We recently concluded our final CreativeExecs Roundtables of our Spring Series in which we visited six cities to discuss Account, Project and Traffic Management. Cindy Ponce, Cella Practice Lead, moderated the roundtables and will be presenting a recap of the key findings via complimentary webinar this week (registration information below). In advance of the webinar, I wanted to share some of my observations from the live events.
As someone involved with business development and building client relationships, I felt a personal connection to this topic. Account, Project and Traffic Managers play an integral role within the creative environment. On one hand account managers are the face of the agency; managing client relationships, communicating studio capabilities and working with creatives to meet the clients' needs. Their internal counterparts, project managers and traffic managers are managing the workflow, scheduling resources and managing the nuts and bolts of creative production. Though these roles are ubiquitous within the external agency environment, many in-house creative teams vary in the ability to incorporate these dedicated roles into their groups--that's not to say someone isn't doing these responsibilities, but they're also designing, managing, writing, or another function of the creative team.
Cindy and I were elated by the attendance and participation of in-house creative leaders at the live events, with some attendees traveling long distances in order to join us proving this topic is a challenge for many creative leaders. The discussion provided a great deal of insight into smaller teams where individuals carry the work of many different job descriptions to large, advanced teams that have specific teams focused on one job. If you have not had the opportunity to attend in the past, this forum presented opportunities for leaders to pose their challenges to the group with other group participants sharing their experience on the same challenge to help identify solutions, best practices and ways to navigate the corporate environment to reach the goals of the creative department.
With our recent publication of the 2013 In-House Creative Services Industry Report, I wanted to add some relevant data about the topic. 69% of respondents indicated their teams provide account/project management services, however less than 50% of the teams have dedicated jobs defined for this work. With these figures, its not surprising to see Creative Directors and Designers in client facing roles. In addition, and more common with smaller teams, managing workflow falls on the shoulders of those doing creative production in order to move the project along to the next phase. We'll be sharing additional findings in the upcoming webinar, but I'll cover a few of the key takeaways within this post.
Dedicated account managers are most often found within large teams and are aligned with specific accounts, whether it's by product, brand or business unit. This allows for greater industry knowledge, strategic guidance and stronger client relationships.
Habits are hard to break, and it starts with the relationship. Your internal clients may have been working with an external agency for years and they've built trust, loyalty and comfort in knowing what they ask for will be delivered. Unless your department is mandated by corporate, it's your responsibility to introduce your team's capabilities, recent projects and--most importantly--understanding of your client's business to provide the most value for their creative needs. Maybe you don't have the specific capabilities to produce what the client is looking for, but being a creative expert, your team is well positioned to direct clients to the best agency fit for that need and to support the creative review process with the agency. Wherever and however you can provide value to your client will elevate their perception of you, and in time, you can become their trusted creative advisor! (see Susan Hunnicutt's previous blog "Become a Referred and Preferred Partner" for more on this topic)
Of the most recent attendees at CreativeExecs, this role was most widely used within their organizations. Project managers can be worth their weight in gold, as inherent personality characteristics often help these individuals excel within the role. It's not to say that other can't learn how to project manage, but meticulous attention to detail, organization and strong working knowledge of creative production are keys to success within this role.
I hate to break it to you, but there has been a slew of recent reports that multi-tasking is not only a myth, but also wastes time and some evidence suggests that it's reducing our concentration and creativity. Who is managing the project workflow on your team? Is it the designer, copywriter or another creative producer? If so, it is worth investigating how much time they are devoting to those tasks as opposed to concentrating on developing strong compelling creative and/or efficient work practices. By adding a dedicated project manager, this will free up your creative's time to focus on what they do best...create.
Many of our CreativeExecs participants grouped trafficking responsibilities under project management and or the creative producers. How many teams out there have this job title and they are purely doing system administration? By changing your process, maybe these folks can be more effective within other roles for the department. Many of the participants have some form of workflow automation. From my experience, utilization of a workflow system is a great way to plan resources and scheduling resulting in a smooth production process. However, implementing a system on top of inefficient processes is only a recipe for added work, user frustration and potential abandonment to the system. Prior to implementing a system review the processes within your group from project intake, scheduling, review, approvals and delivery to ensure the systems you choose will have high user adoption and produce the results you're expecting. (see Ceil Wloczewski's previous blog "Has the Traffic Manager Role Hit a Dead End?" for more on this topic)
Register to join us for the webinar on Tuesday, June 11 at 3pm EDT: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/158987538
As the Business Development Manager for Cella Consulting, and a former Account Manager/Recruiter with The BOSS Group, Matt Lang has worked with hundreds of marketing and creative leaders to help them improve their organizations' effectiveness. With a wide breadth of experience and sharp business acumen, Matt is focused on providing top consulting solutions for in-house creative departments.