MYPRODUCT8 Deadline. Friend or Enemy?

1.Situation

The year 2003 caught me in the advertising industry at Tempo Advertising as Key Account Manager, responsible for the communication projects developed by the agency for Orange, one of the most important communicators on the market. At the time of being hired by the agency, we agreed that Orange’s dedicated customer service team would include two executives under my direct coordination, normal requirement / expectation considering the huge workload on this client. As a reference, the agency responsible for Vodafone was accounting four people in the client service department.

2.Task

Quickly I realized that those two executives are not allocated and due to the quantity and complexity of the projects I had to come in the agency at 7-8 in the morning and leave late in the night, many times after midnight. Under these circumstances, the workload on me and my teams (creation, Dpt, media, production, etc.) was so heavy that we many times were not really able to complete the projects in accordance with the deadlines requested by Orange or presented by us to the client.

From another perspective, the working style was not giving enough time to the creative team to develop the best ideas and exposed all the teams to possible errors, unacceptable for professionals.

In this context, I decided to act urgently to radically change the working model with Orange.

3.Action

Very soon I realized that the main issue was related to the client management and requested / presented deadlines. I say this because Orange was not a single client as we were developing projects for many people from Orange: the ATL manager, the dealership responsible, the product and service development manager, the budget manager, the media one. In fact Orange customer was not a single customer, but represented 4-5 different clients, each with their own work agenda and their own deadlines in agency. In fact, accounting all current and future projects, I was surprised to see that we actually had to face dozens of projects, one more urgent than another.

In this context, after getting in advance the Agency’s management support, I asked for a Client meeting with the participation of all Orange managers that were sending project briefs to us.

Having all Orange’s customers at the same table, I detailed all their current projects and corresponding deadlines, as well as future projects for which we received briefs but work was not started yet due to the agency’s load. Seeing this centralization, they were surprised because with some exceptions Orange project managers were not aware of other colleagues’ projects. In this context, I outlined the possible solutions:

-they will pay the agency an additional number of teams in order to complete correctly and in time their projects

-we can keep the current financial agreement, but together we must prioritize all the projects according to urgency and importance.

I quickly solved the issue of the overpassing deadlines as follows: as long as you as a client know that you need a project to be finished in 40 days it is unproductive to ask your agency to make it in 7 days. Instead, we as an agency take our commitment to deliver your project within 40 days, as per your deadline.

In other words, we have made meeting deadlines a constant vector of agency – Orange collaboration.

4.Results

Thanks to the new approach regarding client and deadlines management, the benefits were immediately seen. Creative teams had more time to think and come up with interesting creative concepts, dtp was far less exposed to mistakes, production department enjoyed more time to prepare competitive costs and budgets. And all the teams working on the Orange client were leaving the agency at the end of normal business day with the projects well done and delivered on time, while our colleagues from other les complex accounts were still working in the agency.

 

5.Key Learnings

Those who have worked in advertising agencies understand the pressure of deadlines very well. This aspect is highlighted in most market studies, where customers mention deadline as one of the most problematic aspects of their collaboration with an agency. Regardless the nature of your work, assume only a deadline that you are convinced you will respect. If necessary change your working method because the day has always 24 hours, no matter you make 1 or 100 projects. Respect your deadline because it is one of the most important criteria in evaluation of you and of your work.  It can be your friend or your enemy.

Notification: MYPRODUCT reflects my real professional experience and expertise as well as my subjectivity. I do have a profound respect for all the companies I collaborated to and for all the people I worked with. It is not my intention to approach any sensitive, confidential or offending information related to companies, projects or people. If you the reader deduct or recognise companies, projects or people in my examples, I kindly ask you to respect MYPRODUCT and my professional and ethic approach and to not share any detail, information, situation, name, company.