Sunday, February 19, 2017

Process and Creative are having an affair

Creative is the tall, curvy, sensual woman in the corner office. With her wardrobe and great hair she could have any man she wanted. Strangely she has been quietly hooking up with Process. He of the pocket protector and RACI charts. He is skinny and socially awkward but not without his own quiet intensity.  What on earth does she see in him? What do they have in common? Apparently this has been going on for a long time.

Developing Marketing Communications is not the least bit difficult; the challenge is doing it well. To get the kind of ROI most of us crave obviously involves applied creativity. That’s where it all goes sideways.  To achieve creative creative even the most experienced marketers can be challenged by the tango of Creative Development.  For over 10 years I have worked with Marketing groups and their agencies to install and train best practices in this regard.  Starting a recent project with a top 10 multinational reaffirmed for me the value of getting the process right in Creative Development.
The right approach is never one size fits all, but there are 5 simple practices that almost always help you get to better stuff and happier people.

Explicit Process:
Make it someone’s job on the client side to create, communicate and monitor the process.  Among other things it should include: who is the project team that should be in all the meetings, who is the ultimate “Decision Maker” and a realistic budget. “TBD” is not a budget. 

Have a Great Brief (ing):
Make sure that the Brief form you are starting with is reasonable. Sometimes they can get quite bent out of shape to serve a “distinct creative approach”.  Whether the Brand Manager or the Account Manager/Planner starts writing the Brief, make it a shared responsibility. In the end  It has to be owned by both parties. When the Account Manager briefs the creative team, a client should be there. It’s funny how some agencies resist this; usually this is a vestige from bad briefs that had to be ignored and reinterpreted or badly behaved clients.

One Creative Presentation:
Or, as close to one as you can possibly get.  Manage your client culture to have the important people in the first and only creative presentation, including the ultimate Decision Maker. To do this, clients need to learn to have a productive discussion about the concepts presented without too much regard for rank. They need to get over the obsession with making decisions on the spot and spend more effort on understanding the submissions and getting comfortable with risk. You can actually make the decision “tomorrow”. 

One Creative Presentation Part II:
I am not a fan of “tissue sessions” (rough/early idea presentations). Most clients have a hard enough time envisioning the end product at a tight creative presentation. It is hubris to think they need you in the creative process. You will enjoy the Creative so much more if you the skip the trailer.  Many agencies like to present “Creative Platforms” or Areas. What you really need is a good idea (subject for a later post).  Ask the agency to present ideas and executions concurrently.  Most of us are not skilled enough to judge a “platform”  divorced from its “output”.  Its only purpose, after all, is to create good executions, so let’s see it do that.

Provide Written Feedback:
Do it always.  Your response might be a one line email for a dangler or a three pager for a major campaign.  Writing has several advantages: it creates a record, forces alignment among clients (amen) and benefits from the precision of the written word. If the project is substantial, deliver this written feedback in person or at least on the phone to allow for conversation.

It is easy to find people who disagree with these practices. There are many ways to do it, and they are welcome to their methods.  The most popular ice cream flavour in Canada is still vanilla. I guess it just works. I have firsthand experience with both large and small Marketing teams witnessing improvement in their Marketing Communications when they apply these simple process improvements.  But simple is not the same as easy and they require both clients and agency partners to raise their games.

Lighthouse Clients

Cases, examples and client references are available upon request. Some of our clients over the last few years are:

Toyota Canada
Landmark Cinemas
Sleeman Breweries
Toronto Blue Jays
Cadbury Adams
Constellation Brands/Vincor
Cara Foods/Recipe - Casey's, East Side Mario's, Fionn MacCool's, Bier Markt, Kelsey's, Montana's
Sigma Alimentos - a large food company in Mexico
Multiple Sclerosis Society - MS WALK
Yellow Pages Group
New Balance Canada
Ideazon -(Gaming Hardware)
Edwards Builder's Hardware

Going further back:
Pfizer - Viagra, Detrol
Volvo Canada
Canadian Blood Services
Red Lobster USA
Xerox Canada
Sprint Canada
Absolut (Maxxium)

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