These are just a few examples in what could be a never ending list. Many creative agencies have experiential and shopper departments, many PR firms specialise in digital and social media. The industry is in a constant cycle of specialising and generalising - the best way to keep up is to keep your eye on your competitors and read your trade media.
Your dictionary of agencies
Brand Agencies specialise in designing brands. Be it launching a new brand or leading a rebrand, these agencies will take your company, organisation or product and give it a personality - as well as a style guide and all the assets that go with it.
Creative Agencies are the big ad agencies most well known for creating above the line advertising campaigns. These agencies typically work on big name consumer brands, and lead the creative direction for that brand’s public communications.
Digital Agencies, as the name suggests, create digital-driven campaigns for their clients. Digital agencies may work with creative agencies on a major consumer campaign, or work independently with their clients. Along with campaigns, digital agencies will also design and maintain a brand’s website, social media, or other online communications.
Experiential Agencies create physical brand experiences, or ‘activations’. Often in partnership with a creative agency, an experiential agency will create an interactive physical presence for a brand. This might include a luxury stall at a major event, a styled bar at a music festival or even a branded holiday experience for a competition winner.
Media Buying companies will take a brand’s creative and work out where to display it. This simple-sounding process can be one of the most complex steps in an entire creative campaign. Media buyers specialise in reaching the right audience, which traditionally meant discerning between which magazine, bus stop or TV commercial space to slot an ad into. Since the dawn of digital marketing, media buyers have entered a whole new era of audience targeting, and now many offer search engine optimisation (SEO), social media ad buying and a suite of advanced online targeting tools.
Public Relations firms do the subtle work that moulds the perception of a brand in the public eye. The traditional role of a PR agency was to get brands into the newspapers when they wanted to be there, and out of the newspapers when they didn’t want to be there. As with all communications professions, this has broadened in recent decades. Most PR firms will now offer stakeholder communications, corporate communications, and crisis communications to name a few.
Social Agencies are like digital agencies that specialise in social media.
Shopper Marketing companies specialise in point of sale communications. There is a precise science to knowing that type of display, product placement or in-store activation can make or break a purchase decision, and the shopper marketers are the experts who will design and execute that work.
What are the different roles within a typical agency?
There are some roles within creative agencies that haven’t changed for some time, like account management and creative. But over time, the need for other capabilities grew (strategic planners only really took flight in the 80s). These are the different roles you can expect to find:
- Account Management (a.k.a. Client Service, Client Management or “Suits”)
- Project Management (a.k.a. Project Delivery)
- Strategic Planning (a.k.a Strategists or Planners)
- Creative Services, Traffic and Production
- Finance and Accounts
This is the traditional route for many into the industry. The account person represents the client to the agency, and the agency to the client. They play a vital role in the development of a campaign. They are the only people in the agency who touch a job from beginning (client briefing) to end (dispatch).
They are also responsible for the relationship with the client and the profitability of the account. They must develop an in-depth understanding of the client's business, their objectives and strategy. They work closely with strategic planners to understand the real issues behind the client brief, and translate their client's business needs into an agency brief. The account person will also liaise with the creatives, production and media teams to deliver the communications project.
Titles within the discipline include: account executive, account manager, account director, group account director to head of account management (although there are many others as well!).
Project Managers oversee all aspects of a campaign from start to finish and focus on four essential things: Finance, Timing, Processes and Quality. It is the Project Manager’s responsibility to agree, track and reconcile all financial aspects of their role and work closely with internal and external stakeholders to achieve financial and logistical targets.
They proactively control the schedule of a campaign to ensure that all necessary components are executed on time. Lack of time efficiencies can cost money and result in a process that actually slows the agency down. Project managers are in charge of ensuring the overall quality of a campaign by facilitating workflows, mediating relationships, and ensuring that a campaign is consistent with a client’s needs.
Note that in many agencies, project management responsibilities are folded into Account Management.
Strategic planners represent the voice of the consumer. Their deep knowledge of the consumer, the market and branding inform their business and strategic advice for the client. Their aim is to ensure a consistent and effective brand message. They are responsible for developing the key insight which lies behind the communication idea.
Chris Cowpe described planning as "…the discipline that brings the consumer into the process of developing advertising. To be truly effective, advertising must be both distinctive and relevant, and planning helps on both counts."
They need to get under the skin of the consumer, usually through analysis of the research, including segmentation, qualitative and quantitative research. They are responsible for developing the briefs within the agency, inspiring the creatives, recognising and nurturing an idea and ensuring it is executed optimally. Planners are usually disciplined, highly autonomous, and often very academic.
In the last decade, the types of planners you can be has exploded: brand planner, comms planner, CX planner, social strategist and so on. Some agencies prefer to have a mix of specialised strategists in this way, others prefer a school of generalists.
This is the engine of any advertising agency. It's the lifeblood of the business because the creative department is responsible for the product. And an agency is only as good as the work the creative department puts out.
The creative department of an agency is where the main ideas that answer the brief are generated. Traditionally, creatives work in pairs — a copywriter and an art director. They take the creative brief from the planner and work with it to invent ideas that address the brand's business problems.
Once approved, they work with the production department in order to turn those ideas into a reality. To get a job as a creative, you need to be very imaginative and able to think outside the box. When looking for a job, the most important thing is your 'book’ - a portfolio of all your ads to showcase your talent.
Titles within the discipline include: copywriters, art directors, designers, production artists, web designers, head of copy, head of art, associate creative directors and creative directors.
It is the job of creative services and production to ensure that the internal process is smooth and the content/advertising are made to the highest quality, on time, and within budget.
The people in this process need a variety of skills and can be split into three main areas — those who control the internal process within an agency, those who source the outside talent for production and those who oversee the production itself, including Creative Services Director, Creative Services Manager, Art Buying, TV Production, Studio Project Management, Traffic Management and Print Production.
Money. At the end of the day, that's what ad agencies want. And it's what their clients want, too. At the center of all the money coming into and going out of the agency is the finance and accounts department. This department is responsible for handling payment of salaries, benefits, vendor costs, travel, day-to-day business costs and everything else you'd expect from doing business.
What are the roles and skills needed for each department?
While each role in adland obviously requires a specific skill set , there are a few soft skills that everyone needs to succeed.
Firstly, you have to be a people person. Even if you’re not in a client facing role, being able
to collaborate and work with people is key. You also need to be a problem solver. Whether you’re in strategy, accounts or creative, every role requires a certain degree of creativity and being able to draw on all sorts of inspiration and expertise to find solutions. Finally, being self-motivated is a really important characteristic. You’ll find a lot of the time that the onus is on you to get work done, upskill and move upwards in your career.
- How to be an Account Coordinator
- Ensuring agency systems, procedures and policies are maintained (opening and closing jobs, briefing studio and creative work)
- Important (but tedious) admin tasks like creating estimates, raising POs (purchase orders), material instructions (this is letting media know what creative execution to run e.g. there may be three TVCs for a client), contact reports, WIP reports, proof-reading etc.
- Assist in organising meetings, plus detailed note taking in these meetings
- Conduct research about your client’s business, competitors and challenges
- The occasional coffee run for your team and clients
- How to be a Junior Strategic Planner
- Research and mine various sources of data for knowledge and understanding (i.e. consumer reports, desktop searching, social monitoring, website analytics, brand tracking and sales data), to drive the discovery of a core underlying insight – the nugget that will be used to springboard great creative ideas
- Develop consumer understanding for various brands and categories
- Develop category understanding for pitches that can be used by the Senior Strategic Planner/Strategy Director in development
- Competitor audits and campaign reporting
- Trend analysis – seeing what’s out there and what’s coming, and sharing that knowledge with the agency to spur ‘bigger picture’ thinking
- Help your direct report prepare for workshops
- Support the development of strategic proposals
- Support the development of communication strategies, and occasionally present to client
- Attend creative reviews and inputting to ensure the ideas remain on strategy and on brand
- How to be a Junior Creative
- Creative thinking and problem-solving skills
- A way with words and/or an eye for design
- A good understanding of human behaviour and desires
- Resilience – your ideas will get knocked back, a lot
- Passion and motivation
- A desire and willingness to learn and develop
- How to be a Junior Producer
- Preparing meeting notes
- Managing schedules with internal resource and liaison with external suppliers
- Making sure the necessary people are in the right place at the right time and that everyone has what they need to oversee the shoot.
- Acting as or assisting other departments on-set usually helping them with making sure everyone is comfortable and has enough food, water and most importantly coffee.
- Assisting with financial reconciliation including creating purchase orders and checking invoice figures
- Setting review meetings
- Coordinating final material delivery
- How to be a Media Coordinator
- Use different research software (Roy Morgan, Nielsen Answers etc) to identify
target audience media habits/consumption
- Coordinate the trafficking of digital media creative assets between agencies and
- Facilitate meeting setups for media publishers (i.e. Facebook, TV stations) to ensure the team is staying up to date with media offerings
- Regularly monitor campaign performance, including campaign optimisations and preparing campaign reports for the client
- Excellent communication skills (verbal and written)
- Problem solving and analytical skills
- Be a ‘people person’
- Demonstrate strategic thinking
- Have a strong understanding and passion for the current digital media landscape in your state and across Australia.
- How to be an Agency Account Coordinator (Media supplier-side role)
- You’ll be responsible for increasing market share and exceeding revenue targets across your advertising products and services.
- You’ll be driving new revenue opportunities, growing client spend and finding new business.
- You’ll find out what makes your clients ‘tick’ and gain a deep understanding of their business needs to be able to deliver a strategic advertising plan/solution for them.
- You’ll research, analyse and translate sales and product data to create targeted sales strategies suited to your client’s need.
- You’ll assist in producing sales proposals and presentations and present them confidently and effectively to clients.
- You’ll be out and about on the road, meeting with your clients, taking them to lunch, to ensure you keep building relationships.
- Working with internal CRM and booking systems you’ll input and ensure client’s bookings are entered timely and confirm campaign schedules.
- At times assisting with production and creative and thinking on your feet to ensure you are keeping your clients happy and serviced.
- Briefing creative services (internal or external) on behalf of your client and adhering to Brand Guidelines.
- Excellent communication skills (verbal and written)
- Problem solving and analytical skills
- Be a ‘people person’
- Be highly motivated
- Have a strong understanding and passion for the current media landscape in your state and across Australia
An Account Coordinator plays an important role within an account service team. Much of the work they do determines how clients perceive the quality and level of service of an agency. The role requires the ability to coordinate a number of projects and jobs, and to keep both client and the account service team advised of the progress being made.
Some of the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities can include:
The ideal Account Coordinator supports the account service team as required and makes life as easy as possible for their direct report. They’ll have a keen eye for detail, and develop an understanding of the client’s business and the problems facing it to help the agency deliver the best experience for their client.
After two years or so in the role you’ll hopefully be assuming more responsibility and moving into an Account Manager role. After several years as an Account Manager you’ll be looking at becoming an Account Director.
Strategic Planners are the left side of a creative brain. They combine research, strategic thinking and a touch of intuition to drive compelling solutions to client’s challenges.
They’re a consumer detective: fascinated by what makes consumers think, feel and behave the way they do. They use this fascination to accumulate, analyse and interrogate consumer and market information, to distill down to a core insight – a fresh and familiar truth at the heart of people’s motivations and beliefs. They use this insight to form the basis of a Creative Brief (strategy on a page) which is used in discussion with the creative team to ‘brief’ them on a project.
A Junior Strategist is a naturally curious person who is most happy when they’re getting under the skin of a brand, behaviour or culture. They’re equal parts creative and logical. They’re collaborative and aren’t afraid to share early and ask lots of questions. They know that they don’t know everything and never will – the best Strategic Planners are constantly learning and re-learning.
They want to try new things and keep asking ‘why’ along the way, to get to the root of a problem (they look at everything with exhaustive consideration). They have an attitude that creatives and clients just dig, and are driven by doing things well, not just things that have never been done before.
The role of a Junior Strategist supports the strategy department in the following ways:
Creatives come up with ideas for communications that meet a client’s brief and achieve marketing objectives. You might create ads for TV, print, outdoor (billboards, etc.), radio, digital, and social media. You might also make material for clients’ day-to-day needs like brochures and EDMs (that’s electronic direct mail, aka marketing emails).
You’ll start your day by receiving briefs, usually from someone in the accounts or strategy department. Then, you’ll brainstorm ideas for the brief (usually with a partner), always presenting your work to your Creative Director and/or another senior creative. Once you and the Creative Director (CD) are happy with your ideas, you’ll present them back to the person who briefed you, and any other people involved in the project. When everyone is happy with the idea, it will be sent or presented to the client. Once approved, you will craft and/or supervise the crafting of the idea with creative professionals such as photographers, illustrators, animators, film directors, sound designers, etc. This process can take anything from a day to a week, to several weeks, depending on the size and importance of the project.
As a Junior Copywriter, your bread and butter work will be writing copy (the words) for brochures, EDMs, and web/social media copy. You’ll also need to proofread and edit copy from other agency jobs.
As a Junior Art Director, your day-to-day will usually involve design of some kind, so make sure you’re up to scratch with Adobe Suite.
As for entry-level job requirements, you’ll probably need a tertiary degree in creative advertising, or some related field, but this isn’t always the case. Completing AWARD School is highly encouraged. If you’ve got an amazing portfolio of work, you might be able to skip the queue.
What do you need to excel?
You’ll start out as either a Junior Copywriter, Junior Art Director, or a Junior Creative. Once you’ve mastered junior life, you might go on to become a Copywriter/Senior Copywriter, Art Director/Senior Art Director, Senior Creative, Head of Art, Head of Copy/Copy Chief, Creative Director or Executive Creative Director.
Producers are responsible for bringing the creative ideas to life. Be it a TVC, photography, radio or content brief, producers solve the problem that is creating the creative idea. This involves making and maintaining budgets and schedules, finding and managing any and all external suppliers (talent, locations, crew etc.), overseeing all pre-production meetings, the shoot itself and any post production involved through to the final delivery of assets whilst ensuring the highest quality production.
The role of a Junior Producer is to assist your senior and executive producer on their productions. Some of the day to day tasks and responsibilities can include:
Post production phase:
Producers are required to be resourceful, strong negotiators and up to date with production technologies, practices and trends. They are highly organised, strong problem solvers and good at juggling projects as you will often have numerous productions on at the one time. Some advice for anyone considering production; be curious, be passionate, be involved, be organised (have a to do list) and don’t be afraid to speak up.
A Media Coordinator is an entry-level position that surrounds the learning required to become a digital media planning and management professional. Throughout the role, you are exposed to the research undertaken to plan and manage a digital campaign across several digital channels including online video, display, audio, and programmatic. You will be responsible for ensuring digital campaigns run smoothly from the initial setup of a digital campaign right through till the post campaign report. With the fast-paced nature of the digital world, there is a lot of troubleshooting required within this role and it is important that you enjoy problem solving and are a strong thinker.
A Media Coordinator supports the media team with the planning and buying of different media channels, such as TV, radio, digital and social.
Some of the day to day tasks and responsibilities include:
What do you need to excel?
To apply for an entry level position in media you usually need 0-2 years’ experience and a tertiary degree in Advertising, Communications, Digital Media, Marketing or similar. Future career opportunities, once you’ve gained more experience could include Media Manager, Media Planner/Buyer, Digital Strategist, or a Media Director.
So, what is ‘supplier side’ in the media world?
Working supplier side means that you are working for the organisation that actually supplies and owns the media channels and mediums that agencies and direct clients can purchase advertising from.
With the rise of digital, supplier side roles and types of organisations are varied and you could work for very niche companies that supply digital advertising. You don’t just see your traditional TV, newspaper, outdoor and radio advertising anymore. Digital has changed the game with the introduction of companies and organisations that solely cater and specialise in digital advertising, programmatic, SEM, SEO and more.
What could your day to day look like?
Possible Junior Job Titles: Account Coordinator (Print, Digital, TV, Radio, Outdoor), Sales Representative / Account Executive (Print, Digital, TV, Radio, Outdoor), Production Coordinator / Assistant, Communications Assistant, Research Assistant
What do you need to excel?
To apply for an entry level position in media you usually need about 1-2 years’ experience and a tertiary degree in Advertising, Marketing, PR or similar. Future career opportunities, once you’ve gained more experience could include Account Manager, Account Director, Direct Sales Manager or Business Development Executive