Ad Agencies — Why Bother With Traffic and Project Management?

After coming back from a seminar held by ADEPT Creative Project Management last year, I wrote an article about the difference between Traffic and Project Managers. We often get this question as we onboard new clients. I thought I’d re-visit this topic to see if we can get some dialog going, and provide some new thoughts.

First off, I’d like to recommend reading about managing project and traffic managers by Laura Berry at Cella Consulting. It is focused on in-house creative teams, but it is just as relevant to outside creative and advertising agencies. Managing the business side of creative is something that every growing agency will have to focus on at one point or another, as amazing creative or design work won’t (on it’s own at least) make a successful business. We’re talking dollars and cents now rather than awards and self-fulfillment. Yes, your creative work is the product that makes your agency stand out, but your business process is the delivery system that will provide the agency with the long-term success that you all want.

Remember, it’s not enough to deliver a great product once, you have to become known as a company that always delivers great product on time, and on budget. If you have your best creative minds bogged down in business details and worried about trying to figure out where any given project is in comparison to the budget, you are wasting the core competencies of your greatest asset — your creative team.

Why Bother With Traffic Managers and Project Managers?

A good project manager ad agency will work with account management, creative and production to build a solid plan for a specific client deliverable. They will take into account agency resourcing, competencies of different individuals on the team and develop a repeatable process for bringing new work into the agency.

On the other hand, the traffic manager will be responsible for managing day-to-day operations within the agency. They ensure that the proper resources are working on all active projects within the agency.

Here’s a comparison table that summarizes the key differences between the traffic manager vs project manager:

AspectTraffic ManagerProject Manager
ScopeAllocate resources among multiple projects, track progress, and facilitate team collaboration to create a smooth task execution of creative projects to meet deadlines.Navigate the entire project lifecycle from end to end: setting goals and expectations, developing execution plans, assigning roles, monitoring project progress, managing risks, and ensuring project quality.
FocusConcentrate on the agency’s daily operations such as task management and resource coordination to ensure a smooth workflow. Prioritize strategic planning, goal setting, and team management with the purpose of bringing the project to success within specified timeframes and budgets.
CollaborationWork closely with internal teams like creatives and account managers to create seamless collaboration.Collaborate with cross-functional teams, clients, and vendors to align project goals, communicate expectations, and monitor progress.
Risk ManagementLook for risks related to resource constraints and challenges within the agency’s workflow.Use risk assessment techniques for the project itself and devise mitigation strategies to avoid the risk or reduce their impact.
Success MetricsEfficiency metrics: task turnaround time, resource utilization, and rework times.Performance metrics: project profitability, scope adherence, and client satisfaction.
Key Skills/QualitiesStrong organizational and multitasking skills, attention to detail, excellent interpersonal skills, and problem-solving abilities.Strategic thinking, leadership skills, effective communication, risk management, and stakeholder management.
Common ChallengesHandling shifting priorities, conflicting deadlines, last-minute changes, and distributing resources across multiple projects.Balancing competing demands, managing scope creep and resource constraints, and resolving conflicts.

In other words: project management for an advertising agency is about planning out the details of all the work that needs to get done, and traffic management is about ensuring that it happens. Even if you don’t currently have both a project manager and a traffic manager to help keep projects running on time and on budget, you can always set your team up for success with a well-written creative brief. A good creative brief is like a strongly brewed cup of coffee — it’s the fuel that feeds the creative design team to develop innovative, awe-inspiring work. Use our customizable creative brief template to collect all the information you need to plan projects effectively and keep them on track from day one.

Can both of these functions be performed by the same person? Perhaps (I’d love to get your opinion), but one thing is certain; both of these roles are essential. An agency that has the foresight to offload all the planning and admin work to their project and traffic managers will be more productive and profitable. Think of it this way — your people will be happier because they’ll be working on what they enjoy (and are best at), your clients will be happier because your creatives will have the time to fully develop their ideas, and your business will improve due to better internal efficiencies. All of this spells more profit for you and your team and enhance the long-term viability of your business.

Insights From Cella Consulting:

“The importance of managing workflow and customer expectations cannot be overstated. At some point in a creative organization’s maturity, it becomes natural to focus on aspects other than creative quality — to begin to manage scheduling, scope, budget and capacity planning. When you do, the need for traffic and project management becomes apparent. Hiring the right skill sets for these two roles and integrating them into an existing process can be difficult, but the results far outweigh the frustrations.”

Why Bother With Project Management Software

Discover the key benefits of project management software for your team’s workflow and project success

So — can both of these roles be done by the same person? Comment below to share your thoughts.

For the most part, I believe that it can, but ultimately it will depend on the size of the agency, the talent of the traffic and/or project manager, and the resources available. A great resource for project managers and traffic managers is using an integrated ad agency project management software to streamline some of their responsibilities and agency resources.

An all-in-one system like Function Point can help accurately track your agency’s costs, deadlines, and measure how much time is allocated against specific jobs. To find out more on how to manage your agency’s time and resources, download our free ebook about managing your agency time and resources.

How Function Point Can Help Traffic Managers and Project Managers

Here’s how Function Point can be applied in traffic management and project management in advertising agencies:

For Agency Traffic Managers:

  • Task Management: Create and assign tasks to team members, monitor task progress to ensure they’re completed on schedule.
  • Resource Allocation: Distribute resources to each project based on team members’ availability, expertise, and workload.
  • Workflow Monitoring: Oversee the flow of tasks and detect obstacles to ensure a smooth workflow where nothing falls out of crack.
  • Collaboration: Simplify collaboration where everyone can communicate, share files, and update task status on a centralized platform.
  • Time Tracking: Track the time spent on tasks or projects to compare the planned vs actual time and manage the billable vs. non-billable hours to better plan resources and costs for future projects. 

For Agency Project Managers:

  • Project Planning: Create project plans and determine milestones for each project phase.
  • Financial Management: Estimate project costs more accurately, and control project budgets more easily by centralizing all expenses.
  • Resource Management: Decide roles for each member and balance workloads to utilize resources efficiently.
  • Task Dependencies and Schedule: Visualize task dependencies and project schedules in a Gantt Chart for the creative team to understand how their responsibilities affect the entire project 
  • Reporting and Analytics: Generate customized reports, track key metrics, expenses and timesheets, and analyze project data for insights and decision-making. 

Collaboration between Traffic Managers and Project Managers:

  • If you need a unified platform for traffic managers and project managers to collaborate, Function Point is the one to plan and monitor tasks and resources. 
  • Both positions can take advantage of the software to coordinate on project timelines, resource availability, and task dependencies.
  • The 2 managers use Function Point’s reporting and analytics features to understand project performance and efficiency metrics for better decision-making.

Why You Should Invest in Technology to Manage Traffic and Projects

Here’re the key benefits of technology that help advertising agencies with project management and traffic management:

Streamline Workflow and Efficiency:

Since traffic managers are primarily in charge of coordinating tasks and allocating resources within the ad agency, they can adopt a traffic management system to enhance workflow. The software provides full visibility of the overall efficiency, thus helping traffic managers to easily detect bottlenecks and make adjustments. This also allows creative teams to focus on their work without worrying about operational aspects.

Optimize Time and Resource Allocation:

Every ad agency has limited time and human capacities. To make the most of available resources, you should implement an integrated traffic and project management system. This is the best solution to accurately distribute and monitor resources, hence improving productivity and reducing wasted effort, while meeting project deadlines and client expectations.

Enhance Collaboration:

Successful ad campaigns are the result of teamwork, which stresses the importance of seamless collaboration among teams and stakeholders. To foster communication and offer more visibility for all parties, get a centralized traffic and project management system. This tool allows everyone to share files, update their task status in real time, exchange feedback, and view the overall project progress.

Increase Accountability and Transparency:

Traffic and project management tools clearly display the progress, members’ tasks and availability, and project milestones. This creates transparency and improves individuals’ accountability for their roles, promoting a culture of ownership. The clients can benefit from greater transparency too, as they can track project progress and understand the agency’s ability to deliver high-quality work.

Improve Project Planning and Risk Management:

Project management in advertising agencies requires effective planning and proactive risk management. By using software, project managers can set clear project goals and scope of work, assign roles to team members, and create realistic timelines. Hence, agencies can plan better and identify potential risks with remedial measures to steer the project to success.

Maximize ROI and Client Satisfaction:

A traffic and project management system can directly impact your agency’s bottom line. With an optimized workflow and timely project delivery, you can reap a higher return on investment (ROI) of the projects. In addition, your work quality and transparency also help increase client satisfaction and retention rate, leading to more repeated businesses or referrals to new opportunities.

Boost Scalability:

Ad agency project managers and traffic mangers need to be agile and adaptable in a constantly evolving industry. With a scalable system in place, agencies can take on larger projects, accommodate more users, respond to changing client needs, and expand their service offerings.


The roles of traffic and project managers in advertising agency are vital to the success and growth of the company. They are the team leaders that streamline operations, optimize resources, and deliver successful project outcomes. Embrace the power of traffic and project management, and you can enhance workflow efficiency, foster collaboration, drive client satisfaction, and achieve sustainable growth in the dynamic realm of advertising. 

Chris Wilson

Founder & CEO

Chris started Function Point over 20 years ago in his basement as a way to help professional service agencies run their businesses more efficiently. Since then he’s grown FP into an international success, working with over 600 agencies from around the world and continues to run the company from the head office in Vancouver, Canada.

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