The more people and steps involved in a workflow, the slower things get — and the less time the studio has to get the advertisement polished and delivered. Sometimes, having the option of a more flexible, “red-tape-less” workflow can come in handy.

Don’t get us wrong: we’re not hating on the traditional workflow. With its multiple levels of checks and sign-offs, it is the tried and true way to ensure everyone is heard, and that nothing goes wrong.

But if you are looking to improve your efficiency, but have not considered a fast-track workflow, you might be missing out.

Fast-track workflows, sometimes known as ‘exception workflows’, aim to streamline the process by cutting down cutting the number of steps involved, usually by bypassing some of the usual approval steps.

There are no one set of rules for an efficient workflow, it all depends on size, budget, roles etc. But here are four easy steps to help you build a fast-track advertising workflow:

  1. Decide on who to include: by reducing the number of people touching a brief or who play a part in the approval process, you can speed up the process. This doesn’t mean you are cutting random people out of the project, but try to think about the bare minimum of decision makers that you need to involve, and start creating a workflow around them.
  2. Come up with strict, template-based processes: the more controlled your processes are, the faster things can be done. Decide on how things are to be done, by whom, and the time frames for each task. By standardizing and tightening up the practices around briefing, client change and approval, you can quickly apply the workflow to new projects.
  3. Build systems that allow clients to self-service: consider using things like asset management and workflow management systems that allow clients to quickly send files and comments over to you, jobs approval systems that clients can use to self-administer parts of the project, or even simply asking clients to notate PDFs for changes. The focus is on ease of use and accessibility for clients.
  4. Get the clients on board with said processes and systems: explain the process, and the benefits to the client, and train them in the use of the systems.

To fast-track or not to fast-track

Fast-track workflows sound like a good idea, but some print ad agencies have found them vulnerable to be abused, whether it’s by clients or the odd account services manager who want to get a job done without going through all the approval processes.

As a rule of thumb, project for larger brand clients which require a lot of nursing and account servicing should not be put into a fast-track workflow.

And some clients, particularly larger ones, may prefer to have ownership over the systems and software used in the workflow: in these cases it would not be feasible to ask these clients to adopt your processes. Because of these factors, some agencies prefer to reserve fast-track workflows for clients that they have reached a mutual understanding with.


Fast-track workflows are useful for saving time, but they have the potential to be abused. Not all projects should be fast-tracked – in fact, half the battle is in deciding whether a project should use a fast-tracked or the traditional full workflow. When making the decision, you always need to remember the needs of the clients – alongside your own needs.

View our free eBook – six efficiency tips for production studios and agencies for more info on the subject.