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An advertising agency or advert agency is a service business dedicated to creating, planning, and handling advertising (and sometimes other forms of promotion) for its clients. An ad agency is independent from the client and provides an outside point of view to the effort of selling the client's products or services. An agency can also handle overall marketing and branding strategies and sales promotions for its clients.
Typical ad agency clients include businesses and corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies. Agencies may be hired to produce television commercials and radio commercials as part of an advertising campaign.
The first acknowledged advertising agency was William Taylor in 1786. Another early agency, started by James 'Jem' White in Fleet Street, London, in 1800, eventually evolved into White Bull Holmes, a recruitment advertising agency, that went out of business in the late 1980s. In 1812 George Reynell, an officer at the London Gazette, set up another of the early advertising agencies, also in London. This remained a family business until 1993, as 'Reynell & Son,' and is now part of the TMP Worldwide agency (UK and Ireland) under the brand TMP Reynell. Another early agency that traded until recently, was founded by Charles Barker, and the firm he established traded as 'Barkers' until 2009 when it went into Administration.
In 1856 Mathew Brady created the first modern advertisement when he placed an ad in the New York Herald paper offering to produce "photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes." His ads were the first whose typeface and fonts were distinct from the text of the publication and from that of other advertisements. At that time all newspaper ads were set in agate and only agate. His use of larger distinctive fonts caused a sensation. Later that same year Robert Bonner ran the first full-page ad in a newspaper.
In 1864, William James Carlton began selling advertising space in religious magazines. James Walter Thompson joined this firm in 1868. Thompson rapidly became their best salesman, purchasing the company in 1877 and renaming it the James Walter Thompson Company, which today is the oldest American advertising agency. Realizing that he could sell more space if the company provided the service of developing content for advertisers, Thompson hired writers and artists to form the first known Creative Department in an advertising agency. He is credited as the "father of modern magazine advertising" in the US.
Types of advertising agencies 
Ad agencies come in all sizes and include everything from one or two-person shops (which rely mostly on freelance talent to perform most functions), small to medium sized agencies such as Traction (agency), large independents such as SMART and multi-national, multi-agency conglomerates such as Omnicom Group, WPP Group, Publicis, Interpublic Group of Companies and Havas.
Full service agencies 
These agencies are involved in planning, creating, producing, advertising, performing, research and selecting media. Some full service agencies also providing no advertising related services including strategic market planning, direct market promotion programs, interactive marketing and web site dsign, and public relation. The importance of the various functions provided by a full service agency will depend upon the client.
Some very large full service agencies run their own marketing research departments. There are also many professional services with local and national networks which work closely with the agencies, do commissioned research in specific geographic areas, income levels, consumption patterns, product groups, etc.
Creative directors 
Creative agencies specialize in "creative" or design-based business models and are also known as "creative boutique" sometimes: their basic interest is in the creation of the advertisement or branding. Other ("full-service") agencies offer design in conjunction with media buying. Media agencies concentrate on media buying. (In the 1990s, media and creative were often unbundled in the interests of economies of scale in buying media.)
The client who chooses to use a design only based advertising agency must assume some of the advertising purchasing. These are activities that are routinely handled by an agency with a media buying option.
Specialized agencies 
These agencies specialized in a particular activity of the whole communication process. They may specialize in certain functions (copy, art, media), audiences (minority youth)or industries (health, computers) or in a marketing communication area (direct marketing, sales promotion, public relation). These type of agencies may serve one client only.
In-house advertising agencies 
Interactive agencies 
Interactive agencies may differentiate themselves by offering a mix of web design / web development, search engine marketing, internet advertising/marketing, or e-business/e-commerce consulting. Interactive agencies rose to prominence before the traditional advertising agencies fully embraced the Internet. Offering a wide range of services, some of the interactive agencies grew very rapidly, although some have downsized just as rapidly due to changing market conditions. Today, the most successful interactive agencies are defined as companies that provide specialized advertising and marketing services for the digital space. The digital space is defined as any multimedia-enabled electronic channel that an advertiser's message can be seen or heard from. The 'digital space' translates to the Internet, kiosks, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and lifestyle devices (iPod, PSP, and mobile). Interactive agencies function similarly to advertising agencies, although they focus solely on interactive advertising services. They deliver services such as strategy, creative, design, video, development, programming (Flash and otherwise), deployment, management, and fulfillment reporting. Often, interactive agencies provide: digital lead generation, digital brand development, interactive marketing and communications strategy, rich media campaigns, interactive video brand experiences, Web 2.0 website design and development, e-learning Tools, email marketing, SEO/SEM services, PPC campaign management, content management services, web application development, and overall data mining & ROI assessment.
The recent boost in the interactive agencies can also be attributed to the rising popularity of web-based social networking and community sites. The creation of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have sparked market interest, as some interactive agencies have started offering personal and corporate community site development as one of their service offerings. It still may be too early to tell how agencies will use this type of marketing to monetize client ROI, but all signs point to online networking as the future of brand marketing and Interactive being the core of Brand's Communication and Marketing Strategy.
Due to the social networking explosion, new types of companies are doing reputation management. This type of agency is especially important if a company needs online damage control. For example, disgruntled customers can quickly and easily damage a company's reputation via social networking site. Reputation management companies help stem the negative information or misinformation that might proliferate in their absence.
Search engine agencies 
Lately, pay per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) firms have been classified by some as 'agencies' because they create media and implement media purchases of text based (or image based, in some instances of search marketing) ads. This relatively young industry has been slow to adopt the term 'agency', however with the creation of ads (either text or image) and media purchases, they do technically qualify as advertising agencies.
Social media agencies 
Social media agencies specialize in promotion of brands in the various social media platforms like blogs, social networking sites, Q&A sites, discussion forums, microblogs etc. The two key services of social media agencies are:
Healthcare communications agencies 
Healthcare communications agencies specialize in strategic communications and marketing services for the Healthcare and Life Science industries. These agencies distinguish themselves through an understanding of the strict labeling and marketing guidelines mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and industry group guidelines, most notably ADVAMED and PHARMA.
Medical education agencies 
Medical education agencies specialize in creating educational content for the Healthcare and Life Science industries. These agencies typically specialize in one of two areas:
- Promotional education - education and training materials tied to the promotion of a given product or therapy
- Continuing medical education - accredited education and training materials created for continuing physician and medical professional education.
Other agencies 
While not advertising agencies, enterprise technology agencies often work in tandem with advertising agencies to provide a specialized subset of services offered by some interactive agencies: Web 2.0 website design and development, Content management systems, web application development, and other intuitive technology solutions for the web, mobile devices and emerging digital platforms.
The student-run advertising agency model, which mainly operates out of university classrooms or as a student groups, provides free advertising services to clients in exchange for the educational opportunity.
Agency departments 
Creative department 
The people who create the actual ads form the core of an advertising agency. Modern advertising agencies usually form their copywriters and art directors into creative teams. Creative teams may be permanent partnerships or formed on a project-by-project basis. The art director and copywriter report to a creative director, usually a creative employee with several years of experience. Although copywriters have the word "write" in their job title, and art directors have the word "art", one does not necessarily write the words and the other draw the pictures; they both generate creative ideas to represent the proposition (the advertisement or campaign's key message). Once they receive the creative brief from their account team, the creative team will concept ideas to take to their creative director for feedback. This can often be a back and forth process, occurring several times before several ads are set to present to the client. Creative departments frequently work with outside design or production studios to develop and implement their ideas. Creative departments may employ production artists as entry-level positions, as well as for operations and maintenance. The creative process forms the most crucial part of the advertising process. The first known creative department in an advertising agency was formed by J.W Thompson.
Account services 
Agencies appoint account executive to liaise with the clients. The account executives need to be sufficiently aware of the client's needs and desires that can be instructed to the agency's personnel and should get approval from the clients on the agency's recommendations to the clients. Creativity and marketing acumen are the needed area of the client service people. They work closely with the specialists in each field. The account manager will develop a creative brief, usually about a page that gives direction to the creative team. The creative brief often includes information about the target audience and their attitudes and behaviors. The creative team will take the brief and, aware of their parameters, develop original copy and graphics depending on media strategy.
Media services 
The media services department may not be so well known, but its employees are the people who have contacts with the suppliers of various creative media. For example, they will be able to advise upon and negotiate with printers if an agency is producing flyers for a client. However, when dealing with the major media (broadcast media, outdoor, and the press), this work is usually outsourced to a media agency which can advise on media planning and is normally large enough to negotiate prices down further than a single agency or client can. They can often be restrained by the client's budget, in which, the media strategy will inform the creative team what media platform they'll be developing the ad for.
Modern agencies might also have a media planning department integrated, which does all the spot's planning and placements
Without the production department, the ads created by the copywriter and art director would be nothing more than words and pictures on paper. The production department, in essence, ensures the TV commercial or print ad, etc., gets produced. They are responsible for contracting external vendors (directors and production companies in the case of TV commercials; photographers and design studios in the case of the print advertising or direct mailers). Producers are involved in every aspect of a project, from the initial creative briefing through execution and delivery. In some agencies, senior producers are known as "executive producers" or "content architects".
Other departments and personnel 
In small agencies, employees may do both creative and account service work. Larger agencies attract people who specialize in one or the other, and indeed include a number of people in specialized positions: production work, Internet advertising, planning, or research, for example.
An often forgotten, but integral, department within an advertising agency is traffic. The traffic department regulates the flow of work in the agency. It is typically headed by a traffic manager (or system administrator). Traffic increases an agency's efficiency and profitability through the reduction of false job starts, inappropriate job initiation, incomplete information sharing, over- and under-cost estimation and the need for media extensions. In small agencies without a dedicated traffic manager, one employee may be responsible for managing workflow, gathering cost estimates and answering the phone, for example. Large agencies may have a traffic department of five or more employees.
Advertising interns are typically university juniors and seniors who are genuinely interested in and have an aptitude for advertising. Internships at advertising agencies most commonly fall into one of five areas of expertise: account services, interactive, media, public relations and traffic. Art students working on the creative side can find internships as an assistant art director or assistant copywriter.
An internship program in account services usually involves fundamental work within account management as well as offering exposure to other facets of the agency. The primary responsibility of this position is to assist account managers. Functions of the account management intern may include:
- Research and analysis: Gathering information regarding industry, competition, customer product or service; as well as presenting findings in verbal/written form with recommendations
- Involvement in internal meetings and, when appropriate, client meetings
- Assisting account services in the management of creative projects
Interns often take part in the internal creative process, where they may be charged with creating and managing a website as well as developing an advertising campaign. Hands on projects such as these help interns learn how strategy and well-developed marketing are essential to a sound advertising and communications plan.
During their internship, the intern will experience the development of an ad, brochure and broadcast or communications project from beginning to end. During the internship, the intern should be exposed to as much as possible within the agency and advertising process.
See also 
- Mackay, Adrian (2004), The Practice of Advertising, London: Butterworth-Heinemann, ISBN 0-7506-6173-9. p.70.
- "RECORDS OF R.F.WHITE AND SON LTD". National Archives. 1983. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- "Close-up: Live issue / Unbundling media; Can shops unbundle media but retain a culture?". Campaign. 15 December 1995. Retrieved 2011-06-20.