Today’s marketing tools of the trade include a wide variety of software applications. Being informed of the types used is beneficial to those who work with marketing agencies.
Underlying the big ideas at any marketing firm is professional software. Software has replace handcrafted works made from Letraset or marker comps for client presentation. Today’s industry-standard is Adobe’s Creative Cloud. This is the cloud-based collection of Adobe’s awesome creative software applications, which up until about 2012 were stand alone programs. The Creative Cloud includes everything from page layout and image manipulation to video and audio production and more. About 30 different applications are available, so I won’t address them all, but highlights include:
InDesign: This is the go-to page layout program for anything that gets printed, but also includes many digital publishing features. As desktop publishing software, it provides the framework within which photos, graphics and text are arranged into a final document. Indesign has essentially supplanted QuarkXpress which ruled as the page layout software of choice for many years, but fell from favor. Indesign files have an .indd suffix.
Photoshop: Such a common image manipulation and composition tool that it achieved the ubiquitous name for any image retouching. The program is unrivaled and a master of it can create wonders. Photoshop files have a .psd suffix.
Illustrator: Used to create vector graphics and illustrations. A go-to for logos. A notable contender and common alternative to Illustrator is CorelDRAW. Interestingly, CorelDRAW is often the preferred file format for many sign production shops. Illustrator files have an .ai suffix.
After Effects: Special effects for video compositions. In my experience, After Effects is what brings a video to life. It’s the final touches, big and small and goes beyond most other video editing software in capabilities, allowing you to create fully realized, cinematic videos. After Effects files have an .ae suffix.
Dreamweaver: The stalwart web design application for bespoke websites. If a designer can dream it in Photoshop, they can make it a website in Dreamweaver. The program is becoming less essential as coding is becoming less required. CMS websites are taking over and more of the web is driven by templated sites of one form or another, but Dreamweaver is still very relevant and a great way for a developer to review web code. Dreamweaver files don’t have a native format beyond HTML, but template files have a .dwt suffix.
Acrobat: The granddaddy of PDF, Portable Document Format, the full version of Acrobat allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility within the PDF file format including creating fillable forms. Acrobat files of course have a .pdf suffix.
Though Adobe has a strong grip on the industry, it’s not quite a monopoly. A few alternatives were mentioned above, but in particular my firm uses a non-Adobe piece of software for 3D modeling and animation (an area Adobe has not yet fully addressed).
Cinema 4D: This 3D software allows users to create entirely fake things and render stills, full motion graphics and animations. It can also import manufacturer’s CAD files to produce photo-realistic renderings. C4D for short, Cinema 4D does play nice with Adobe and files created in it have a .c4d suffix.
Software of course is only a tool. It requires the skill and creativity of a professionally trained and equally talented person to effectively use.
Understand that when you’re working on a project with your marketing partner, they will be using the best tools available to them; those will include professional grade software. Software that’s more consumer grade, like the Microsoft Office suite including Publisher and PowerPoint, don’t allow for the creative flexibility and level of control that most full service marketing firms will require and thus are simply not suitable for use in producing finished creative work. As a marketing manager, you may not have the same software as your agency and be unable to share files, but rest assured they’ll be using the best software for the job.