Love Your Agency And The Creative Work Will Shine

What’s the relationship like between you and your creative agency? Do you like the people who develop your ads and recommend your media?

If you’ve said its fun, easy, exciting and you look forward to seeing them, skip this post – you’ve found Mecca.

If it’s anything less, read on. Relationships are a two way street. If you put in a bit of effort to make your creative team love you, the work you get from them will be better.

Start with an open mind on pitch day
You’ve briefed in a big creative project and been waiting for the agency to pitch their work. You’ve shaken hands and sat in the appointed chairs. Now take a breath. It’s hard for anyone to turn down the volume of chatter in their own head.

The first step is to try to clear your mind of the thousand things you have to do, not to mention that crisis that was dumped on you, just before you walked in.

Then, take a moment to get back in to the project. Think about what you want to achieve with this work, what the target audience is like and what they’d enjoy.

Next, try to erase all your own ideas for the ad or media. You needed those initially, to help you imagine the result of your brief, but now you’ve handed it to the experts. You’ve hired your agency to give you something more, something unique, something that hasn’t been done before.

Keep an open mind and be willing to listen to the ideas all the way through, before you critique them.

It’s easy for that mental chatter to start again if you don’t think they’ve got it right. Try to avoid pulling things apart until they’ve finished their presentation.

Be attentive and encouraging
I know you are the client. I know they should say “how high” when you say “jump.” But this is their moment, the moment when they come back to present their creative ideas to you. So for this moment, see yourself as their guest.

Look at the people speaking. I can’t believe the number of presentations I’ve sat through where the clients never looked at the creative team. They were busy gazing at the ceiling, staring at the sketches, eating their lunch, looking at their blackberry…

If you don’t set the tone that this is important to you, why should the agency care?

Smile at them, sit still, look interested, nod, encourage them. You will be startled at the difference in their energy and enthusiasm.

New ideas are harder to get
Everyone can understand creative work that is a copycat, take off or remake of something else. You simply decide if it is better or worse than the original and if it is relevant to your brief. Job done, I’ll have one just like my competition but in blue…

New ideas are much harder to wrap your head around. They require you to stretch your imagination and use your ability to visualize.

Take time to let them explain it to you, you don’t have to make a snap judgement or have a clever response.

Worried you won’t get it?
A lot of clients worry that they won’t understand the idea that’s presented and when the team turn to them for feedback, they’ll be stuck with a big Homer “doh.”

That is often why they choose the creative presentation to eat their lunch or check their mail, so they can say “sorry, I wasn’t paying attention, can you explain that again”.

If you have been focused and encouraging, and you just don’t get the idea, that’s fine – the Creatives are trying to represent something that is only “finished” inside their head.

We don’t all have the same ability to visualize. Tell your team if you need them to paint a clearer picture. You’ll want to understand their vision for your ad and you may need more detail to flesh it out.

Don’t get hung up on specifics and small things at this point. It’s fine to ask them anything that will help you understand the overall idea of the ad.

When you give feedback start with the good stuff
The first thing the team will want to know, is if you think the overall idea is saying the right message in a way your target audience will understand.

Start with the things you like. It sets a good tone and stops your agency from going directly into solution mode. You want them to listen to your comments, not have their concentration whirling away on the solutions.

When you’ve commented on the overall thought and what you like, move on to the things that are troubling you.

The biggest challenge is offering the problem, not the solution.
As a marketer, you are solutions driven. Everyone in the company ends up at your desk with a problem, hoping you will have a solution for it.

Your agency is the exception. Try to recognize what the issue is with the communication. If you can tie that back to your brief, all the better. Tell them things like, “I don’t think the new features of our product are explained clearly” or “I’d like the price to be more of the focus”.

Don’t tell them how to solve that problem. They write advertising all day, every day and will have many more ideas for a solution than you will. Give them the challenge, then let them solve it.

Talking about the problem, not the solution, is the single biggest thing you can do to strengthen your relationship with your agency. It takes discipline on your part, but let them have a chance to do the work themselves.

Give them time, creativity doesn’t flow on demand
Sometimes the creative team can solve your issues there and then. Other times the solution isn’t obvious or they want to discuss it with each other before offering you options. Even if you are on a tight timeline, your agency will love you if you give them a few hours or a few days to come back with revised ideas

Finally, treat them like part of your team.
The agency have put time, energy and effort into learning about your brand, your category and your newest project. They want to be part of the team. Take time to get to know each other. You liked them when you hired them, build on that. Have lunch together, talk about things beyond this brief. Let them into your world.

You’ll build the relationship by having confidence in them,  sharing and letting them in on your company’s vision. They enjoy what they do and want you to be happy with the work. If your agency feels like part of your team, you’ve already set a tone that is sure to bring you the best creative results and you’ll be the client they love.

Drop a note in the comment box below and share your experience.  Tell us how you make your agency love you or for agency people, what does your client do that you love?

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