Rethinking The Advertising Agency Team Structure

World is changing rapidly around us. Digital revolution has shaken up all the industries. Revolution brings opportunities, but only for those who are willing and able to change within the times.

Amidst all the change, advertising agencies have been surprisingly static in their way of work. The basic advertising team structure has remained pretty much the same in most of the agencies (certain expectation to that rule). Usually core team has just been extended with channel specialists, because core team does not get digital. This has been one of the reasons why advertising agencies have lost their role in current business environment. We have hammers to solve your problems, but those problems have altered from nails to screws.

That is why it is mandatory to rethink the agency teams, to achieve the following goals:

1) To expand agency offering beyond traditional campaigns.
2) To find new business models in addition and to replace traditional retainers and project fees.
3) To create environment, which creates tangible creative products faster and more agile.
4) To enable flexible way of working to reduce over bloated organizations and bureaucracy.

New advertising agency should consist of generalists, who are accompanied with network of designated specialists. As the channel & technology knowledge gets more and more specified, the need to have the big picture is more vital than ever.

All the work is based on consumer insights and everyone has the responsibility to start their work from insights. That is why there are no separate planners.

Everyone also has to come up with ideas. Agency is as creative as its least creative link. The unified mindset is to produce things. Everyone is a producer. You will be judged by the actual stuff you are able to produce. No more room for free-riders.

Also the media knowledge should be in-house. In this day and age, you cannot separate creative work from the actual channels.


The core of the agency client teams is built around self-guided generalists, who are insight-driven and obsessed about creative output. Ideas are teamwork and have no ownership.

Job Description: Dual responsibility on both external & internal strategy:
How we improve our client´s business? How we improve our own business?
From my viewpoint you cannot ever separate strategy from the billings. That is why the business & strategic responsibilities are combined.
Mash-Up: Account director/Planner
Responsibility: Strategy

Job Description: To ensure that all the products that are done to the clients are as persuasive as possible. Verbal persuasion is not limited to traditional copywriting, but is extended to all channels and to internal level as well. As the lingua franca of business world is PowerPoint, agencies should be master of that vehicle as well. Good ideas have been ruined with bad presentations. That is unacceptable.
Mash-up: Copywriter/Screenwriter/Planner/
Responsibility: Persuasion

Job description: To ensure that all the products that are done to the client are aesthetically as beautiful as they can be. As the world is getting more and more visual, this role is increasingly more important. If you do not look good, you do not exist. Or at least, lack the quality.
Mash-up: Art Director/Film Director/Planner
Responsibility: Beauty
As you can see, these two roles are closest to traditional copy/ad-couple. There are two reasons to that. Fist, I find that pairing still the most effective unit in agencies. In majority of cases, two heads are better than. Secondly, I believe that we still need visual & verbal thinkers, although on more broad term. Usually they are two separate persons, but with certain individuals these roles can be merged.

Consumer Experience Designer

Job Description: To map out consumer journeys and find the most effective places to interact, help and to affect the consumer. As you cannot sugarcoat bad customer experience with flashy marketing communications, the customer experience should be in core of all the client teams.
Mash-up: Digital/Engagement/Media Planner
Responsibility: Consumer Experience

Creative Producer
Job Description: To ensure that the actual products will be produced. Leading the specialist network. Heading the prototyping in the agency. Creative producer is the catalyst of the new agency and the main change agent in moving to the age of experiment.
Mash-Up: Creative/Producer
Responsibility: Creative products & prototypes


Yes, you read right. Client should be an important team member. In order to reinvent agency model, we should also shift our working methods more towards collaboration instead of traditional buyer-subcontractor-model. To disrupt the usual brief-creative brief-creative execution-production-cycle, we should collaborate on earlier phase. Advertising agencies should strive to be the best advisers the client can have. That requires ability to tackle problems, which cannot be put on a single brief.It is also important to look beyond just challenges, agency should be also spotting opportunities on a constant notice. From my experience, with best client relationships this works and comes also quite naturally.

The generalist core team is helped by a group of specialists. These are used on case-by-case-basis and majority of them are not necessarily on the agency´s payroll. There are also certain agency-wide specialist roles, which are helping all the agency. These roles are following:

Creative Social Anthropologist
Job Description: Creative anthropologist gives unfiltered view of human behavior for the core team and keeps the whole company up-to-date with emerging audience trends. Heads the consumer research that is based on actual human behavior. Works in close cooperation with data miner.
Responsibility: Human behavior

Data Miner
Job Description: Data miner finds human patterns in big data. Helps core team and especially consumer experience designer to find ways to improve client´s business. With creative social anthropologist is creating the trend studies for the whole agency.
Responsibility: Mastering the Big Data

Creative Technologist

Job Description: Creative technologist role is two-folded. When working with core team, she helps to solve client´s business problems with technology. The other role is educational. Creative technologist keeps the whole agency up-to-date with the technologic change. These technologies are also actively tested within the agency.
Responsibility: Technologic change

Creative Lawyer/Creative Financial Personnel
This might be sound far-fetched, but if we really want to find new revenue sources in agencies, this will be mandatory. We have to expand the creativity to traditionally “boring” functions as well. And when I am talking about creative financial, that does not mean Enron or anything like that. Instead of traditional cost-cutters or salespeople, these people are seeking creative ways to improve company´s bottom line with new billing and contract models. Certain examples of these which have been already tested are revenue-share models, leasing IP-rights and creating own properties. There is plenty of room for improvement in this category.
Responsibility: Find new business models and revenue sources. Improve the agency processes.

This new team model is not that science fiction, when you think it closely. When evaluating these roles, I have already met people with these capabilities in different agencies I have worked for. The problem has been that many of them have been struggling with the old-school legacy team structures. The capabilities are already there, now it is time to unleash those capabilities, maybe throw some dead weight from the way and to radically rethink the agency team structure. Because if we will not do it, we might as well be extinct.

What is your view on agency team restructuring?

Tagged , , , , ,

One thought on “Rethinking The Advertising Agency Team Structure

  1. Vincent. R says:

    well, here is my suggestion
    Management and Back office
    1. Director / Creative Director
    2. Technical Director
    3. Chief Accountant
    4. Office manager
    5. Office attendant

    Strategic Team
    6. Marketing & Comm Manager
    7. Strategic media planner
    8. Creative / Art Director
    9. Project Manager / Administration

    Production Team
    10. Operations coordinator / planning
    11. Copywriter
    12. Senior designer
    13. Senior Programmer
    14. Analyst / information architect
    15. Designer / Developper
    16. Web admin / trainer

    but I think that only the name differs, but the roles remains…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: