When it comes to developing your ad agency operational strategy you had better start with what’s the objective.

ad agency operations

Time to think about your operational strategy.

Are you looking to improved your bottom-line or develop and produce the very best thinking on marketing, branding, client growth? How about improve your creative product? Or is it to improve efficiency – create less frustration for leadership and staff? How about reducing all the rework and revisions in the agency? Or just coming up with a faster response and turnaround time? What about integration of services?

Over the past 30 years Sanders Consulting Group has been involved with many restructuring efforts and we’ve seen what’s been tried…(what hasn’t?)

  • 100 different reporting relationships for strategy vs. tactical wings of agencies.
  • A multitude of compensation and bonus schemes
  • Transforming or just eliminating account service
  • Teams – fat, skinny and otherwise
  • All manner of encouragement, cajoling and threats

Lessons Learned:

Dig Deep: Re-organization without changing the way you work doesn’t work. Whether you would like to improve profitability, streamline productivity, move into a team-based environment, or develop a new systems plan, you need to address all aspects of the organization. Create plans that will translate your strategic vision into the organizational structure, processes, technology, skills, motivation and facilities needed to make it a reality.

Size Matters: When thinking about your operations the size of the agency, accounts, and clients will drive many of your decisions. Do you have conflicts between geography, lines of business and macro-account management? The development of free trade areas around the world has spurred economic activity and positively affected the advertising industry. Clients are looking to their agencies to orchestrate consistent marketing programs and brand image throughout the world. It will be a challenge for agencies to address global client needs in the areas of strategic consistency, financial planning, and quality staffing. Agencies will need to organize less around geography and more around client and function.

Teamwork Works: First of all “Team” is a dangerous word. Often used to descript any and all manors of organization, from executional teams to strategic teams, ad-hoc teams to “teamed” departments and offices who claim to operate in a team environment. There is confusion on what a team truly is and how they operate. A team is defined as a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose and set of performance goals for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. A team is NOT forming ad-hoc workgroups on the fly and then claiming you work in a team environment. However, true client-focused teams can provide the building block needed to address the myriad of issues facing agencies today. Agency teams dedicated to a client’s or small group of clients’ provide individualized, cross-disciplined service and are measured by specific performance goals. By breaking down the walls between departments and having each function work together in a team environment, agencies can find powerful solutions to each of the issues facing the agency business.

Operational Art of Agency Operations:

“Operational art of war” is based on a military term meaning, essentially, “the theory and practice of combat.” Strategy and tactics routinely affect the dimensions of military conflict, each in a different manner. For instance, the strategist aims at the enemy center of gravity, which often is the nation’s will to fight. At the tactical level, the battlefield commander has a more limited and proximate perspective and focuses on his immediate foe. “Operational art of war” is the method to merge these two separate goals into one unified mission. The operational art of war is thus different in sum and part. It is more than large-scale tactics, but it is not small-scale strategy either. It has both a tactical and a strategic dimension, because it must create a vision of unity of action on the battlefield that ultimately achieves a strategic objective. For agencies this can be defined as the gray area between the agency strategic vision and how you organize to get work done. It’s easy to spot the agencies that are masters of this art:

  • Work on time, all the time
  • No surprises
  • Growth seems easy
  • Low turnover
  • Happy clients

Different organization structures are appropriate for different agencies. Depending on your goals, clients, and staff your agency should adopt the structure that is most appropriate for its future.

Creating Change: A Leaders Mission

  1. Adopt an agency vision (focus).
    Where is our agency going?
    How do we get there?
  2. Get the agency change ready
  3. Redesign agency processes to drive the structure
  4. Build client-focused structure around processes
  5. Support the redesigned operations with all agency resources
  6. Align your employee programs with the agency’s vision
  7. Ensure that heavy duty training is an integral part of restructuring

Above all, the Art of Agency Operations is a mindset. Be bold. Think big.

The 5 Typical Ad Agency Organizational Structure Alternatives

How We Can Help:

If you want improvement in these areas, give us a call at 412.897.9329 or email us at [email protected] It’s a practice area where small and seemingly insignificant changes can have a large, positive impact on your firm. And reduce your stress level.


Photo by MasterpeiceMayhem