Seven digital tools changing how ad agencies work

Colm Larkin

June 11, 2015

Productivity illustration by Luke Bott

One of the pleasures of watching Mad Men was stepping back into a world free of digital technology. Don Draper’s desk often contained nothing more than a telephone, potted plant, notepad and, of course, a whiskey glass. The few new technologies introduced are viewed with a mixture of awe and mistrust, like the grand unveiling of an IBM typewriter in episode one or media buyer Harry Crane’s room-filling analytics computer.

In a modern ad agency, technology is ubiquitous: from computers and mobile devices to the digital design and production tools, project management software and media buying algorithms that have transformed how ad campaigns are pitched, created and placed.

But the advances don’t stop there. Here are seven digital tools helping the Mad Men and Women of the future.

1. Resource scheduling
To stay agile, many agencies rely on freelancers and contractors for quick campaign turnarounds, which can make resource scheduling very complex. Software like 10,000 Feet or Float are great for providing an overview of what everyone is working on and how to manage and optimize resources.

2. Non-designer design tools
In the age of social media, content is king, but design is the power behind the throne. Even if your agency’s design team is engrossed in client work, standards can’t slip when you’re developing other content. Tools like Canva and Piktochart help anyone create great-looking presentations, reports and infographics.

3. Creative collaboration
A great ad campaign starts with inspiration but is built by collaboration. Feedback is essential when developing ideas, so you need a simple and secure service like Hightail to share the large illustration, photography, video and design files your creative teams have produced.

4. Digital portfolios
When a potential client wants to see specific samples of your agency’s work, you can spend hours adding and removing slides to your Keynote presentation. Or you could use a customized portfolio service like Samplr to whip up Pinterest-style pages and mood boards in minutes.

5. HD video conferencing
The ad industry is global and your next client may not even be in the same country as you, never mind the same city. Investing in a quality HD video conferencing system will help bridge the geographical gap and make collaborating with your clients a better experience for everyone.

Back to the Future 2 video call

6. Content aggregators
Catching up with the latest news and gossip at work may seem indulgent, but staying in touch could help your next campaign ride the zeitgeist to success. Use apps like Flipboard and ScoopIt to discover interesting stories and TweetDeck or HootSuite to follow topics and trends on social media.

7. Wearable technology
The demise of Google Glass suggests that wearable technology isn’t ready for prime time yet, but don’t assume the concept is going away. Check out Apple Watch and virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift, so your agency can start exploring the advertising opportunities of wearables.

Those are seven of the most interesting digital tools transforming the world of advertising. We’d love to hear your suggestions for other apps and services in the comments below.

Get in touch to learn how file sharing with Hightail can improve creative collaboration at your agency.