Ad Agencies — Why Bother With Traffic and Project Management?

Read time: 7 minutes

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 in comparison to the budget, you are wasting the core competencies of your greatest asset — your creative team.

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Why Bother With Traffic Managers and Project Managers?

A good project manager 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.

In other words: project management 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.”

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 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.

Chris Wilson

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 companies from around the world and continues to run the company from the head office in Vancouver, Canada.