There are many departments within an advertising agency, and each has its annoying (yet adorable!) habits. Here is a brief overview of the departments for a traditional agency structure. I should be clear that every agency is different and, these days, departments are starting to bleed together (figuratively and literally). In fact, it’s gotten to the point where one department is indistinguishable from the other, which is why many agencies have begun tattooing specific disciplines onto the skin above each employee’s pelvis.
The Account Service Department
The account service department is the mother of all departments, which is to say it is the womb from which projects are brought into this world. Just as a baby human is conceived, the conception of a project in advertising involves candelight and world fusion music. The account executive and the client commence small talk and eventually discuss business goals and strategy until one of them passes out. Later, after a good stomach-pumping, the account executive tries to decipher the notes, and he or she writes a description of the project, something called a Creative Brief. Unfortunately, it is neither creative nor brief.
The Creative Department
This is the most important department in the agency according to the people within the department. The creative team typically consists of a copywriter, art director, web designer/developer, barista, and creative director. Of course, every agency is different, so there could be additional titles thrown into the mix.
Generally speaking, the creative team brainstorms as a group, throwing ideas back and forth. Concepting in a group setting usually results in bigger, more effective ideas than if each person had brainstormed on his or her own. If a creative execution is not effective, it is considered good practice to blame the ineffectiveness on the account executive (even knowing it’s probably the fault of the production manager). This account executive is then ordered to wipe clean the inside of the agency Dumpster*.
*Punishment varies across agencies.
The Media Department
This is where the magic happens, with “magic” meaning “constant goddamn haggling.” The media department does things like plan and buy media space (for print/web/outdoor), media time (for broadcast advertising), and—most importantly—media spacetime (dimensions, etc.). Strategy always comes into play when planning and buying media. You could say that these buyers and planners are the Sir Gawains of the advertising industry if that had any relevance or appropriate context, which it doesn’t.
The Production And Traffic Departments
Production and traffic managers are like the liasons of the agency. You could almost say they’re the dangerous liasons. They’re responsible for moving jobs between each department internally, as well as getting them the fuck out of the agency to the proper media outlets. It’s a thankless job, unless of course you count the various people who say to them, “Thanks.”Â
The Public Relations (PR) Department
If it weren’t for this department, the advertising agency would have absolutely no relations with the public. The fact is, advertising agencies are like tins of sardines, with the sardines being the non-PR employees, the tin being the Â building, and the hand pulling back the tab being a food delivery service.
There are other departments and positions within the agency, of course. Like the accounting department, the office manager, etc. But little is known about these roles. In other words, they are the Easter Island of the ad world.