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?
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