Try to be an ad-person
At my first job, the different departments were separated quite rigorously. Creatives with creatives — close to account people. Planning in a different level of the building, only meeting with the others for pre-defined strategy/briefing sessions. All quite neatly separated and condemned to only see the next of their kind all day long. Experts in their fields remaining experts. I am not saying that this did not work, as it was and still is one of the most successful ad-agencies in Germany and Europe. And of course as an intern you most likely don’t get the full picture. But that still was my impression.
Once I started in smaller agencies, the line of departments started to blur more and more — often accompanied with a small loss of structure and therefore effectiveness. But it was only there where I learned what advertising truly was made of, what its ingredients where and how it actually works. Not only in the eye of the buyer but also internally — the processes, the pitfalls, the dangers, the enlightenments.
You know, it was only there where I understood Dave Trott when he said: “I don’t like planners, account people or creatives. I don’t like people who limit themselves to their departments. I like ad-people.”
Because only when I started to understand and see what account was working on, how they were working and what problems they were facing, I was able to adapt my input as a planner to their needs. Only when I understood what creatives where facing, which problems they were solving and worries they had, I was able to adapt my input as a planner.
An only this understanding of all sides, of all view- and painpoints, makes great work possible. The simplest example: Knowing and understanding the budget a client has lets you focus on solutions that actually work within this frame (maybe not that new for planners as for creatives). Or knowing that creatives are so deeply engrained in the development process, they easily loose oversight of a campaign, gets me to develop a simple, neat comms plan (that will most likely change a hundred times but still).
For me the biggest value of working in small agencies is not only to be closer to the actual work, in meetings and the possibility to have a bigger impact on work. It is actually getting to know and understanding the process, which is by far the most valuable thing I am taking with me. Because only through this, I am able to (hopefully) develop towards becoming an ad-person and to serve the one thing we should all be aiming for: help our client’s business grow.