Inside an Ad Agency


I’m planning novel #4 at the the moment, so I was doing some more research into ad agency departments. I’ve already done so much already, but I’m going to be writing characters who work in production, so that means I’m introducing lots of new job titles. As I was working through, I realised that many readers might be a little bit muddled about the various departments / functions I talk about so I’ve written this (very) rough guide to help.

Before I wrote the first book in the agency series, I spent months researching the organisation of modern ad agencies. But – big huge BUT – no two agencies in the world are alike, and some structures I found were quite confusing, so I’ve played around a bit to get a structure I understand.

Tribe is a new agency set to make rapid expansions, so this blog article exists as a reference point. We may never meet characters working in some of these departments, but they exist nevertheless. Also, if you’re a Mad Men fan, you’ll see things have definitely moved on in the advertising world!




There are five main organisational “functions” where all of Tribe’s departments are placed. These are:

  • Executive
  • Client & Commerce
  • Creative Services
  • Data & Insight
  • People & Operations




The executive function comprises the top tier of Tribe’s leadership. These are the powerful, suited owners of the agency and they come in four types:

  • Executive Directors – these people founded the agency, own it AND have important jobs.
  • Non-executive Directors – these people founded the agency, own it but are silent partners.
  • Managing Partners – these guys own 1% and are “junior” partners. There are four of them and they oversee a function of the organisations.
  • Independent non-Executive Directors – either private investors or venture capital companies. They own Tribe, but have zero operational interests.

In It’s Complicated, Stella Judd and Arthur Lovett are CEO/Chairman, as well as being founding partners. In Secret Summer, Kenneth Ives, features as a founder and non-executive director. In It’s Complicated, Daniel Noble and Ethan Fraser are junior/managing partners owning 1% of the agency each. Daniel oversees the client & commerce function, while Ethan looks after creative services.




  • ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT – Generally, account managers are suited corporate types who work very closely with clients. They prepare client briefs and tell the creative department what clients want. They also pitch for new contracts.
  • GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT – More suited corporate types. These guys guide the agency’s expansion and set new goals tied to, for example, advertising trends.
  • MARKETING & PR – These guys sell the agency. The Marketing team is responsible for promoting the agency while the Public Relations team creates and manages publicity.

In It’s Complicated, Daniel Noble is famed for his ability to win bids and close deals. Tamara Lockwood, works with fashion designer client Belle Oaks. She is written as an extremely competent account manager.




  • CREATIVE – These are the exciting, magic-making people. Creative teams are duos comprising an art director and a copywriter. Art directors are responsible for creating the visual style and overall design of adverts. Copywriters create taglines, jingles, scripts i.e. the words.
  • PRODUCTION – These people make the stuff that the creative team design.
  • Content & Editing produce non-promotional writing (e.g. web content) as well as editing.
  • Design Studio artists create conceptual designs (hand drawing or digital) for print ads, while artworkers in the Art Studio produce print-ready products using software.
  • The Print Services team are mainly concerned with retouching photography and sourcing/buying art externally.
  • The Film Studio produces adverts for television and cinema.
  • Interactive designers create websites and internet/social media ads, while the Digital Technology team help with programming and app developing.
  • The Media team are salespeople buying ad space in magazines, newspapers, TV channels etc.
  • The Project Management team work on specific projects across functions. Project managers and traffic managers are concerned with details: task, resources, deadlines and accuracy, while account managers deal with long term client needs.
  • The Quality Control team exists to ensure the agency’s product (adverts) are up to standard.

In Just Friends, Ethan Fraser and Violet Archer are a great example of a creative team. In It’s Complicated, Violet Archer has been promoted to Creative Director in charge of three creative teams.

Max Wolf, Cosmo Hines and Penny Piper are all conceptual designers, and Georgie Ravencroft is a studio manager. Freja Larsen is a film production director in charge of the film studio.




  • STRATEGY – Tribe’s strategy department focusses on the consumer, providing insight into the market and buyer behaviour.
  • The Strategy team creates reasons for consumers to buy clients’ products.
  • The Account Planning team ratify the strategy and define tactical marketing routes via insight into people and their psyche.
  • The Data team are expert analysts and coders. They’re usually tasked with measuring a campaign’s end results and feeding back to clients.
  • The Research team look into consumer behaviour, often via polls and questionnaires.




None of the departments under the People & Operations function are specific to advertising agencies. These roles are found in most business organisations.

  • FINANCE – they pay bills and report on the agency’s profit-making.
  • HUMAN RESOURCES – also called “talent”. They do staff hiring/firing and generally look after staff welfare.
  • INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY – they make sure all the technical stuff works and that people know how to use it.
  • LEGAL – they make sure the agency doesn’t get sued e.g. by advertising “burgers that help you lose weight” or “drinks that cure cancer”. (But usually more realistic things).
  • SUPPORT SERVICES – The Facilities team is in charge of stuff like furniture and paper. The Administrative team comprises admin people, executive assistants and receptionists.

In Just Friends and It’s Complicated, Zoe Callaghan and Lucille Monroe are two very different executive assistants.


Writing this made everything much simpler in my head, so I hope it helped you all too.

Now, onwards and upwards, lets get some of  these positions filled 😀