Monday, June 23, 2014

The Creative Rationale

Managing client expectations with one simple tool

While working at a very busy, creative shop, we found ourselves pitching up to eight separate projects a week. Multiply that by three fully fleshed-out comprehensive layouts for each.

We began to notice that our pitches, made to lower-level agents were losing their initial power in the translation as the underlings made their pitches to the upper-levels.

We couldn’t always be there when they met with the busy vice-presidents to whom they reported. A good account exec always prefers to pitch to the C-level officers, but in a large corporation, it is not always possible.

So what can you do about this?—A Creative Rationale Document

My solution was to develop a creative rationale document to follow the comprehensives to the top. With this one sheet we could make sure that the finer points of the creative rationale were spelled out— the unique market positioning, the buyer’s proposition, the psychographic landscape, the calls to action.

Once we began to arm our “underling” contacts with this document, we found that they felt more confident presenting our ideas, our work was sailing through the approval process quickly, and we were getting fewer instructions to morph the three separate solutions into one.

There was one other up-side for us, some of the underlings were coming across as polished and poised now, they were getting promoted. They were meeting with us as vice-presidents and felt we were a part of their team!

That is no secret, your clients are part of your creative team!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Step by Step—Analysis of a Creative Team

The bottom line wake up call for any creative team:

Drive the bus, or get thrown under it!

It is always an epiphany to walk into a creative department with fresh eyes and discover just how things get done. So many competing creative agendas and hidden pressures come to bear in the process of delivering dynamite creative.

The first thing I look for is:
• Strengths and leaders
• Creative potential
• Dysfunctional processes
• Communication whirlpools

These are the definitions of core proficiencies for any creative department, whether in-house or hired agency.

Let's take these one by one to clarify:
• Strengths and leaders:
In a creative setting I would have to say strengths fall into four main categories—creative, communicative, strategic, executive. So—make a report card for those four things and give an objective score under each heading. Take note of the leaders in each category, they can help reinforce their own strength and play a part in cross-training the entire team.

• Assess Creative potential:
Let's be honest about the creative potential.
Are the writing and the design in sync?
Is there a free flow of fresh ideas or are the same solutions recycled?
Is the solution seen as a fire that needs to be extiguished?

Make your observations pointed here, develop a constructive feedback loop to reveal old habits. Do so with a sense of humor, and coach a new attitude toward creative thinking for everyone on the team.

• Dysfunctional processes:
Diagram the process for a creative project together as a group, not how it should be at first, but how it really is in the current state.

This open discussion of the creative process has probably never taken place before, and a good mediator can bring out the gems from the participants that makes consensus a group experience.

• Communication *whirlpool:
How does the creative team communicate amongst themselves? How do they communicate with their “clients”? *Whirlpools exist when two or three team members function as the communicators—a whirlpool.

Assumptions get made about their responsibility for getting the word out.
It is wise to assign communications across the entire team. Everyone is responsible for clarity of communication.

It is important that they are straight forward across all constituencies to be effective. Your creative team is responsible for how well thing go, not the client, not the copywriters, art directors and production staff. The best scenario—the creative team expands to include all involved as long as the project is live.

* A whirlpool—communications never get beyond two or three in a select
group of communicators.