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Credit by Drew McLellan

Within the last five years, an agency’s traffic manager has become the new production manager—building timetables for projects, tracking every single deliverable, and mapping out the company’s work. But the role isn’t valued as much as it should be.

Last year in the United Kingdom, senior traffic managers enjoyed a 28% increase in their annual salaries—bringing the average salary up to about $73,000. But in the United States? The Creative Group’s 2017 Salary Guide found that the median annual salary of an experienced traffic manager was approximately $66,000, and its 2019 guide reported a nearly identical number.

Some agencies have tried to turn the traffic manager into a hybrid role; others have hired junior-level employees into the position. Small agencies try to do without a traffic manager, leaving account managers and creative teams to track every single payment and due date. That’s fine if you have fewer than 15 employees, but the larger your agency grows, the more you’ll lose efficiency without a traffic manager on staff.

A Bird’s-Eye View

Plenty of agencies get caught up in telling their clients that something will get done “by Friday.” But as the week progresses, employees find themselves working late on Thursday or missing their deadlines entirely.

The traffic manager’s job is to make sure that never happens again. People in this role have a bird’s-eye view of an agency’s every move, and they can shift resources or evaluate project deliverables and deadlines. Traffic managers handle the freelance pool because they understand when outside resources are necessary, and they review and operate an agency’s project management software.

But when you undervalue the traffic manager’s role and responsibilities, you only serve to harm your agency in the long run. Here are three ways to better integrate the role into your agency:

1. Set up the role to report directly to the agency owner or president

The traffic manager is responsible for the agency as a whole. Thus, people in this role can’t play favorites. The reality? Sooner or later, the traffic manager will say “no” to everyone. And forcing him to measure the success of one department—instead of the entire company—will force him to protect one team to the detriment of another.

2. Don’t back off when the going gets tough

Bringing someone in to ensure no one is overworked sounds like a dream come true—until the traffic manager shows up. He’ll recommend using new tools, testing new processes, and changing the way your entire agency operates.

Change isn’t always welcome, and you might have some folks who’ve learned that you’ll abandon a plan if they complain loud enough. But you can’t back down this time. Explain to your team members how the outcome will give them more control over their work, leading to more efficiency and effectiveness. If your goal is to be bigger and take on better projects, your agency should be ready to tackle the changes a traffic manager spearheads.

3. Encourage your team to work through the tough stuff

Motivate employees to work together through the harder moments to reach a shared benefit—and thank them for hanging in there. The more you do this, the more you support the traffic manager.

As a result, by the end of your traffic manager’s first year, everyone will feel more appreciative of the person (and will see the ultimate advantage of the role). Your teammates will know what’s on their plates, when it’s due, and how much time they have to spend on it. And as a leader, you’ll better understand the profitability and efficiency of your agency.

Integrating traffic managers into your agency isn’t always a cakewalk, but when your entire agency’s operations rest on their shoulders, you must be prepared. Underappreciating the role, no matter how new it might be, will only help you lose business.

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