This is why you need an agency with good project management in advertising

16 June 2020
By : Rocio Zepeda
elements and tools of project management in advertising pm3 agency


A day in the life of an advertising project manager can get pretty hectic, like many things in advertising. Let’s face it: the ad world moves fast and lives in a permanently accelerated rush mode. Yes, even during supposedly “slow times” like the ones we’re living requires that we engage in what looks like a dangerous dance with chaos to get ahead and stay ahead. How is that even possible? Could it be that creatives are –against all odds– organized people? Or maybe, just maybe, having an effective policy on deadlines and fear work like a charm for accounts management?

At PM3 we don’t really depend on that

It would be like waiting for a planetary alignment that makes everything magically work and flow. Since we don’t have the luxury of magic or planetary alignment on our side that often, we rely on Project Management and experience, which comes from anywhere… even a blog post. Being a project manager, it’s a first for me to be invited to write in an agency blog. Yet I’ve found it very insightful to ponder and write about how a simple project and its results would vary if it was left solely in the hands of the accounts or creative teams.

pinup girl using a megaphone project management in advertising pm3 agency

Account management lead


On a Monday morning, the account manager asks the creative team to develop a print ad for XYZ Industries. “It must be ready in one week,” he says. Six full workdays. It sounds like a fair amount of time, but is it? Times should be discussed to create a realistic timeline. Maybe the creative team has other projects in the pipeline or it’s even possible that they could even have it ready sooner –Hey! Don’t give me that look! It’s possible. – Unfortunately, the accounts team promised a deadline without having all the information to make such a promise. First mistake; imagine the fear of just thinking about how to tell the client they will be forced to move the deadline.

On Wednesday morning, the accounts team asks creative for the comps to show the client. Response from creative: “You told us we had a week, we’re still working on it.” Alas, there was a misunderstanding: the week was for the finalized ad. The client needs to review and approve, so comps need to be ready that day! Second mistake. All of a sudden, time has been cut in half, all because of a communication error. As silly as it sounds, this happens very often in ad agencies (too often some might say). So the creative team scrambles to put together a comp that can be ready that same day. Since they only have a couple of hours to put together a visual, they rely on one impactful stock photo to convey the message needed. Fire extinguished!

At the end of the day, creative submits a generic and rushed print ad put together in record time. If the client accepts it – and ad miracles do happen– the final artwork will be delivered on time… A happy ending. Or maybe not: once the project is passed to accounting the following Monday, the client receives an invoice for double what was in their budget because of the cost of the rights-managed photograph on the print ad. Strike three!


XYZ Industries is upset because they have gone over budget on a mediocre and rushed print ad.


Creative team lead:


On a Monday, the account manager asks the creative team to develop a print ad for XYZ Industries and gives direction to have it ready in one week. –Sound familiar?– So on Wednesday morning, accounts asks the creative team for the comps to show the client but they’re still working on ideas. They will need more time to come up with quality work. They are convinced that it’s just a little delay but that in the end the client will appreciate the extra effort because the agency is taking the time to make the best job possible. So, late on Thursday, the creative team has some options for the client to review.

Bingo! The client loves the second option and wants to move forward with it. But at that precise moment (and not one second beforehand), creative informs accounts management that the selected option requires a photoshoot: putting the project over budget and extending the delivery of final assets an additional week.



XYZ Industries is upset because they have both gone over budget and have their print ad delivered late.

Final Thoughts

Maybe you would think that those are oversimplified and over the top scenarios. But things like that happen, have happened, and will happen. That’s why you need to work with an agency with a strong project management team. In a way, we are the frontline protectors of budgets AND time. So you might wonder: what makes a good project manager in advertising? Well on any given day, a good project manager will:

  • Iron out realistic timelines clearly establishing every step while clarifying pertinent details such as if the week is for comps or final assets and whether the client has a budget they need to stick to.
  • Define crystal clear due dates for approvals and the delivery of final assets.
  • Determine who will be in charge of the project, clearly relaying the client’s request to creatives, including timeline and budgetary constraints.
  • Follow up on the project from day one.
  • Review the creative work to make sure any options presented can be produced on time (in this scenario: bye-bye photoshoot!) and under budget (making sure photography used is royalty-free).
  • If one of the options created by the creative team goes over budget and/or timeline, project management will advise accounts management to make sure the client is aware that if they select the “better” option, there will be changes in the required time (a new timeline with later delivery) and/or monetary implications (a new budget).
  • Create a new timeline/budget for the creative team if the client selects a more time-consuming and/or costlier option.


XYZ Industries is happy because they got a high-quality print ad on time and within budget thanks in large part to team work and the link connecting everything thanks to the person in the  project manager role in the advertising agency.


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