I started out in the advertising business much like every other ad pro does – at a coffee-fueled unpaid internship sorting business cards, updating status sheets and begging for anything and everything resembling real work. Progressing further and further down the rabbit hole, it was clear that a lot of the industry growth and opportunity was and is in the digital sector – it truly is an advertising “wild wild west” that continues to change, shift and blur the lines that were painted by traditional marketing means.
A few months later I found myself at a creative digital agency in Toronto, complete with a collection of graphic designers, art directors and an in-house team of coders who seemed like they spoke a completely different language – JQuery, Ajax calls, Parallax – I was in over my head. Before the job, my experience with coding was limited to a few Sunday afternoon sessions on Codecademy where I was able to get my feet wet (just slightly) with the basics of what coding involved and the ideas behind syntax and structure. I was green.
Coding and coders, from an outsider’s perspective, can sometimes conjure images of geeks and nerds with floppy disks. The modern reality is that they are the driving force behind almost all of the projects we push out on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. They are so integral to our creative process that they are brought in to consult at the earliest stages of a project, where we ideate with strategists and art directors, and follow it all the way at every stage to final execution. They add value in the way they think about how people can and will interact with a website or digital execution (the user experience), as well as the best technology and devices to use to enhance the consumer experience in the most effective way. Most importantly, they are masters at taking the lofty ideas and demands that our creative team comes up with and somehow brings them to life – often on tight deadlines.
Although the majority of people in our agency are not developers, having a little-to-some knowledge of coding is an advantage in a number of ways. Many of our designers that have experience with coding think more practically about the websites, pages and applications they are designing. They know what technology is possible to help bring their designs to life and how to better organize content on the site so that the end result is one seamless experience.
I work in client service, which involves a lot of back-and-forth with stakeholders on projects, and proper communication is essential. Knowing a bit about coding and the technologies used on a project definitely helps me articulate to clients why building a site or experience one way vs. another will affect their end result and bottom line. In the end, they can be better informed to make decisions. Internally, having an understanding of coding gives a better appreciation of the effort, time involved and specific challenges that the development team will face and how these challenges will affect creative, deadlines and more.
Since I’ve started working at the agency over a year ago, it’s been clear how essential coding and development is to each part of our jobs. Whether you’re in the studio producing creative, the developers actually writing the code, or a project manager keeping a keen eye on deadlines, having some knowledge of coding allows us to produce the very best possible work and continue to push the boundaries of digital marketing and advertising.
– Nick Hillier