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A day in the life of a marketing agency


These days, the term “transparency” is big. Politicians say they believe in it. CEOs insist that it’s the cornerstone of their corporate culture. Even NFL franchises are reluctantly being dragged onto the transparency bandwagon.

So I was thinking, what about a little transparency in marketing? In other words, what really goes on behind the curtain at a top digital direct marketing agency?

Here’s an idea. Let’s go through a day in the life of our digital direct shop, and you can come along for the adventure.

Ready? In the words of Claude Rains, “Let’s get transparent.”

9:07 a.m.
First stop, email
Each day begins with a quick check of email. And this morning the inbox is like a subway train: absolutely packed and potentially dangerous.

Let’s see what we have. Project kickoff invite for 11 a.m. Click “accept.” Recap of client comments on a landing page. Flag as “important.” Awards show entries due. No worries. I still have two whole days.

And then there are those “other” emails. Everyone gets them. They’re the emails that don’t come from anyone we know and don’t pertain to anything we actually do or care about. In other words, zero relevancy. I could write an entire blog about those time-wasters. In fact, I already have. If you’re curious, it’s called email worst practices.

9:15 a.m.
This week’s menu
Have you ever ordered a meal and noticed that the waiter isn’t taking any notes? That’s a major red flag. It signals that a little kitchen chaos is imminent and somebody isn’t going to get her garlic mashed potatoes.

I feel pretty much the same way about making a to-do list. There’s a lot going on this week and we can’t forget any details. So let’s see what’s on our marketing menu:

  • Write two new blog articles? Check.
  • Create multiple versions for a direct mail campaign? Check.
  • Develop some PURLs? Check.
  • Produce a training video? Check, please.

As you can see, being extremely nimble is a job requirement. But that’s a positive. When you work in every marketing channel, it enriches your perspective, expands your thinking and keeps you fresh.

10:59 a.m.
Tech time
Everyone is gathering for an 11 a.m. project kickoff in the main conference room.
But pay careful attention to the technology that they carry into the meeting. Some people have tablets. Others lug laptops: PCs for the account folks, Macs for the creatives. Most have cell phones. There’s also a white board on the wall and a big screen at the head of the table. In short, every imaginable way to connect, communicate and convene is here. So let’s start the kickoff.

11 a.m.
Project kickoff

We’re here to initiate a new email stream. Do you have your creative brief?
If not, no worries. We have an extra copy for you. Looking around the room, you’ll see our account supervisor and account coordinator, along with an art director, copywriter, email manager and developer. In this kickoff we’ll cover the big picture: the main objective, target audience and timeline. We’ll also discuss some key details, including the offer, call to action, programming requirements and messaging objectives. Finally, we’ll determine who stole the last Diet Coke from the conference room fridge. (Guilty.)

1:24 p.m.
Brainstorming
Some agencies work on detergent or toothpaste campaigns. Not J&C. Our digital direct marketing agency is a magnet for remarkably difficult challenges. We embrace complex topics and complicated initiatives. That holds true for everyone, from strategy and account to creative and administration.

Here’s the perfect example. Right now, we’re brainstorming some infographic ideas for a complex program launch. Which brings up the question: How can you distill the essence of a multi-tiered national program in a simple and compelling infographic? No easy answer for that one. But like I said, we embrace the difficult challenges.

2:47 p.m.
Refueling
Back in August of last year, we moved into a new building. Ever since that time everyone has been talking a little faster, walking double-time and sleeping far less at night. Coincidence? I don’t think so. You see, we have a combination bakery and coffee shop right in the lobby. But the beloved caffeine and sugar emporium closes at 3 p.m. So this is last call for the midafternoon refueling. Since we’re going, can we get you a double latte?


Into the studio
It’s session day and the voice talent is spot on time, so let’s get into the studio.
Thankfully, it’s a very short trip.

A few years back, we decided the agency needed its own in-house audio studio. That was a smart move because it has allowed us to record and edit web videos, scratch tracks and other projects right at J&C. This arrangement is also a big plus for our clients. They love the flexibility it creates.

Today’s session is the voice-over for a training video. Our engineer gives us the cue, we click on the “recording” light and we’re rolling.

4:40 p.m.
Combustible project
The session is complete and the files sound fantastic. So we slip out of the studio and head back into “creativeland.” And look, there’s a little surprise burning a hole in the desk.

The big red Sharpie lettering on the layout indicates that this route is “HOT.” In fact, it’s going out this afternoon. So we launch Photoshop and make a few additions to some landing page content; then the project heads back to proofreading for a final read-through.

6:38 p.m.
Real fire drill
As you can see, we have our share of hot projects. But every so often, we’re reminded about the real fire drills.

Just below my office window is the Chicago Fire Department’s Engine Company 13. And each day, we hear the sirens as those brave first responders rush off to another emergency. Any time our job seems challenging, Engine Company 13 keeps it all in perspective.

6:49 p.m.
Lights out
And that wraps up another busy day. Time to head home and catch the Blackhawks game.

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