6. Brainstorming
7. Brand Boards, industry notes and Client style guide creation (varies)
8. Strategy tweaking
9. Testing (internal and external)
10. Mock ups

As you can see, factors that affect the agency policies and procedures range from the serious to the silly—and like we said, that is the Real World. Luckily, we expect this; make concessions for it and still delivery real-world results. For that very reason, we strive to maintain constant communication with our Clients, sharing our discoveries and ideas at certain points along the way.

Though advertising is a quintessential rule breaking, ever-changing industry that can turn on a dime and seemingly unveil new ideas and technologies overnight, the importance of streamlining shouldn’t go unnoticed. Without it, how could anything get done? There will always be variables that seem to affect our workflow and materialize out of thin air. It happens and sometimes cont. white paper orlando+memphis cannot be avoided. But we must march forward with the best intent for our clients and continue to work hard and over deliver. This may include longer hours, more rounds of revisions, another meeting and maybe even going back to the drawing board. As advertising professionals, we expect a certain level of chaos and uncertainty and hope our clients trust us to be their flexible industry partner. We see our jobs as establishing streamlined policies and procedures that help our clients’ workflow, as well as get their products and services to the target market at the exact time in the ideal medium/channel.

That’s simply our policy and procedure.