Why Ad Agencies Sometimes Take So Long

Updated: May 31, 2018

Advertising agencies are often asked how long it will take to get this ad “out there”. So understanding lead time is important.


Lead time refers to the length of time between initiation and completion of a project. In advertising, this matters because creating an ad for print, TV, radio or digital involves days, weeks or even months of preparation.


Here’s more on advertising agencies and lead times.



Lead Time in Advertising

In advertising, lead time often varies significantly from medium to medium.

With newer forms of marketing – digital, social media, etc. – lead times are usually very short. Once the message and content is determined, copy and headlines are written and images are created. Digital and social media ads can be launched as quickly as 24 hours.


Traditional ad campaigns are a bit different. Lead times with print media can range anywhere from two days to ten weeks, depending on the content and the publication. Once the concept and messaging is determined, and headlines and copy written, the ad must be designed and a layout created. Stock photography is available at the click of a button, but custom photography involves a shoot, which can take a couple days or couple of weeks (or longer) depending on the talent required, location, weather, etc. The frequency of the publication must also be taken into consideration. For quarterly magazines, the lead time is much longer than for daily newspapers. And for holidays or seasonal specials, you must be prepared to initiate the ad months in advance


Television spots can take longer as well. After the message is determined and the copy written, a storyboard – which is a pictorial layout  of the TV spot – is created. Just to get ready to shoot the spot can take weeks. Once approved and any revisions made, then talent, location, and props must be secured and a shoot schedule developed. Travel time may be involved. Once the commercial is shot, the footage must then be finessed in production and any necessary graphics added.  TV commercial projects can take weeks, sometimes months to produce.


How Lead Time Varies

With any project, there are many variables that can affect lead time. For this reason, most projects are given a soft deadline, which is flexible, and a hard deadline which is not. Cutting down the lead time can be cost-efficient, but cutting back on the time can lower the quality of the process. Concepts, copy writing, scheduling, weather, holidays, and availability of those involved all come into play.

The client may also have their own variables. Often with companies responsible for sensitive or complex subject matters like healthcare or political advertising, approval may take more time than some other industries. In addition, the approval process and layers of departments and managers within the organization itself can also lead to slower lead times.


Always remember though, that quality can take time. Creativity is a key element in the process. Concept designers, copywriters and graphic designers are not magicians (though they may seem like they are sometimes). The more you cut down lead time, the more time you take away from the creative process. Sometimes the best ideas come after a good dream, watching a movie or just a weekend of rest. If you don’t leave time for that, you are at a risk of losing some potentially extraordinary ideas.


Get a Head Start (or a NEW Start) on Advertising Today

When working with advertising agencies, lead time is important to consider. Look at it from a new angle. Get a fresh perspective on advertising. Contact the professional team at TotalCom today. We are here to help you tell your story and amplify your brand.

A local, award-winning ad agency in Alabama

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Pinterest Icon
  • White Twitter Icon

© 2020 TotalCom Marketing Communications

info@totalcommarketing.com