22 April 2009
To get the best creative work out of your advertising or design agency, certain ground rules should be followed. They’re like the laundry instructions on fine shirt. One of the most basic is to brief your agency well. Here are the principles we at Machete Creative encourage our clients to follow. They are the result years of experience. No one needs red tape, but certain principles and procedures tend to produce good work without wasting time, resulting in a more profitable relationship for both parties.
1. Tell your agency what you want to achieve. Not how to.
Define your objectives as precisely possible - but don’t dictate the medium. There may be a stunning alternative means to achieve your marketing goals, that could be more effective and less expensive.
Give your agency time and space to explore lateral alternatives. Instead of a flyer, perhaps they will come up with a new media solution, or an ambient marketing idea – such as a billboard that talks to pedestrians when they walk past!
2. Tell us who you are talking to and how you want them to respond.
Forming a clear idea of the intended audience of any piece of corporate communication is vital. It allows the agency to create communications that speak directly to the right people in a way they can relate to. It allows us to avoid generalities and create amusing, edgy, eye-catching work instead of a bland, one-size-fits-all message.
Tell us how you want these people to respond once they get your message. The more precisely this can be articulated, the better. If you can measure response in terms of enquiries or sales, try to agree on reasonable targets or objectives with your agency.
3. Write it down
Do yourself and your agency a favour: put it in writing. No one needs reams of purple prose. Bullet points in an email are fine. But the value of the exercise is not just to serve as a record. The very process will help you define your objectives more precisely.
Your agency should be able to provide you with a briefing form which covers all the essential points. Stuff they really need to know so they can get going without danger of wasting time. If your agency has not provided you such a form, email me. We may be able to help.
4. Give us a budget
Huge amounts of time get wasted when we set off chasing an exciting idea – only to find out it’s going to cost ten times more than you have to spend. It is far better to have a ballpark figure in mind. Of course, you should expect a precise quotation from your agency before they incur any external hard costs.
Mind games about, “Oh, they’ll only try to spend it all if we tell them what we’ve got - let’s get them to tell us how much it will cost instead” should form no part of an honest, open and trusting relationship. And only an honest, open and trusting relationship is going to produce a mutually beneficial, sustainable relationship between agency and client.
5. Give us time
Be clear about the delivery deadlines and give your agency as much time as possible. Remember, there will be other work in the agency system when you brief them, so don’t expect us to be able to drop everything and start right away. Anyway, how long does it take to have a great idea? The most difficult part of running a successful agency on a sustainable basis is to manage your creative’s time efficiently.
Of course, there are going to be times when you need your agency to respond swiftly to a tactical opportunity. On those occasions, it is not unreasonable for a communications company that is committed to helping you grow your business to work overtime when required. But it is reasonable to expect to pay a premium for work that is clearly needs to be done after hours or over weekends.
Such emergencies should never become the norm. As a general operating procedure, allow time for the agency to absorb the brief, discuss it with the creative guys in the studio, and come back for a question session if requested.
After that, unless it is an exceptionally quick turnaround project, expect an a written work schedule from your agency. And expect them to stick to it. This schedule should provide for an initial concept presentation, time for you to digest the concept thoroughly, and for a second or even third concept presentation if you are not excited by the idea. Only once creative concept has been approved can the agency really schedule an exact production timeline.
Remember the irresolvable triangle of creative value: you can have it good, you can have it fast, and you can have it cheap. But you can’t have any more than two of the above at the same time!Practicing these five principles shows you know how to treat an agency and you respect their work. Give them the best possible opportunity – as co-custodians of your brand – to blow you away with their creative thinking. At the end of the day, it’s producing great work that motivates good creative people more than anything. An upward spiral of creative expectation is an exponential effect that could take your brand – and your business – much further, much more quickly, than you can imagine.