Ad agencies are very much a part of our lives, given the fact that we are exposed to so much advertising on a daily basis, and on virtually every medium that we see — TV, newspapers, Web sites, hoardings, bus shelters and bus panels, among others.
Let us take a quick look at how they work:
Traditionally, most agencies have four main functions — client servicing, media planning and buying, creative, and account planning.
The creative department is the one that really drives an agency — they are the people who think up the brilliant (and sometimes not-so-brilliant) ads that we end up seeing. These people are good at thinking of unusual and interesting ways of conveying to consumers the message about the product. This includes thinking of the words, visuals, choice of models, music and the decision on whether to have humour or not.
The client servicing department does much of the interaction with the client. Senior client servicing people pretty much serve as marketing consultants to the client. They sit in on strategy meetings and give inputs as to how the brand's positioning can be taken forward. It is also their role to act as an interface between the client and the creative, in the sense that they translate the marketing objectives into a brief that tells the creative the kind of output being sought, the message to be conveyed, and so on.
Management graduates tend to join this function; the skills required here include excellent people skills, good project management skills, and a sound knowledge of marketing strategy.
The media function has undergone a sea change in the last decade. Essentially, it is the media planning department's role to evaluate the various options available and decide where the ad campaign is to be placed. This is a job that calls for a high degree of comfort with numbers and skill in reading research reports, such as readership and TV audience studies.
In recent times, media planning buying has become an independent function and is done by quite a few large, specialised companies. Some clients have set up their own media buying units to ensure that they get the best rates.
Account planning is a relatively more recent function. The role here is to essentially think on behalf of the client, and to prepare the agency itself for pitching to a new client. The skills called for include a knowledge of market research techniques and consumer behaviour.
(Contributed by Ashok R. Sankethi, CEO, Kaybase, a business consulting firm. Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)