In the early days at GGT we won a cider account.

We didn’t present creative at the pitch, the client gave us six months to come back with a campaign.

Six months seemed like forever so there was no rush.

For a couple of weeks no one did anything.

For a couple more weeks the planner and account man discussed it over lunch.

For a couple more weeks there were various people on holiday.

For a couple of weeks it kept getting put on the back burner.

For a couple more weeks there were tentative thoughts and discussions.

For a couple of weeks there were exploratory meetings with the client.

For a couple of weeks, rough, first thoughts on a strategy.

For a couple more weeks, refining the target market for research.

For a couple of weeks, focus groups, debriefs, strategy discussions.

It all took time, but there was no rush.

There were six months until we had to go back with a campaign.

Except there weren’t.

Suddenly someone noticed there were four weeks left to presentation.

Out of the six months we’d been given, five months had evaporated.

Suddenly, account handling and planning had to write the brief in two weeks.

Creative got whatever time was left, at the end of that process, to write the campaign.

Meanwhile, the client thought we’d had six months to write it.

But we didn’t have six months, we had two weeks.

We wrote the campaign and presented it.

The client said the brief was wrong.

They gave us two weeks to write a new brief and a new campaign.

Two weeks to do work that should have been done over six months.

We did it and the work ran, it wasn’t great.

We lost the account.

That’s when I decided we would never waste time like that again.

We would have a proper traffic system.

What was wrong with every traffic system was it worked forward from the time the brief was written.

All the traffic dept did was chase the creative dept to do the work.

That was wrong.

The only thing that isn’t movable is the airdate.

So you end up like we had: five months to write a brief and two weeks to do the ads.

That’s just dumb.

So the start point had to be the only thing that couldn’t be changed.

The airdate.

We wouldn’t work forward from the brief.

We’d work backward from the airdate.

We’d divide up the time between the various departments.

Then everyone would perform to a deadline.

Repeat: every department would have to hit their deadline.

And it was traffic’s job to enforce each of those deadlines.

For account-handling, planning, creative, production.

Like a relay race, everyone runs their lap, then hands the baton on.

Not just creative.

That way we didn’t fritter away time up front and panic at the end.

That way every day was important.

And creative always got its fair share of time.

Just like a cop directing traffic at a junction, everyone gets a fair share.

During the following years, GGT did the best work we’d ever done.

And we did it with less people than most other agencies.

And we did it with mainly junior people, everyone got a fair chance.

And we put on tons of new business and won lots of awards.

But the people who make that system work aren’t just in the traffic department.

They’re the CEO, the MD, the head of planning, and the ECD.

The people who run the agency.


Because if they don’t want it, it doesn’t happen.