So you want to sweat less in creative presentations in 2016? Here are four things you and your agency could be doing now to make creative development easier and more fun:
1. Switch the dynamic from vendor to partner
The first thing to consider is how you think about each other.
The big reveal thrives in a client-vendor relationship. It feeds off a competing power dynamic which sets you up as the benevolent dictator, ready to punish the imagination of your agency if they get something wrong. Leading your agency to second-guess their position as your favored supplier. In truth, the vendor dynamic sucks creativity out of the process and the soul out of participants.
The best people never work for you. They work with you.
Partnership not bondage, cooperation not domination, love not war: ambitious, passionate and ongoing collaboration is the best way to unlock creative freedom and achieve a common goal.
Thinking of your agency as a partner is the first step away from suffering during big reveals.
2. Throw open the doors to new ideas
How many times have we heard it said: great ideas can come from anywhere. But does your agency actually mean it? If your agency’s idea of collaboration is stops at Google Docs, you’ve got a long way to go.
Effective creative groups are built from members with an ability to think broadly together, confident that lunacy will be greeted with warmth and enthusiasm. Agencies build teams just like this all the time: they are called “Creatives” (snarf). But most Creative teams remain walled-off behind Account, separated from you by “the need to push-back” and coddled by a culture deeply suspicious of outside contribution.
That is how Madison Avenue did it. Sadly, it is still how most of our colleagues run their shops.
Given the right conditions, awesome ideas can come from anyone—especially you.
Advertising is the “most fun you can have at work with your clothes on.” And while it’s the reason we all work in agencies, there’s no reason you shouldn’t share in the fun too.
3. Your agency should fit like a glove, and not all gloves fit
If you have made the choice to partner with your agency, evaluating fit becomes an exercise in mutual honesty.
At Mortar, we focus on clients that can thrive in constant and urgent collaboration. We have found that our best clients often have substantial experience with creative development—some of it gained on the agency side. Your agency may be different. Either way, success hinges on being honest about who you can partner with, and who you can’t.
Over the last 18 months, our new focus has helped cut our client roster by almost half. Giving us the chance to focus on clients most willing and able to collaborate. Now we can confidently throw our hearts into sharing ideas early and often.
Isn’t that what we all want?
4. Break the ice (preferably over cocktails)
Lastly, it’s up to you and your agency to break the ice.
This means being upfront about what honesty really means, about what you’re trying to achieve together and why it is so hard. The place to start may very well be over your favorite cocktails—because partners prefer to kick things around in person, not on conference calls.
Breaking the ice means being clear and frank with one another, and holding one another accountable. Good partners make room for feelings (gasp) and don’t point fingers. Partners are kind to one another because they share the same goals and aspirations.
And it also means instead of schmoozing you at fancy dinners, your agency could invite you into impromptu whiteboard sessions designed to squeeze the brief for hidden value and insight.
Great ideas thrive through open, honest and regular collaboration. They shouldn’t be jammed into a box and expected to shine in the dark while they wait for their big reveal.
What do you think? Do you have the courage to change the dynamic and revel in a pool of collaborative goodness with your agency? Does your agency?
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