A TALE OF TWO PROJECTS† by Dave Ullman, Mosquito Communications, Chicago-Area Freelance Copywriter
*With apologies to David Ogilvy.
†With apologies to Charles Dickens.

What's a "virtual ad guy," you ask?
Somebody who works in a "virtual ad agency," of course.

No see-ums

Virtual ad agencies are many individuals and/or small organizations that come together on an ad hoc basis in a virtual environment to tackle a real marketing challenge.

People in virtual agencies share the same time but not the same space. They may not work in the same organization, room, building, city, state or even country.

Most people working on a project in a virtual ad agency have never met each other and may only know each other by what's on their websites.

One tale of two projects
Confessions of a Virtual Ad Guy:  A Tale of Two Projects, Mosquito Communications Chicago Illinois Freelance Advertising Copywriting for Healthcare, Non-Profit, Business
Recently I worked on the "virtual creative teams" of two projects led by two different ad agencies. Let's call them Agency Red and Agency Blue.

Agency Red was doing an annual campaign extension (print and online) for an international, information wire news service. I won the project when their designer/art director did a search for a local freelance copywriter and found my website. The CEO responded through contact information on

Agency Blue was doing a total brand makeover for a specialized financial services company working with hospitals. I won the project after a referral to their CEO from the CEO of a healthcare marketing and advertising agency I've worked with for more than 5 years.

The clients of both Red and Blue offer business-to-business (B2B) services. Both use specialized technology and tools to gain a competitive advantage in their respective categories. And both are positioned as smaller "challenger" brands to larger competitors.

My position was freelance copywriter on both projects.

Going in blind

I've never been to Agency Red nor Agency Blue nor met any of their team members. I know what I know based on their websites and what they've told me in emails (mostly) and by phone.

They have never met me either. All they knew about me was what was on my website and rumor. Both were virtual blind business dates.

My primary contacts at both Red and Blue were account management professionals in marketing/communications including principals and C-level executives, roughly 80% women, 20% men.

Both Red and Blue are established agencies doing good work, physically based in the Chicago suburbs with clients on the leading edges of their categories but not necessarily leaders in sales or market share.

More bang for the buck

Virtual ad agencies can help small client budgets act a lot bigger. Virtual agencies help minimize the real costs of creating marketing communications.

Virtual employees are primarily freelancers and other independent contractors. So virtual agencies don't have to meet weekly payroll or fund increasingly expensive benefits for real employees. They don't have to rent more space. Virtual agencies don't have to deal with all that sticky personal and family baggage that comes with real employees.

Personalities and politics almost always play a major role in medium to large advertising agencies, for good or ill. In virtual ad agencies there is literally and figuratively no room for it.

Virtual ad agencies really are the ultimate in marketing-communications productivity and efficiency. I can say from experience that virtual employees are all business all the (billable) time.

What's it like in a virtual ad agency?

No one can hear you scream.
That's a good thing as well as a bad.

You can wear shorts in presentations.
You don't have to bathe either.

But you've got to be just as prepared as for a "real" meeting.
(I've learned that the hard way.)

You're not just in a silo.
You are a silo

Trust is everything.
Money is being exchanged for time used to develop something rather ephemeral and hard to value: marketing and communications ideas.

You are powerless.
As a member (spoke) of the team (wheel) you are not at the primary decision point (hub). You never really know what's going on.

You are powerful.
You are a primary idea-generator for your team.

Virtual team effort

Together, these two projects involved no fewer than twelve different enterprises/individuals working together, relatively independently via email and phone communications, to accomplish specific marketing-communications goals.

Each "virtual ad project" was led by the "virtual leader" usually the agency of record for the client and/or primary contractor.

Independent sub-contractors working cooperatively with Red and Blue employees included an account manager, account planner, research specialists, copywriters, art directors, designers, administrative assistants, producers (print and electronic), web developer, media buyers, PR people and others I'm not even aware of.

Amazing anything ever gets done but it does. That's the beauty of it.

Dave Ullman, Chicago-Area Copywriter, 2011

Freelance copywriting and creative advocacy for business, healthcare and not-for-profit organizations
Dave Ullman, Creative Director
E -mail:
Cell: 1.630.290.9627
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