When I was 16, I left school and got a job as an apprentice toolmaker.
I worked in a factory, and the job that fascinated me was a guy called the ‘Progress Chaser’.
It seemed his role was to chase a particularly urgent job through the system.
Not every job, just whichever job he’d been told was a priority.
He’d walk around the factory floor shouting at people working on the machinery.
It seemed that whatever was happening with all the rest of the factory’s jobs, his job was to push everything else aside so his job(s) got done first.
First on the lathes, first on the milling machines, in the polishing shop, in the chroming vats.
Anything else wasn’t his problem, so he had a vast sense of self-importance as he swaggered through the factory floor barking orders.
This was Progress-Chasing.
It seems to me that’s what we have in advertising, but it’s called ‘Traffic’.
As if by changing the name we made it seem like a sensible way to run an agency.
It works just like progress-chasing: wait until account-handling are finally ready with a brief.
Then throw it into the creative department and mark it ‘Urgent’, it’s a rush job so we need a first review this afternoon, that gives you 6 hours to do it.
6 hours later, we find the brief was wrong, here’s a new one, we need to see work at 9am.
Next morning none of it’s right, but we’re seeing the client for lunch: you’ve got 3 hours.
So that’s the work the client gets.
Because that’s ‘Progress-Chasing’ that’s not ‘Traffic’.
Traffic is what we see every day on the roads, a controlled flow.
Traffic lights allow one minute for east-west traffic, then a minute for north-south traffic.
And everything moves.
Now imagine if Progress-Chasing decided to get rid of traffic lights and put red flashing lights and sirens on some of those vehicles, that’s how most agencies are run.
That’s why the quality of work is piss-poor.
Agency priority isn’t about anything but: ‘Get out what you can, asap.”
We don’t have traffic, we have (at best) a conveyor belt, we’re back to the way it used to run in factories, why is that?
Because the creative part is left to the end of the process.
Account handling and planning aren’t trafficked, so-called Traffic (Progress-Chasing) doesn’t even start until the brief is written.
So they can take all the time they like to write the brief, no one is chasing them.
Then they throw the brief into creative and put ‘Traffic’ (Progress-Chasing) on it to hound it through in whatever time’s left.
REAL traffic is when you apply the system to the ENTIRE agency.
The minute you know the airdate, you divvy up the time fairly between departments, so say: account handling gets a quarter, planning gets a quarter, creative gets a quarter, and production gets a quarter.
Then you feed this into real ‘Traffic’ and they enforce deadlines in EVERY department.
That way the client gets the best job the ENTIRE agency can do.
Instead of just whatever progress-chasing can hustle out of the creatives in a few hours.
At present, when the client sees the final creative work, they think the entire time they gave the agency was used to come up with the idea.
They don’t realise it was 40% account handling, 40% planning, 10% creative, and 10% production.
Given all that actually appears on the screen is creative and production, you might wonder why they get just 20% of the time, and the part that doesn’t appear gets 80% of the time.
As a client, you might wonder why you’re paying for that 80%.