Ad Agency Management Software: Why You Need a Solution That Manages the Entire Workflow
The workflow handled by an enterprise-level ad agency is complex stretching from placing orders and executing campaigns to analytics and reporting. Each stage of the process requires the management of a huge volume of tasks and communication touch points. Doing this at scale for dozens or hundreds of clients without hitting time-consuming and costly bottlenecks is a problem that an effective ad management software solution should solve.
The right software can help organize and even automate all of these processes. We make one such solution (discussed in depth below), and it falls into the category broadly called ad agency management software.
But advertising agencies, marketing agencies and creative agencies should be mindful that most ad agency management software tools focus on project management only and do not help agencies execute and fulfill the end-to-end workflow of an ad campaign. These solutions are often included in discussions of ad agency management software but in our opinion would be more accurately described as team collaboration tools, task management platforms or Gantt chart programs.
So, from what we've observed, the software category called ad agency management software actually falls into two very different buckets:
- Operational project management tools that are designed to help with task collaboration, range from the basic to the sophisticated and are usually suited to general business use rather than marketing specifically.
- Ad management and execution solutions that manage the entire campaign process from placing an ad order right through execution (or fulfillment) to reporting.
As far as we can tell, our ad agency management software TapClicks is the only solution that falls into the second category.
Specifically, TapClicks does the following:
- Allows you to place ad orders and execute them directly from the platform
- Pulls data from all your data sources and stores it in your own data warehouse
- Automates complex calculations so you can use them to create insightful visualizations of your ad campaigns
- Creates powerful reports on your ad campaigns that can be sent to your clients automatically and to whatever schedule you wish
In this post we'll:
- Discuss the challenges faced by ad agencies in more detail
- Walk through our solution TapClicks and explain how it helps agencies manage the entire workflow lifecycle from order placement through to reporting (skip to here)
- Look at 6 alternative tools in the operational project management tool category we described (skip to here)
The Typical Process and Challenges of an Ad Campaign
To understand what type of ad management software is of most value, let's consider the typical media buying and execution process for ad agencies and examine the common challenges.
The workflow for most ad agencies, digital agencies and marketing agencies follows this sequence:
- Ad Operations
- Analytics and Reporting
Each stage of this process is complicated:
- Sales: A salesperson sells a service (such as an ad buy or social media campaign) to a client. This is filled in as an order using an application like Google Forms or a CRM. The order, which needs to specify objectives and pricing, is then sent to the Ad Ops Manager, usually via email or on Slack. Already, there are several parties and marketing tools involved.
- Ad Operations: The Ad Ops Manager starts resource planning and delegates the work to team members, usually via a project management tool such as Asana or Trello. Even a simple campaign can involve dozens of channels and markets and hundreds of tasks such as researching displays, budgeting, keywords and copy. An approval process with the client will need to be in place for each stage.
- Creative Resources: This involves coordinating creative teams and multiple resources around content creation, copy, design and SEO for the chosen channels and notifying Accounts Payable for invoicing, etc. There can be hundreds of handoffs in this phase.
- Campaign Launch: Once the deliverables have been approved by the client, the ads are fulfilled in the chosen channels. This involves various advertising platforms, each with their own dashboard that will need monitoring.
- Analytics and Reporting: Lastly, the data from the ad campaign needs to be pulled from each native advertising platform and used to create meaningful analytics that can be distributed to clients and stakeholders. Agencies typically do this manually using Excel spreadsheets, reporting templates or Google Data Studio.
This is a huge amount of tedious and time-consuming work that needs to be done over and over for each campaign, client every week or month or whenever reporting is due.
Many agencies and marketing teams use project management tools to help with the administrative and operational management aspect of these phases.
Let's take a look at where they can help and also where they fall short.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools primarily focus on team collaboration and task management. They vary significantly in scope and sophistication.
General purpose project management tools (e.g. Asana, Trello and Monday) are designed to help teams collaborate and assign and manage tasks. They are useful if you want to set project timelines and notifications for work that needs to be done.
These tools are not designed for ad agencies or marketers but for all different types of businesses. And, while some allow a certain level of customization, this is limited as is the scope for scalability.
Importantly, these tools only handle a fraction of the workflow process we outlined above. They do not cover the actual execution of the ad sales process placing and fulfilling orders and doing the analytics and reporting on campaigns. To do that, you would need to use additional tools and platforms such as a business intelligence (BI) tool.
There are some more sophisticated project management tools available (e.g. Teamwork, Function Point and Scoro), some of which have been designed specifically as agency project management software.
They allow you to manage your client projects or marketing projects and offer integrations to other business functions such as QuickBooks and Slack. Again, they don't help you with the execution of the advertising workflow placing and creating ad orders, measurement and reporting.
In addition, they can be complex and difficult to learn so they aren't necessarily useful as marketing software that can be used by marketers and ad agencies.
We'll take a look at 6 examples of project management tools later in this post (skip to here).
So, while a project management tool helps streamline some of the tasks in the workflow, the important stages of campaign execution and measurement (analytics and reporting) cannot be handled by a project management tool that is solely focused on the operational and organizational functions of the process.
TapClicks Manages the Entire Workflow for Ad Agencies
Our ad agency management solution TapClicks helps ad agencies manage the entire process of campaign management from order placement to analytics and reporting. By providing a solution for the entire process, our platform allows ad agencies to significantly save time, increase efficiency and ultimately focus on profitability.
Specifically, TapClicks does this via 4 components:
- TapOrders: Accurately log customers orders
- TapWorkflow: Connect teams and optimize workflow
- TapAnalytics: Gain valuable insights on campaign performance
- TapReports: Create automated PowerPoint-style reports
We'll walk through each stage next:
#1. TapOrders: Accurately Log Customers Orders
Project management tools are helpful for resource management and task lists, they are not set up for ad order management.
With TapClicks, you can set up and track ad orders all the way through fulfillment. This means you can streamline the entire process of approvals and execution between sales, account management and creative teams.
You can create a product catalog of the professional services you offer (e.g. advertising, digital marketing, SEO, etc.) along with templates that your sales team can use to create orders. This ensures that the correct information is always captured and it makes it easier for your team to upsell services too. For example, as your sales representative fills out an order, they will see where they can offer an upsell, such as offering Instagram Ads with Facebook Ads.
The templates are highly customizable and, because you will know which of your campaigns are the most profitable through our analytics and reporting features (we'll cover these later), you can optimize your order templates accordingly.
Bonus: Use TapOrders as a Self Service Platform
Your clients can buy your ad services from their end by using TapClicks as a self service ad platform. Vendors can login through their portal, order the ads they want from your catalog and pay via our secure portal.
Note: TapClicks supports many CRM tools (such as Salesforce) so you can integrate your CRM with TapClicks and your order information will be transferred seamlessly into your advertising agency management platform.
Bonus: Track Billable Hours
Another benefit of using TapClicks is that you can track billable hours or timesheets (for example, for freelance creatives) and account for all deliverables.
The invoices don't need to be viewed in a separate tool such as QuickBooks. With TapClicks you can easily see the work that's been submitted by your freelancers as well as the corresponding invoice.
Plus, by using TapClicks for time tracking, you can more easily measure how long projects are taking which helps you evaluate performance, make adjustments as needed and produce more accurate forecasting estimates of future work.
You can learn more about how TapClicks can be your ad order management system in this piece.
#2. TapWorkflow: Connect Teams and Optimize Workflow
The work management aspect of the advertising process is the area where project management tools help with task management and collaboration. But TapClicks goes much further than this by being a complete advertising agency software solution that executes the ad orders you placed as well as managing the entire workflow right through to analytics and reporting.
Once the order forms have been created, it's time for the creative, marketing and accounting teams to get involved. Instead of using a general purpose project management tool to manage the vast number of tasks needed, TapWorkflow can be used to automate the tasks and processes.
The workflow is outlined by you when you set up your TapClicks account based on your business processes and can be modified as your company grows or changes.
For example, a process we see commonly used by advertising teams (that can be modified to suit) would be from order completion creative and approvals fulfillment optimization completion rejected (if needed)cancellation (if needed).
So, after an order for a Facebook ad, for example, is submitted by the sales team, TapWorkflow will alert the appropriate team members. Your team will only see the tasks that are ready for them as our platform is procedural and status aware*. This means the right team members will be alerted to new tasks and their dashboard won't be crowded with tasks that do not yet require their attention.
*This is highly customizable.
There is space on the order form for team members to collaborate so there is no need to use any other software such as Slack, email or Asana. Discussion strings are contained right within the order so everything is easy to track.
Launch Ad Campaigns Directly from TapClicks
A significant advantage of using TapClicks over any other ad agency management software is that you can execute your ad campaigns directly from within TapClicks.
So, instead of going into each marketing platform (e.g. Google Ads, Facebook Ads) separately and building the ad there, you can launch it directly from TapClicks. This saves time and reduces any potential errors.
We have direct integrations with Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Wide Orbit, AffinityX and Google Ad Manager and continue to add to our list. For any other ad platforms you can easily push information through a webhook.
Another distinct advantage for advertising agencies using TapClicks is that, unlike any project management tool, you can do all your analytics and reporting within the TapClicks platform.
We'll discuss this next.
#3. TapAnalytics: Gain Valuable Insights on Campaign Performance
If you're an advertising agency using a project management tool you're likely also using several other third party tools (such as business intelligence tools) to measure the success of your campaigns against your KPIs. Or, you may be going into each marketing platform separately, downloading data into spreadsheets and creating metrics and plots and graphs manually. All of this is labor-intensive work that takes dozens or hundreds of hours each month or whenever reports need to be created.
TapClicks makes the entire analytics and reporting process easy by containing everything you need to do within the TapClicks platform. It does this by:
- Pulling data from all your data sources and storing it in your own TapClicks data warehouse.
- Allowing you to access your data (without coding skills) and set up repetitive and complex calculations to automatically populate your reports.
TapClicks Automatically Connects to All Your Ad Data and Stores It in Your Own Data Warehouse
It's not the remit of project management software to extract data from your marketing data sources. And, if you're using a connector tool such as an ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tool to move your data to a data warehouse or BI tool, most of these don't connect to all your data sources.
TapClicks was designed to connect to essentially any data source. To date, we have built over 6,000 data connections via our Smart Connector. This tool allows you to connect to any data source you may have including proprietary and offline data sources.
We also have hundreds of pre-built API-based data integrations including all the marketing platforms you would expect (e.g Facebook Ads, X [Twitter] Ads, etc.) as well as many lesser-known ones too (e.g. Genius Monkey and Tiger Pistol). Being able to pull data from all your advertising and marketing sources automatically saves your team hours of laborious work.
Once you've set up the data connections you want, your data will be pulled through immediately and stored in your own fully-managed and accessible TapClicks data warehouse. In many cases, we can extract 12 months of historical data too. TapClicks will then pull data automatically every day or whenever you choose to refresh it (in near real-time).
There is no need to store data in a separate database or data lake because TapClicks acts as your central hub, allowing you to store data forever and do everything you need to do within the platform including creating visualizations and reports and pushing data out to other destinations.
Access Your Data (without Coding Skills) and Automate Repetitive Calculations to Automatically Populate Your Reports
Storing your advertising data within the same platform as your workflow management solution means you don't need to use any third party tools to pull data or do analysis. Specifically:
- Our platform is built to be marketer-friendly, so the data can easily be accessed by marketers with no data engineering skills. This means that ad agencies, creative agencies and marketing agencies can do their own analytics and reports without the need to call on a separate data team which can be costly and cause delays.
- Within TapClicks you can set up or define advanced calculations once only and have them automatically executed anytime in the future.
Let's look further at #2: automating repetitive calculations of marketing data. We built this feature because marketing teams and agencies have to consistently report on the same campaigns and metrics every month or week. Pulling together this data into a report (e.g. a PowerPoint) is typically a tedious and manual process involving spreadsheets and repetitive calculations.
Take for example a need for a social media marketing firm to report on total engagement across all client's campaigns on all social platforms every week. In TapClicks, you can customize and combine metrics and give them an umbrella term. For example, different marketing platforms often have unique names for terms that mean the same thing (e.g follows on X [Twitter] and subscribes on YouTube). Normally you'd have to add up the follows and the subscribes manually on a spreadsheet. But with TapClicks, you can define what you want to be included in your Engagement umbrella term and it will remain available and updated with the latest data for use in other features on the platform (e.g. a graph, a dashboard, or a report).
Likewise, you can also automate more advanced calculations in TapClicks such as filtering by brand or specific product and aggregating stats across those into a single metric. You can also zoom in and out of campaigns regionally from a single location right up to national or even international level.
The possibilities are endless and, as with so many TapClicks features, you can define metrics and set up calculations once only and they can be used for any aspect of your analytics and reporting saving a massive amount of time.
You can read more about advanced calculations in this piece.
#4. TapReports: Create Automated PowerPoint-Style Reports
The main challenge of most advertising management software tools is that they don't allow you to create reports unless you use another tool.
But with TapClicks you can create powerful visualizations and reports in two ways and you can push your data out to other platforms too.
You can create dashboards so you can view campaign data in near real-time (typically updated daily).
TapClicks dashboard tools are designed to be scalable, meaning single dashboards or visualizations can easily be turned into templates and applied across dozens or hundreds of dashboards, campaigns and clients.
Advertising agencies can create one dashboard for a specific type of report and filter the data for each client. This has the advantage of letting you make a change to this report in one place and having it instantly apply to all clients.
Here's a video that shows you how to create a dashboard in TapClicks:
PowerPoint-style Reports Populated with Your Latest Data
Sharing your ad campaign analytics with clients is easy with TapClicks. Our reporting solution, ReportStudio, automatically populates PowerPoint-style reports. These can be scheduled to be sent out to your chosen audience whenever you want (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly, etc.).
Here's a short video on how to schedule reports with TapClicks:
TapClicks Delivers Data to Any Other Platform
If you prefer to analyze and visualize data in a third-party tool, you can also push data from TapClicks to any other destination.
For example, if you use Tableau for analysis and visualization, you can push data from TapClicks there or likewise with Google Sheets.
You can read more about TapClicks integration with Google Sheets in this piece.
These are just a few examples. With ReportStudio, you can schedule and automate when the data is sent out.
Ad Agency Project Management Software Tools
Asana is a popular general project management tool that allows a limited amount of customization. It tends to be used by smaller businesses who want to focus on task allocation and project execution rather than resource management or billing functions as it does not have these.
You can learn more about how TapClicks compares with Asana in this piece.
Basecamp is a solution that provides several useful project management features including real-time communication. However it doesn't offer Kanban boards of Gantt charts which you would expect from most project management tools and leans towards the more basic end of the spectrum.
Monday is a well-known project management tool or work operation system. It claims to be simple and intuitive and comes with a variety of collaboration features, timeline and calendar views and the ability to track time. It also has several integrations including with apps such as DropBox, Slack and Gmail.
Teamwork is a comprehensive work and project management tool with a wealth of features including built-in invoicing, task templates, time tracking and file sharing functions. It offers integrations with many third party tools such as Slack, Dropbox and Google WorkSpace as well as a webhook function for other platforms.
Workamajig offers full end-to-end project management including task and resource management, shared calendars, time tracking and digital proofing. It also has an accounting package with invoicing and billing functionality and real-time financial visibility.
Wrike is a powerful collaboration and project management tool designed for marketing teams. It includes marketing and creative project management templates and dashboards that you can customize to suit your business. You can also share files, reports and tasks instantly and integrate to several other platforms including CRMs such as Salesforce and business intelligence tools such as Tableau.