A day in the life of a traffic manager

Creativity, People, Profiler

I “operate” in this function – with a slightly confusing titlefor the ones outside advertising industry – since 2004. I started in a media trust and than I continued in agencies or, otherwise said, in „advertising”… and I now can’t give up on our everyday Rom-English under any circumstances.

When I started this, I didn’t had the slightliest idea how much stress it involves, but I adapted on the way and here I am, 37 years old, still Traffic Manager in a top Romanian agency and, more recently, mum to 2 beautiful children. And, for what it matters, I wouldn’t change my job with any other, not even if someone would kick my ass to do so.

That’s the story if it’s put short.

A traffic manager day starts similar to anybody else in this industry: big hurry in traffic and, of course, a lot of swearing and cursing. That’s Bucharest „beauty”. And I don’t want to lie, I swear a lot and I believe strongly this is also another characteristic of the job only that, more recent or not, the cursing vocabulary expanded more and more towards English. So, after a round of „verbal defulation” in traffic, I drink the holy morning coffee on agency’s balcony. And, as it is just 9.30, I don’t have a lot of company, but I know the 10 o’clock coffee will come soon, and than the agency is full of creatives, strategists, DTP and Client Service  specialists. The morning coffee, same as the noon and evening ones, is just a reason to sort things out for the current day or, pure and simple, the most pleasant  reason to gossip or analyze each other.

And there’s how the day starts, and the phone keeps ringing til late at night as if it was in Bucharest’s North Train Station and negotiations start, projects’ prioritizing and also the related „disagreements” and combats because the Traffic Manager position is a pretty mean one. Theoretically, you must keep everyone happy while, practically, always, someone has to delay something for tomorrow and all it matters is to find the right people and projects to agree this.

*Photo Credit: Catalina Flaminzeanu

As a matter of fact, an advertising agency’s traffic manager is some sort of interface that facilitates agency’s flow so that, in the end of every work day, we can all be happy that nobody is crashing anyone’s skull because a client was lost or something important was missed. All projects must be accomplished no matter what, that’s why the clients pay, and the main idea is to manage to make them all so all the „resources” (and when I say „resources” I mean all the positions in an advertising agency: creatives, strategists, client service, DTP managers, proof readers and so on) to work efficiently in the given time frame, in the set or negotiated deadlines. That’s what the fight is about.

And that’s also the reason why the main weapons a traffic manager has are Excel and good words with convincing powers. By noon the latest I have the task finalized, updated and ready to be thrown like a mace towards the entire agency. This tasklist is the sum of all the projects in work, in the order they started or of the priorities negotiated to the teeth and can be modified only major emergencies strike when, of course, a new order appears and so on and so forth…the day continues by negotiating and facilitating solving some projects, depending of the new lined up emergencies. It is already known among admen that all that enters the agency has Yesterday as deadline and, therefore, hour after hour and day after day, something becomes more urgent than anything else is being worked on and, in the same time – or better said „in between time” – all needs to be solved.

I believe this is the reason why the traffic manager is the most hated person in the agency and that’s because, no matter what he/she does, eventually he’s the one to blame. Of course, I’m just joking. There’s always a higher instance / chief to share with me this „prize”.

But lunch is coming and there’s no bigger joy than to „explode” among bites because,  isn’t it, an admen doesn’t contradict himself; the center of his/her life is the job and, no matter where he/she is, talks about job, debates, looks for and finds solutions in any moment of his life: when she/he’s at launch, at beer with friends, at home, on the toilet (sorry for this mention, but it’s so true) …anywhere.

So we all do speed-eating and go back happily to what we know to do best. Same alert rhytm, same random victories and a lot of frustration followed by achievements, many intermezzos (fussball, meetings, smoking break, phone or in person negotiations) and, towards the evening, the joy that another day passed and we managed, some way or another, to do 80-90 or even 100% from what we were supposed to do. And this isn’t a small thing!

But there’s ok, we take everything home with us and we find many solutions in our free time because, if it wouldn’t be so, we wouldn’t like advertising so much.

Me myself, I sometimes get to dream that I forgot to put up for work I don’t know what urgent project and I wake up and run to verify if my tasklist saves me or burries me. There were cases when each of the two applied …

And, because we like what we do (no matter how much we whine), tomorrow is always solving everything. We start all over again. With the same morning coffee, same debates, same frustrations followed by both small or big victories, same arguments, same complaints, new solutions and more new methods to make it through because nothing else, except advertising, makes us happy.

Sometimes, with many campaigns and many unpostponable emergencies, the night finds us in the office and, as if this would be the supreme exchange coin, I hear myself negotiating with the others: I don’t want to know of any emergency today, I want to see my kid before the bed time. But these are just exceptions. The second kid came and it wasn’t far from giving birth to her in the agency.

And there isn’t even 2 months and I miss the agitation and the stress from the agency and I can’t stop myself thinking already that, without Pucca, things aren’t the same.

pucca nukka

A material written by Mihaela Olteanu, aka Pucca

Mihaela Olteanu is Traffic Manager at Graffiti BBDO Romania. Previous to that, she held the same position in a few Romanian highly appreciated agencies such as Leo Burnett. She first took this job back in 2004, when she worked for a Romanian media group and as a journalist for 8 years before that.