The increasing importance of the agency traffic manager

You really have to pat them on the back, you know. Not out of pity or sorrow or sympathy. No. Rather for their Herculean effort at corralling and managing one of the most crucial processes in an advertising agency: workflow or job management or whatever you want to call the process by which agency work enters and leaves the building according to schedule.

We’re talking about the agency Traffic Manager. They are sometimes looked upon by creative as a menacing pain in the ass with no respect for creative thinking. They are sometimes viewed with annoyance by the media department when, because for whatever reason, creative will be late and material deadlines need to be extended. And they can even be seen as a hindrance by the account management team who wants to please a client by delivering work early only to be told, “Sorry, the schedule won’t allow us to move the due date up.”

But they, for the most part, are the only person in the agency whose sole responsibility is to make sure due dates are met and that work flows smoothly from department to department.

With the proliferation of online and social media, coupled with increasing partnerships with outside entities, keeping things on track and in the right department’s hands at all times has placed increased importance on the traffic management role.

Sadly, the traffic manager role is often looked down upon as an administrative function. And to a certain extent this is true. Often times, the role is filled with junior people who haven’t the experience to effectively navigate the inner workings of an ad agency to ensure schedules are met. Or, even for experienced traffic managers, they simply aren’t given the authority or stature to wield enough power to slice through the fog of ego that often permeates certain senior roles within an  agency.

So the next time you feel the need to lash out at your Traffic Manager when he or she tells you “we can’t do that” or “that change will cause late delivery,” have a heart (and a little respect) and realize they are doing the agency a gigantic service. They are ensuring that work flows through the agency in a timely fashion and that it’s delivered to the client as promised. In other words, he or she is making you look good.

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.