How the transition to digital affects agencies’ current processes

Guest post from Steve Hall

When I was working for a high tech and B2B ad agency that was experiencing  growing pains caused by the transformation from small to mid-sized to large, I developed a traffic and production management system using a Mac and FileMaker Pro. Prior to that system, there were nothing more than memos and email to convey information from account management to creative to production to traffic and back. It was inefficient, and many times information was lost in transit.

The FileMaker Pro system introduced job tickets and a workflow that, to the best of FileMaker Pro’s limited capabilities, aided in making sure the right people saw the right information and that the process was properly documented. This included a listing of those responsible for various aspects of the job, due dates, production specs and, if lucky, the creative brief.

It was far from a perfect system and rife with the limitations of early-stage FileMaker Pro. At other agencies I worked for, trafficking jobs and managing workflow ranged in sophistication from a simple phone call to a handwritten note to typed, four-part forms to email to clunky dumb terminal antiquation.

Sadly, even to this day, few agencies feel the need to invest in systems that would vastly improve the efficiencies and performance of everyone at the agency. Agencies are famous for making bold promises, touting cutting-edge strategies, hyping the latest and greatest shiny object and generally promising they can do just about anything at all.

But when it comes to noting what they need internally in terms of advanced thinking, most fall short, don’t feel the need to invest and generally think Dropbox and Evernote are all they need. Not to knock those products, but they are far from the full-fledged solution most agencies need.

With much of the industry’s work shifting to digital, managing non-physical assets including their location, approval status and transition to outside vendors becomes ever more important. There are no physical “job jackets” any longer and holding onto that antiquated system (many agencies still do by – believe it or not – printing out digital assets) will leave those agencies in a dust cloud of their more digital-savvy competition.

However when shifting over to digital communications, agencies must be mindful not to eliminate the all important human touch that is ever so important in the creative process. When an agency shifts to digital collaboration and/or workflow management, they must be sure whatever solution they put in place doesn’t completely supplant the human element.

While agencies are far more conservative than their dress, office space, liberal mindset or advanced strategic thinking would lead one to believe, they need to wake up and drink the Kool Aid they’ve been shilling their clients since Don Draper made his Carousel presentation to Kodak in the early sixties. OK, so that never actually happened, but you understand what I’m saying. Times have changed. The work product has changed. And it’s time agencies adopt processes suited to those changes.

Post by Steve Hall

Steve Hall is a marketing professional, publisher, writer, community manager, photographer and all-around lover of advertising. Steve has held management positions in media and account service at Leo Burnett, Starcom/Mediavest and others, working on such accounts as Reebok, Marriott, and Marshmallow Fluff.