Having kicked around the ad industry for nearly 1/40th of a millennium, I’ve seen my share of good and bad agency practices. While we’re always looking for ways to be more creative and forward thinking, I think we tend to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Something that really gunks up an agency, slows it down and makes it inflexible, is the traditional protective attitude creatives have towards their creative process.
They take the brief and disappear, reappearing several days or weeks later with a big ta-da moment within the agency: the Internal Presentation. What follows are peer reviews, sobering account directorial guidance, art direction by committee or, more often than not, outright acquiescence to the ideas out of respect or fear or apathy. Let’s call this Step 1.
Step 2 is revisions or re-concepting or self-congratulatory drinking. I know because I’ve been there (copywriter here).
Step 3 is the Client Presentation. This is the other big ta-da moment and will play out like Step 1. The stakes are higher of course. Agencies and clients often engage in power-struggles at this stage and even if the agency wins, the client usually has a chain of command they have to sell the work up. How vested do you think they are in ideas they really didn’t agree with anyway?
What we’re doing at Copeland is breaking down as many barriers to creative success as we can.
First, we have eliminated the Internal Presentation. We’ve managed this by bringing the suits into the creative brainstorming. Shane or Theresa will sit with us and work through the ideas. This has simply always worked well. It has the added benefit of making the agency function better as a team by respecting the ideas of everyone. Smart people are smart people. And we only hire smart people.
Second, we are working towards eliminating the Client Presentation. How? By asking the client – when it’s feasible – to also join us during the creative process. Ridiculous right? It will kill creativity, blunt objectivity and take all the fun out of it.
But here’s the thing: it hasn’t. Whether it’s Jodie at Island Hearing, or Jackee and Rachel at BC Ferries or Gary at Ellice Recycle, we find that letting the client in when we’re storming the brains leads to some great insights (they know their business better than we do), efficient use of everyone’s time and valuable bonding between the agency and the client. We emerge with ideas we can all own, which builds advocacy. It sure helps the ads get sold up the chain.
A beautiful side-effect of this process is how fast we can get to market, without feeling rushed.
So far, the ideas have been solid; our clients seem to enjoy it too.
You creative people will think we’re nuts. But doesn’t everyone think they’re a copywriter or an art director anyway?