McBru Best Practices: Creative
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McBru Best Practices: Creative

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Learn how to get the best creative work out of your agency -- and why an agency is only as good as its clients.

Learn how to get the best creative work out of your agency -- and why an agency is only as good as its clients.

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McBru Best Practices: Creative McBru Best Practices: Creative Document Transcript

  • POSITION PAPERBest practices for getting the best creative from your agency. Or, why an agency is only as good as its clients.
  • Want to get the best possible creative product from your agency?Of course you do. Good creative can work wonders for the effectiveness of your marketingprograms. Bad creative surely dooms them.That said, an agency — and more to the point, the work it produces — is only as goodas its clients.For over 16 years now, McBru has worked with dozens of high-tech companies. Ourstaff has many more collective years of experience in the business. We’ve seen thecreative process work well, and sometimes not so well. We have come to understand andevangelize the process that unlocks the potential of a good creative team. We measurethat potential by how effectively the work delivers on business objectives.Of course, you want to get the best possible outcome from your marketing communications.Your agency wants that too. Applying simple best practices can ensure that everyoneinvolved pulls together towards that goal. You’ll be proud of the end result, and hopefullyeven manage to have fun getting there. 1. Define your objectivesA critical initial step is for you to get as clear as possible on the objectives yourcommunications must serve. Without clear objectives, you can’t hope for a creative solutionthat supports your business goals. These objectives must be ones that communicationscan affect. Short, clear, razor-sharp: “I need this audience to learn or do that.”To begin, identify and define your target audience with as much detail as possible. Itmay seem obvious, but you can’t assume that the creative team knows exactly who youare trying to reach.Next, define the primary outcome you’re seeking. For example, is it awareness you’reafter, or are you primarily looking to generate leads? You may end up doing both, but youhave to pick one if you hope for focused and effective creative concepts.Establish metrics. While there will always be a certain amount of subjectivity involvedwith creative work, having a specific, measurable outcome — clearly defined from theoutset — takes some interpretation out of the equation. Which, ironically, in turn providesthe solid foundation and confidence an agency needs to take risks creatively.
  • A lack of clearly defined objectives — or worse yet, shifting objectives — will absolutelydoom the creative process. They form the map and compass for creative execution;without them, a creative team is rudderless.Clear objectives keep the creative energy focused and effective. 2. Lock in your strategyWith your ultimate objectives defined, you and your agency should collaborate on astrategy to achieve them. It’s important to document the strategy in a creative platformor brief.This document serves two purposes that are extremely important for optimal creativeoutput. First, it squeezes out any room for miscommunication or separate interpretationsamongst the team. Every subsequent step can be more accurate and add to the value ofthe program.Secondly, your strategy document is a well-oiled tool for building understanding andconsensus within your own organization. Use the document to bring your peers on board.Share it with any stakeholder who has a role or decision-making authority on your project.Listen to their comments or concerns, and explain your rationale. You’ve now madethese coworkers ready to understand the outcome of your project and provide prompt,constructive feedback when needed, throughout the process (more on this point later). 3. Know your brand. Know your organization.The tone of any piece of marketing communications needs to properly reflect yourcompany’s brand. Define those primary brand attributes that should be reinforced by thecreative execution. If your company must appear reliable and steady, you should receivevery different creative ideas than you would if your company wanted to emphasize itscutting-edge innovation.On the flip side of your company’s external brand attributes are its internal organizationaldynamics. Don’t set your agency up for potential failure by not alerting it to any internalphilosophy or struggles that may influence the reception of creative concepts. Does yourcompany have any pet peeves or idiosyncrasies that your agency should be mindful of?
  • If your VP of sales or CEO believes that, for example, a “good” ad must use product asits primary imagery then tell your agency that up front. You aren’t doing it any favorsby keeping it in the dark. That said, a good agency isn’t doing its job if it isn’t pushingagainst predispositions. An important part of marketing communications is exploringnew ways to connect with your audiences. But if the agency is aware of internal biasesheading into the review process it stands a better chance of managing reactions. At thevery least, you and the agency aren’t going to be blind-sided in a conference room full ofpeople with no explanation of why none of the ad concepts being presented “looks likeone of our ads.” 4. Refine – really refine – your key messageThe tone of any piece of marketing communications needs to properly reflect yourcompany’s brand. Define those primary brand attributes that should be reinforced by thecreative execution. If your company must appear reliable and steady, you should receivevery different creative ideas than you would if your company wanted to emphasize itscutting-edge innovation.On the flip side of your company’s external brand attributes are its internal organizationaldynamics. Don’t set your agency up for potential failure by not alerting it to any internalphilosophy or struggles that may influence the reception of creative concepts. Does yourcompany have any pet peeves or idiosyncrasies that your agency should be mindful of?If your VP of sales or CEO believes that, for example, a “good” ad must use product asits primary imagery then tell your agency that up front. You aren’t doing it any favorsby keeping it in the dark. That said, a good agency isn’t doing its job if it isn’t pushingagainst predispositions. An important part of marketing communications is exploringnew ways to connect with your audiences. But if the agency is aware of internal biasesheading into the review process it stands a better chance of managing reactions. At thevery least, you and the agency aren’t going to be blind-sided in a conference room full ofpeople with no explanation of why none of the ad concepts being presented “looks likeone of our ads.” 5. Build consensus from key stakeholdersHaven’t we already mentioned this? Yes, but that’s because this part of the process istoo often overlooked. Now is the time to define your stakeholders and get buy-in. Getfeedback and make modifications to the objectives, strategy, and key message now,rather than weeks and thousands of dollars later!
  • Identify and engage those within your organization who need to buy in on this particularpiece of communications up front. When you return to them later, you can use theagreed-upon strategy document to refresh their thinking and provide context. Tell themyou are “saving them time and reducing their risk” of making uninformed decisions bygetting them involved early in the process.Plus, getting buy-in early frees you and your agency to execute on the objectives,strategy and message. You can avoid working by committee and having someone in yourorganization who may not understand the context or objectives catch a glimpse of thedeveloping creative product and sabotage it with the dreaded phrase “I don’t get it.” Ifeveryone has agreed to the objectives, strategy, and message up-front, and the creativeis delivering on those, then everyone should “get it.” 6. Let experts be expertsAt this point, the creative process kicks off. The strategy document becomes the sharedplatform for all the experts to stand on and for evaluating potential executions during thecollaborative creative process.Now, let the experts be the experts.If you’ve chosen your agency carefully — of course you have! — it will know how tocommunicate with your target audiences most effectively: finding and selecting the rightmedia channels; knowing the industry influencers and what they prefer; branding andidentity, art direction, design and writing; and how to use the tools to track and reportsuccess, or to refine a program in midstream. This is what you hired the agency for. Stepback and let them execute.At the same time, your agency should respect and tap into your expertise to drive results.You know how the stated objectives will help your company grow in the marketplace.You know your company’s strengths and weaknesses, who your competitors are and theplayers and steps in the sales cycle. You know what value promise you can make andkeep with customers. On a broad scale, you can explain how the program contributes toyour business goals and sales initiatives. Simply put, you can help nudge the creativework to keep on strategy.When each party respects the other, and lets the other do their jobs, the results are mostimpressive.
  • 7. Know what your agency expects of youIt’s not always the most exciting part of the creative process, but a good agency shouldrely on a solid workflow process. There is no creativity inherent in chaos. Any agency thattells you that is either unwilling or unable to put the sort of process in place that willallow a good creative team to thrive. Creativity should be reserved for design and writing— not scheduling.During this process, it is the agency’s responsibility to maintain the process and schedule.At several milestones, you will be called upon to review work and offer guidance. Makesure the agency defines very clearly what is expected of you at each stage of the process.Are you evaluating conceptual ideas or reviewing the legal copy? If your responsibility ateach step is clear, you can make more accurate decisions more efficiently. You also giveyour agency the best information to carry on.Understanding your role during the process, you can see how important it is that youmeet your deadlines. Many resources are in motion within the agency. They depend onyour prompt feedback and approval at specific steps in the process.Likewise, your agency must meet its deadlines. You similarly have many resources inyour company that must contribute at specific times.Mutual respect of expertise is amplified by mutual respect of process. 8. Be proud of the workAt the end of the process, if the objectives were clear, if the strategy had been agreedupon, if the key message remained singular, if the review steps were followed, you willbe proud of the work that comes out. All the experts will have put their best efforts intoit, and have done what they do best. And it will serve the objectives that will help yourcompany succeed.Not an insignificant feat!If you feel good about the result, don’t be shy. Say so. Share your enthusiasm with youragency and, even more importantly, within your company. Building excitement aroundyour new ad campaign, brochure or Web site can only help enhance its effectiveness.A good agency should be thrilled to make you look like a hero within your organization.In the end, your success is their success. Because, after all, an agency is only as goodas its clients.
  • For further information or questions: Jeff Hardison 503.546.1009 jeff@mcbru.comCONTACT US 5331 Macadam Ave, Suite 220 Portland, OR 97239 503.546.1000 www.mcbru.com