Over a period of three months, I was a part-time intern at a full-service creative advertising agency. This experience has provided insight into the workings of a wide variety of elements that can be brought together and offered to clients in a multitude of ways; whether that be for a small-scale promotion, or as a comprehensive solution to advertising their business. As a Bachelor of Interactive Media and Design student, my formal studies have encompassed an extensive array of mediums, so my knowledge is versatile. For this reason, it has been a tremendous experience working with the company that welcomed me into their office, as they have taught me all about the way they approach the processes that are involved in running a full-service agency. The company’s services involve design, digital, strategy and marketing, and developing my understanding of each of these areas has strengthened both my transdisciplinary awareness and abilities (Bridgstock, 2013; Oliver Black, 2019). A number of key benefits and observations about the professional environment of full-service creative advertising agencies stood out during my time spent with the business. The salient aspects that have been identified are working with a wide variety of projects, the business opportunities associated with appealing to a broad audience, having multiple specialists working together in a shared space, and the positive impact had by working among a tight-knit community.
The first salient feature of a full-service creative advertising agency is that there are opportunities to engage with a number of different briefs that focus on producing a variety of mediums. My first task was drawing up wireframes, which was a fundamental beginning to the teachings of my journey. Senior user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designer for GoPro, Waite (2015) states, “white boarding, sketching and research is where I begin any project. I like to have a full grasp of what I’m trying to accomplish before I even think of moving a pixel,” (para. 19). I agree that there is something very pure about starting the design process with traditional art mediums; it can minimise the noise when trying to bring ideas into reality. The task reminded me how helpful it is to start designing this way, as it gives you, “a clearer point of view for what you’re looking to solve,” (Waite, 2015, para. 19). When digitally establishing the design for a project’s UI and UX, you can end up becoming, “attached to something because it is visually appealing,” (Waite, 2015, para. 19), which can result in a failure to recognise when particular design elements are adding inadequate value to the project. As an employee at a full-service agency, having the ability to recognise the difference between what is necessary and what is supplementary is crucial. An inability to explain your design decisions to clients can result in losing out on work you could have had if you were capable of effectively justifying its purpose and the contribution it makes to the project at large. I also worked on design concept documents, full-colour interactive prototypes, 3D scene design and C# development in Unity for the HTC Vive Focus, which is a mobile virtual reality headset (Grace, 2017). As the work I was involved in varied from week to week, I felt very appreciative for the experience. It is believed that there is immense value in variety, in relation to both skill development and productivity. Of course, everyone is different; however, the nature of the work allowed me to thrive. Norman and Jerrard (2014) emphasise the importance of designers’ motivation, as designers have the potential to make valuable contributions to innovation in the business. Full-service creative agencies are great places for those who possess a wide variety of skills and interests. On one particular day, I was making pretty colour schemes, and on another day, I was investigating and making alterations to a complex script, while the designer photographed biscuits. Changing tasks too often can result in fatigue, however being met with new challenges each week can give you energy and sustainable passion for your work, which is why I believe the variety offered by full-service creative agencies is incredibly valuable.
The second salient feature of a full-service creative advertising agency is the business opportunities associated with being able to cater to a wide range of clientele. The full-service approach is believed to be a very effective business model, especially in a city like the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast has experienced enormous growth over the years and although there is no lack of large businesses, small businesses are thriving too (City of Gold Coast, 2013). Many of these businesses are trying to update their media and marketing to stay current and compete with the younger, fresh companies that are obtaining new clients through social media platforms. There are also new businesses who are simply trying to get up and running, and online, so they can attract customers and begin to bring in a profit. For many people, the full-service approach is extremely appealing and convenient, as clients can trust all steps in the process will be taken care of. As there is no need to consult individual specialists, the results of employing a singular, multi-talented company are expected to be of a much higher quality, based on the fact that each building block involved in the design and strategy will fit together harmoniously. However, despite being capable of providing a full-range of services, some clients approach the company with a request to only carry out a single step in their advertising process. For example, a client may already have a strong art direction, although they may employ the company to assist with UX and web development. This flexibility serves small, mid-range and full-service jobs, which means the business can be of service to anyone and everyone who may be looking for assistance with their advertising or creative needs (Oliver Black, 2019). Catering to a wide audience allows for diversity among both the clientele and the projects themselves, which is a particularly interesting aspect of the professional environment of discussion.
The third salient feature of a full-service creative advertising agency is that people with different specialities are working alongside one another in the office. In terms of the way a business like this functions, multiple benefits have been identified. Firstly, when clients came to the office to discuss their goals for their project, little organisation was required to ensure both the creative director, designer and developer were all present so questions could be answered, and specific details could be discussed with the associated specialist. Similarly, when clients call the office with questions, they often do not understand how their projects are coordinated behind the scenes, although if the designer was asked a question that actually dealt with the website’s functionality, he could simply pass the phone onto the developer to continue the conversation. Secondly, sometimes clients have complicated requests that have not been dealt with before. In these instances, I observed how convenient it was for the agency’s employees to conduct ideation sessions to generate possible approaches and bounce ideas off one another (Interaction Design Foundation, n.d.). With their varied specialties, they could efficiently expand the scope of their ideas in order to produce new prototypes at a rapid pace. Furthermore, this environment results in constant learning, as working aside others with different specialties means there are things you can learn from one another (Haynes, Suckley & Nunnington, 2017). Waite (2015) states how it is crucial to know your limitations, and as the designer works closely with the developer, and vice versa, each employees’ work is more effective and efficient as all parties are aware of how the processes are connected. As a designer, Zaytsev (2014) also notes the value in being able to work side by side with developers. In addition, by having different people specialising in different areas, employees can provide, “a unique point of view and approach to solving problems,” (Waite, 2015, para. 23) in areas they do not specialise in. Norman and Jerrard (2014) emphasise the importance of being able to understand business contexts and communicate effectively across a variety of disciplines. My internship experience has allowed me to develop my skills in these areas, and it is believed full-service agencies are a great professional environment for designers to obtain and develop these skills.
The fourth salient feature that has been identified is less about full-service agencies in general, and more about the specific company I was able to experience first-hand. As a small business, I noticed the positive impact that can be had on your happiness and productivity when you are lucky enough to work in an environment with a tight-knit community feel. Some people are not fond of going to work, although in my experience, going to the office put a spring in my step. If you are not having the best day, being around people can bring you out of your head and make things feel much better. At the company I worked with, there were only a few of us, so we would greet each other by name and make pleasant small talk. On multiple occasions, we would find something in our work that prompted conversation, but the greatest memories are from those few times we took a break to play table tennis together; the friendships we developed with one another provided laughter that reignited our productivity (Seppälä & Cameron, 2015). It is argued that there is immense value, on both a personal and a managerial level, in being surrounded by people you enjoy, especially in a workplace.
In conclusion, the professional environment of a full-service creative advertising agency is one of variety, collaboration, adaptation and learning. During my time spent with the agency, I learnt about how businesses of this kind operate, I gained insight into the strategy and marketing disciplines, which I had not had much exposure to, and I embraced opportunities for self-development. My formal learning prepared me very well for the experience; it was great to apply what I had learnt throughout my academic studies to real world scenarios. However, my experience as an intern has undoubtedly made valuable contributions to my skill, or talent, stack (Foroux, 2018; Hanft, 2016) that ultimately enrich my abilities as an interactive media designer. It is believed that a full-service creative advertising agency is an ideal environment for an interactive media student who is eager to be exposed to all parts of the creative design process.
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