The cooperation between advertising agency and company. How should it really work? We decided to let each side take turn discussing the subject and blog about it. Part One – the communicator’s perspective. Part two the agency’s perspective.
Soon, advertising agencies must adhere to the new digital media landscape’s demands and increase engagement in their work methods. Among other things, this involves trying new, untested members in a workgroup. More parties need to be involved, but how do we prevent an agency’s “magic” from dissipating?
Magic, you ask? Yes, magic! Something happens when the right people get together in the right context and conjure ideas together, creating something new and unique. They see possibilities where there were none or where none had dared to venture. This sense of creativity, this magic, is almost tangible.
This doesn’t mean that an agency should exclude a client from this creative process. I believe the opposite – the client should be involved for at least parts of it and preferably as early in the process as possible.
The client and the agency end up working on a common platform, creating a better end result. The client’s insights and expertise can help the creative process along, much in the same way an actual end-user’s experience with the product or service can.
Time for some magic
I am all for creating a deeper understanding and cooperation with the client. If there is chemistry and clear communication between us, I know the result will be beyond anyone’s expectations. The ideas become more concrete, and if everyone agrees we can literally just “go with it”. I also think this method is much more cost-effective, as it eliminates the back-and-forth revisions we are all so used to. However, slowly but surely, the client is phased out of the process, so that the magic the client paid for will bloom.
And that magic is about taking an idea and developing it. Take all the good bits and let the creative brains and their group dynamic take over the process – allowing us to push the boundaries and norms, and thus exceeding the client’s expectations. That is also often what they pay for, a creation that is beyond their own realm or abilities.
Don’t forget the flow
Ad agencies know the strengths and weaknesses of their employees, meaning they set up the most optimal workgroup based on the nature of the assignment. Agencies often have a “creative culture”. I don’t mean specific work models and methods, but rather that which ensures that a process has a “flow” that everyone in the group can recognize, and can work towards.
We know how the critical creative phases work and are comfortable and accustomed to each other. We know when we need a break and we recognize the good ideas. We understand the nuances that can be hard to interpret by an outsider or by anyone that hasn’t worked in this particular creative process.
The setting up of a group, the creating of ideas, and the picking of good ideas are all critical elements in this process. These phases are vital and ensure that a good idea survives and develops.
Phase One: The Giant Trash Can
In order to become comfortable with the idea creation process, you must be willing to use a giant trash can, because 9 out of 10 ideas will end up there. But don’t worry, it’s a good thing. It symbolizes the first phase where all ideas, no matter how wild, should be on the table.
It’s important to be thick-skinned here and not feel stepped on if ideas are thrown away. To come up with good ideas, a whole bunch of bad ideas need to come up first, because those bad ideas can inspire a train of thought leading to good idea.
Clients can become disillusioned by this process: “These ideas are terrible! This isn’t going to work out!”
Phase Two: The Ditch
Most projects end up stuck in a ditch a few times. The group loses energy. The ideas become worse. The mood becomes slightly off-kilter, with people getting the giggles. It’s sort of the same feeling when you get sleepy and dazed, and everything is funny. At the same time, it seems that nothing you come up with is good. The trick is to just keep going, just climb out of the ditch again, and get through this phase.
For a client, it might seem that it’s best to call it a day here. But don’t – never end a brainstorming session on a low. Keep going a little bit longer, it’ll pass!
Phase Three: The Birth
And then, it suddenly happens. Eyes meet, smiles form. Someone stands up, another begins writing frantically. There’s electricity in the air:
“Wait! That’s it. Take that part…,” someone says. “Yes! Exactly and then we add this…,” another exclaims. “That’s excellent!” shouts a third and starts writing on the whiteboard.
That’s it. We’re here. We’ve struck gold and we’re starting to build something. The autopilots kick in – each member of the group starts focusing on their job roles: The AD starts sketching, the copywriter jots down keywords and headlines, the creative director start conceptualizing, and the project manager sends an invoice .
A client might find this incomprehensible: “What happened? How did that work? This isn’t right.” Take it easy. This is just the start. Once we’re done, we’ve delivered what the client asked for.
Practice what you preach?
And so? Shall we rebuild the structure? Do we dare relinquish some magic or do we protect it? Does the creative process define the agency? Perhaps all of this remains even if the client is involved. But what if we let go of the whole thing? Or perhaps even include people other than the client? Perhaps work beyond the boundaries and involve other agencies with other opinions and points of view?
I think many agencies are afraid of letting others in too far. But it’s impossible to work in the new digital landscape with traditional structures. People crave cooperation, dialogue, engagement, and influence. Our ideas are often about conversations, about the users’ input, about strengthening bonds between brand and consumer. How can we practice what we preach if we aren’t open to new possibilities?
I’m very keen on hearing your thoughts. Please drop me a comment below.
Did you miss the communicator’s take on all this? Read Part One here.