If you’ve ever watched an episode of Mad Men, you may have asked yourself, “What exactly does Joan do?”
Often when I tell people that I work in a marketing and advertising agency their first question is “Oh! Are you a graphic designer?”
Me: “No, I’m the Production Director.”
Other person: “Oh! Then you work with the clients!”
Me: “Not exactly, I…”
Other person: “Well, then what DO you do?”
The Production Department keeps the gears running in the agency. We are the people behind-the-scenes of an agency, minimizing the chaos while the magic is made. We are the thread that keeps each department within the agency sewn together to produce the best work for our clients. We are the Joans.
There are three main functions for those that work within the production department of an agency.
1. Scheduling, Who Does What and When?
Scheduling the production of all the work within the agency is a precious balxance between managing client deadlines with the Account Service team and maintaining a “healthy” schedule for the producers of the work, the Creative team. This involves working with the Account Executives and Project Managers to understand the deliverables of each job and when they are due to be completed and ensuring that enough time is allotted for internal review, client review and revisions, and final file-prep. But that is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s equally important to know how much work each of the creative team is capable of handling within a work day, and balancing the schedule to allow enough time for concepts, copywriting, design, illustration, photography, revisions and reviewing.
2. Traffic, All the Checks and Balances
Once work is produced, the Traffic Manager moves the piece through the agency to make sure all necessary team members review it. The Senior Art Director and Creative Director review the layout for design, color, alignment, copy and photography placement. The copywriter proofreads the layout to catch any content mistakes. The Account Executive and/or Project Manager reviews the layout to make sure it meets the challenge of the strategy for the job and the client’s expectations. The Traffic Manager knows the status of every single piece of creative work within the office at any given time.
3. Production Management, Working with Vendors
Finally, the role of the production department is to work with the vendors that will finalize the job once the layout is complete and approved. This means working with printers, specialty item and signage companies, mail houses, media vendors and audio/video production companies to quote the job, provide specifications for the artwork, set deadlines and deliver a final product to the client.