The creative department — the people who create the actual ads — form the core of an advertising agency. Modern advertising agencies usually form their copywriters and art directors into creative teams. Creative teams may be permanent partnerships or formed on a project-by-project basis. The art director and copywriter report to a creative director, usually a creative employee with several years of experience. Although copywriters have the word “write” in their job title, and art directors have the word “art”, one does not necessarily write the words and the other draw the pictures; they both generate creative ideas to represent the proposition (the advertisement or campaign’s key message).
The other major department in ad agencies is account services or account management. Account service employees work directly with clients and potential clients, soliciting business for the ad agency and determining what clients need and want the agency to do for them. They are also charged with understanding the clients business situation and representing those needs within the agency, so that ads can be brought to bear on the correct problem.
Previously, client services employees wrote the advertising strategy that the creative director (and teams ) would use to create the advertising. However, since the late 1960’s in the UK, and the mid-1980’s in the US, specialist account planners have been tasked with doing this. The account planner was originally employed to “represent the consumer” in the advertising i.e. find the best way to pitch the clients products to people but better understanding them, what they want and how to talk to them. Planning’s role has expanded considerably since it was originally introduced. Pleanners now brand strategists and, to a certain extent, media strategists – using consumer insights to understand where and how people are most receptive to certain messages.
The creative services department may not be so well known, but its employees are the people who have contacts with the suppliers of various creative media. For example, they will be able to advise upon and negotiate with printers if an agency is producing flyers for a client. However, when dealing with the major media (broadcast media, outdoor, and the press), this work is usually outsourced to a media agency which can advise on media planning and is normally large enough to negotiate prices down further than a single agency or client can.
In small agencies, employees may do both creative and account service work. Larger agencies attract people who specialize in one or the other, and indeed include a number of people in specialized positions: production work, [Internet] advertising, or research, for example.
An often forgotten, but extremely important, department within an advertising agency is traffic. Typically headed by a traffic manager (or system administrator), this department is responsible for a number of things. First and foremost is increasing agency efficiency and profitability through the reduction of false job starts, inappropriate job initiation, incomplete information sharing, over- and under-cost estimation, and the need for media extensions. In small agencies without a dedicated traffic manager, one employee may be responsible for managing workflow, gathering cost estimates and answering the phone, for example. Large agencies may have a traffic department of ten or more employees. Department size varies, but its importance remains the same.