Category: Mortar’s Work
November 16th, 2015

Four ways to avoid needing a stiff drink after creative presentations

Mortar agency what if

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 best way to avoid the pain of missed 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 agency-client collaboration stops at Google Docs, read on.

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 creative teams just like this all the time. But most Creatives remain walled-off behind the account team, separated from you by “the need to push-back” and coddled by a culture deeply suspicious of contributions from outside the creative department.

That is how the Mad Men did it. Sadly, it is still how most of our colleagues run their shops.

Given the right conditions, awesome ideas can come from anyone—yes, even the client.

Advertising is the “most fun you can have at work with your clothes on.” And while it’s the reason many of us work in agencies, there’s no reason you shouldn’t share in the fun too.

3. Your agency should fit like a glove, but not all gloves are comfy

If you have made the choice to partner with your agency, evaluating fit is essential.

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 the clients most willing and able to collaborate.

When we work with them we can confidently throw our hearts into sharing ideas early and often.

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 when things go awry.

Good partners are kind to one another because they share the same goals and aspirations.

And effective partnership also means instead of schmoozing you during fancy dinners, you work together in impromptu whiteboard sessions designed to squeeze your brief for hidden value and insight.

It is a simple idea: 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?

Follow our “What If” series here. Join the #WhatIfMortar conversation.

November 2nd, 2015

Autumn brings it all: the colors, the smells and the excitement of Day One

Mortar GGU

Let’s talk about that journey called life for a minute. Because it sure is a winding one, with twists and turns, speed bumps and open roads. There are smiles and tears and heartbreak and joy. But above all, there’s excitement.

Who doesn’t want that journey to mean something?

So, when you enter Golden Gate University, of course you bring it all. And with your peers you become part of a community filled with energy. The first day can be the hardest day, but it’s your day. Flip the switch. And turn your “One Day” into “Day One”.

 

Mortar GGU

October 15th, 2015

Agencies that Collaborate? No Longer Wishful Thinking

Mortar Agency

Other industries are doing it. Why not creative agencies?

Our post about the perils of the big reveal in creative development has generated some heat.

Most of it positive. But some of it not. Which is cool with us. As long as the discourse is honest we’re all in.

Our position is simple: agencies rely on the big reveal way too much. But it’s about as useful as playing pin the tail on the donkey.

We should (and do) know better. So why aren’t creatives adopting better methods?

Everyone else is.

In software, engineers have turned to agile processes: more uncomfortable human contact, less reputation-shredding big reveals.

How about NIKEiD, bringing co-creation right to the production line.

Or Starbucks, minimizing customer disappointment by tapping right into their grey matter with My Starbucks Idea.

Open innovation, SCRUM, customerization, heck, democracy–they are all different flavors of more open, agile and collaborative ways of working together.

Here are 50 examples of business collaboration published by Co-society—almost 3 years ago. My favorite is how Reebok sought inspiration from Cirque du Soleil for a line of exercise accessories.

We don’t need to be stuck in the dark ages. Let’s steer this conversation towards how agencies and clients can collaborate—like the rest of the world.

Read our original post “The Sucker for Punishment Dilemma” here. Join the #WhatIfMortar conversation.

September 30th, 2015

The Sucker for Punishment Dilemma…

What if your creative agency is working with(out) you?

Your agency works for you, but why do you feel so anxious during the creative presentation?

When you’re excluded from the development of your agency’s big creative presentation, there’s little wonder they will miss the mark most of the time. And often spectacularly.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason the industry not only accepts this sad fact, but glorifies the process too.

The agency business is addicted to the big reveal—the final, much anticipated unveiling of a creative solution after weeks of frenzied (and secret) hibernation. A presentation that is supposed to leave you, the client, in awe and the agency bursting with pride.

Only it fails more than it succeeds.

The big reveal is a terrible way to work.

You’re paying to suffer

Remember six weeks ago, when you sat down with your creative agency and poured your heart out? You spoke of your dreams, of where you are and where you’re going; you shared the very essence of your brand and your business.

Then you left the meeting, feeling confident that your briefing would translate into work that would knock your socks off. After all, an advertising agency takes the reins of your business in a very significant way—they help determine how the world will see you. Socks had better damned well be knocked off.

Today, after several nights of lost sleep and an expectant boss breathing down your neck, you’re back in the conference room about to see the fruits of your agency’s labor—the big reveal.

Boom. The curtains rise and your heart sinks.

It’s not that they have missed the point. Far worse. It’s that they’ve done a spectacular job of missing the point.

Agencies and clients often mix like oil and water

Herein lies the fundamental flaw in our beloved big reveal—the process sends both parties off on their separate ways, without ongoing communication, and attempts to reconcile the inevitable differences at the end.

We all love a good ta-da, but we have yet to meet anyone who would prefer to be surprised when the bottom line is on the line.

So what is the true cost of a creative anticlimax?

Time, money and emotional stress

A failed big reveal often costs money. It always costs time. And it saps confidence.

Probably the heaviest cost of the big reveal is collateral damage to the agency-client relationship, as it occurs on both sides of the equation. On the agency side, significant energy is spent creating impactful work in short periods of time. Each time an agency falls short, enthusiasm and passion die a little death. Similarly clients, and their colleagues, become increasingly anxious as the luxury of time begins to dwindle. As deadlines draw nearer, the opportunity costs of delay start to pile up.

Business changes a lot

Business is in constant flux, yet the big reveal demands that business conditions can be frozen, rendered “static”, while the agency is away developing their ideas. Several weeks of small changes—none of which on their own are significant, but taken together represent a significant alteration in course—threaten to put client and agency in very different places on the big day.

And even if business changes don’t throw you off, nobody knows your business as well as you do.  So why do you allow yourself to be kept on to the sidelines while you wait to be dazzled?

After over 30 years in this business I have learned that often the most important time to hear a clients’ voice is during the process. Not after.

The big reveal fails because it puts freezes clients out of the development cycle.

So partner, people

We have grown to believe that the excitement, drama and intrigue of the big reveal is essential to a healthy agency-client relationship. Its almost as if we are saying the agency’s job is to entertain first: and solve problems second.

Clearly it’s not.

My point is simple. Clients turn to agencies like us because we are creative. We see the world in a different way. And the best way to get the most out of us is to work closely with us through every step of the creative process. An open working style that emphasizes partnership and collaboration is the most effective way to land the big idea on the big day.

The traditional agency-client model is broken, but what if it were different? Contribute to the conversation #whatifmortar

August 27th, 2015

Yes, we helped create $16 billion in value. And we’re still counting…

You’ve seen people shake their heads when we say we have helped create $16 billion in value.
We’re not saying we wrote the IPOs.
We are saying that every single one of the companies on our list went to market with a message we created.
Still, don’t take our word for it. Just search the interwebs for any of these results:

We rest our case.