Who do you picture when you hear someone described as “one of those ad agency types?” The eccentric designer with mismatched socks and a brightly-colored shirt? The off-the-wall, occasionally abrasive idea machine with a cigarette in one hand and a pen in the other? The three-piece suit with the three-martini lunch?

As we prepare to celebrate the first anniversary of the final chapter of Mad Men, we got to thinking about what kinds of people make up a good (or dare we say “great”) agency today.


The writers, the designers, the audio and video techies, the “artistic talent” - whatever you want to call them, these are the people who take a daydream or phrase and turn it into the TV commercial, print ad, billboard, or Web site that eventually makes it out into the world.


If the world were run by Creatives, every project would be excellent but rarely on time and almost never under budget. The Numbers Guys ensure that costs are managed, market research is accurate, and budgets are monitored to ensure clients get the most out of every penny they invest in advertising.


No, that’s not a typo. These are the salesmen, the media liaisons, the business prospectors. These are the people who know people and know how to move them. You know the type - you can find them in any Chamber of Commerce event or country club. They understand the social dynamics of the room, and they work them. They are the reasons the Numbers Guys get great rates, the Creatives get later deadlines, and the New Clients sign with the agency.


The big thinkers. The grand planners. The people with the calendars and outlines and graphs. Like The Numbers Guys, they love tracking deadlines and monitoring projects. Like Creatives, they have a big vision of how everything works in harmony. Like People People, they understand how to get teams to play nicely with each other. Something of a “jack of all trades but master of none,” Architects often end up supervising projects or investigating new opportunities because they can visualize how to play to the team’s strengths.


Agency Principals? Where do we start? Haha. The interesting thing about agency principals both in the Midwest and (so far as we have observed) around the nation is that successful Agency Principals can fall into any of these categories - Creatives, Numbers Guys, People People, or Architects - but succeed most when they are at least a little of each and surrounded by a team that shores up the areas in which they are weak. Nothing fires up an agency, clients, and even media partners like an Agency Principal freed up to pursue their passions with a vision, a plan, and a team empowered to knock that plan out of the park for the client.


Kelly Alexander & the KCo Staff