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Juggling is for Circus Performers

The Importance of Good Traffic

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We've talked before about time management with advertising, marketing and design agencies. As they say, time is money. It's also quality. There's an old adage that sums up the issues of balancing time, with money and quality of work.

YOU CAN HAVE IT QUICK AND CHEAP, BUT IT WON'T BE GOOD

YOU CAN HAVE IT QUICK AND GOOD, BUT IT WON'T BE CHEAP.

YOU CAN HAVE IT GOOD AND CHEAP, BUT IT WON'T BE QUICK.

You can't have all three. And yet, so often in our industry, that's exactly what the client expects. Whether it's from freelancers and crowdsourcing, or from internal agencies, clients are under the impression that you can have quality, quantity and lightning fast delivery, all for pennies on the dollar.

Well, that's just not going to happen. Not without severe consequences, including a mass exodus of your creative staff.

So, Who Is Responsible for Managing the Time of the Creative Department ?

It would be easy to dump the burden of blame firmly at the feet of the traffic department. After all, they control the traffic, so a traffic jam is their fault, right?

Well, yes and no. It all depends on several factors. First, we should look at the role the traffic department plays with the agency.

Briefly, traffic is there to overlook production schedules, track jobs, keep the status of those jobs updated, oversee quality control, and keep samples of the work.

You'll notice it does not say anything about assigning roles and responsibilities. While it's true that traffic can help with that, the decision ultimately falls to other people (we'll get to that in a moment). So, while traffic can warn of red flags, like too many jobs being assigned to one team, or too few to another, they are not the ones who dictate who works on what.

That decision comes from the creative director(s).

In an efficient traffic system, the creative directors will work hand in hand with traffic and the account teams to ensure the right people are working on the right job, and that there is a well-balanced distribution of the work.

A good creative director will know which teams are available to work on which jobs, and what their workloads look like. He or she can also pull teams from one job to work on another, and make sure the projects are all adequately covered.

In theory, it's a sound system. In practice, some creative directors just don't cut the mustard. They are too entrenched in their own projects, or oblivious to their surroundings, to notice massive responsibility imbalances. That's why some copywriters and art directors will be completely overloaded, and others will have enough down time to play pool and leave the agency early for beers.

If some individuals are more talented, or experienced, than others, you also get huge workload problems. It's not uncommon for the "stars" of the creative department to get assigned to every major task, and for the less talented ones to get the cold shoulder.

This is not acceptable. You will drain the good creatives, and antagonize the others. Morale will nosedive. If you are a creative director reading this, take a long, hard look at your creative department and make sure you have the workload spread evenly and appropriately. If you are in account services, work with traffic and the creative director to see that projects are assigned in the right way. You cannot simply request the same people on every job because "they know it" and you're more comfortable with them.

At the end of the day, the traffic department can only do so much. If they have to handle people telling them to run red lights or turn every light green, chaos will ensue.

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