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Want to get great work from your creative agency? Start here.

It was 9:42am, the team of all agency partners- PR, Media, Advertising, etc. - had been waiting for the VP of Marketing for almost an hour when she stormed in, unapologetically, and positioned herself at the head of the table. She looked around the conference room and asks, “why are all of these people here?”

A brand team member leaned over and whispered, not quietly enough, “they are here to present the marketing plan to you…”

But all we heard was, she doesn’t care about this meeting for which your team spent the last month, 3 sleepless nights, and several hours on the plane preparing. To her, it’s another meeting, in a long day of meetings she needs to attend.

Be engaged, and we will be too.

We want to know that the work we do for your business is as important to you as it is to us. We buy the shampoo, eat the cereal, and feed our dogs the treats. When we work on your brand, we become your biggest advocate. Sometimes we may not nail the strategy on the first try, or find the big creative idea immediately, but the better we understand your business, and it’s challenges, the better it will get. Make no mistake, we will work hard for you no matter what, but if you want the most out of your agency, table the tablet, the phone, and the computer, and help us get to the best work we can do for your brand. Be part of our team and we’ll do everything we can to help you win.

Respect the craft.

While it seems like doing creative work is fun, trust us, it takes a lot of time and effort to do great work. Your creative director went to college, and (most likely) on to an art or design school. Your CD has spent years honing his skills all in an effort to build your brand and the brands of many other clients. They have dedicated teams that work late, work weekends, work, well, all the time, just to make the best possible work for you.

So please, understand that when giving feedback.

Too often work is dismissed without a real conversation. Or even worse, without any conversation. Be direct, respectful and tell them what’s not working for you. Don’t tell them how to fix it, or improvise ideas on the spot. Why? Because you want your agency to listen, but you also want them to stay mentally and emotionally involved.

As my creative partner likes to say, “give us a problem and we will help you solve it. “

After all, we want the same thing you do. We want to help build your brand. And if that’s not what you are getting from your agency, you need to find a new one.

Go beyond the logic.

My hope is that your agencies present you with so many great ideas that it becomes hard to pick just one. And if you are in the fortunate place to have an abundance of great work, please put aside the charts, the consumer feedback, and make a decision based on what work you believe is truly persuasive.

What idea makes you feel something? What idea do you believe will make your consumer feel good about your brand?

That’s the one you approve and produce.

And if all else fails, I’m sure your CD will have an opinion on what you should produce.

Just know, if you ask someone to comment, they will.

I love getting consumer feedback. It’s my favorite part of the job. BUT, and this is a big but, I think it’s important that it happens before an agency develops creative. Having a true understanding of the insight, and what motivates your target to purchase, is key. I worked on a Pharma account, and for a year, we talked to kids and parents about ADHD. By the time we did the creative, we had a true insight and the work was brilliant.

If you develop creative and ask someone, “what do you think,” they will have something to say. You just have to decide if you should listen.

If consumers had their way, Apple would have had the Mac politely thrown in the trash, and Old Spice would have had Mustafa dressed in a shirt, walking next to the horse.

Simply put, not all comments are worth listening to. Use research to make sure you’re communicating all the right things, and then let your marketing department and agency decide how to say it. Great work never comes from a quorum.

Let them learn.

The best clients I have worked with, let the junior marketing members listen to creative meetings. And the key word here is, “listen.”

Too many times I’ve been part of a roundtable meeting, where the fresh-faced MBA grad feels like they have to give feedback to the seasoned creative team. The junior marketer wants to impress their boss, yet has little idea how to evaluate creative work yet. In this situation, the comment is usually ignored by the agency, since they’re not the real decision maker. And often, the comments are taken seriously by your marketing team. So while uniformed, it tends to poison the well.

Sitting in on a meeting may be even more valuable than having to comment on something you know very little about. One day, they may be occupying that seat at the head of the table, but for now let them learn from you. It will result in better, more single minded work from our team.

That’s my advice. If you have any advice for me, or agencies in general, I’d love to hear it. Seriously. Reply away or send me an email. We’re all in this together.

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