If you’ve never worked in a traditional advertising agency, this will seem like inside baseball. But if you have—or at least watched a few episodes of Mad Men—then some of these characters may sound familiar. Various jobs in ad agencies and on the client side allowed me to observe these creatures in their native habitat. You’ll notice that some terms carbon-date the period when this was written as the Predigital Epoch.
cre.a.tive di.rec.tor (kre-a’tiv di-rec’ter), n. 1. A person to whom a picture is worth a thousand words or whose words are worth a thousand pictures, depending on who got which idea. 2. A person who is thinking valuable thoughts while appearing to everyone to be doing nothing at all. 3. A person who sometimes wears weird clothes apparently without realizing it.
ac.count ex.ec.u.tive (a-kount’ ig-zek’yoo-tiv), n. 1. Someone who, after hearing the client’s plan to increase market share by three points with a expertly planned multimedia marketing blitz, has to explain why it may take more than the $1,400 that the client has budgeted for it. 2. Someone who has to tell the creatives that building a full-scale model of west Texas “because it would make a better photo” is not the best strategic marketing solution. 3. In the ad agency of the distant future, a creature who eats lunch four times a day and always picks up the check.
pro.duc.tion ar.tist (pro-duk’shun ar’tist), n. 1. A specialized piece of fleshware that an agency uses to convert a designer’s scribbles into a printed page. 2. Someone who can see the word “mechanical” without thinking of a crescent wrench. 3. A person who knows that “camera-ready” has nothing to do with hairspray and lipstick.
as.sis.tant ac.count ex.ec.u.tive (a-sis’tent a-kount’ igzek’yoo-tiv), n. 1. One who is to the AE as an enforcer is to the Godfather. 2. A remote control device that the AE uses to do things while away from the office. 3. A mechanic who keeps the account service engine running smoothly so the AE can go out and drive it real fast.
es.tim.a.tor (es’te-ma’ter), n. 1. A person who knows more about how long it takes people to do things than they do. 2. Someone who has heard more wild guesses than a game show host. 3. Like selling cars, except that the customer sometimes wants the same price applied to every car on the lot.
me.di.a buy.er (me’di-a bi’er), n. 1. Someone who reads rate cards right-side up. 2. The only person at an advertising agency who never buys lunch. 3. A person who can get more extensions than a death row inmate’s lawyer.
fl.nance ex.ec.u.tive (fe-nans’ ig-zek’yoo-tiv), n. 1. A person who signs the checks and thus is worshipped as a deity by freelancers. 2. Someone who can explain the difference between 15 percent and 17.65 percent in more detail than could Einstein. 3. Someone who knows that a spreadsheet is not something you buy at a white sale.
in.tern (in’tem), n. 1. A student who already exhibits warning signs of the insanity necessary for a career in advertising. 2. A person who, upon seeing how things are done in the real world, thinks of asking for a tuition refund. 3. Someone who has learned all the many steps involved in producing top-quality advertising that nails the client’s marketing objectives, but who is surprised to find out that all those steps are sometimes taken on the same day.
com.mu.ni.ca.tions di.rec.tor (ka-mu’ne-ka’shens direk’ter), n. 1. A person who operates a bigger post office than the one in Luchenbach, Texas. 2. Someone who makes sure that when a staffer picks up the phone to say I’ll be late for dinner sweetie, the person hearing it won’t be the president of a client company. 3. A person who has to decipher handwriting that makes the Rosetta stone look like Times Roman.
pro.duc.tion man.ag.er (pro-duk’shun man’ij-er), n. 1. A job that combines the skills of a juggler, artist, air traffic controller, and babysitter. 2. A person who likes to emphasize to suppliers, creatives, and AEs the “dead” part of the word “deadline”. 3. A person who gets more bids than an auctioneer at Sotheby’s.
proof.rea.der (proof’red’er), n. 1. A person who gives new meaning to the term “red menace.” 2. A vandal who scrawls enough strange-looking marks on nice, clean copy to make it look like a New York City subway car. 3. Someone who goes through more red ink than the Federal budget.
pres.i.dent (prez’i-dent), n. 1. A person at whose desk the buck stops, as well as the copy, the art board, and the illustration. 2. A person at whose desk the other kind of buck stops, stays for a minute, and turns around and leaves. 3. Someone who can visualize multilayered long-term marketing approaches to an evolving client industry whose participants and products are constantly recombining while looking for lost copy for a business card at 10:47 p.m. on a Sunday night.