How to get the best from your creative agency

In my career so far I’ve worked with many creative agencies, ranging from internal agencies to small local one man bands to the larger well known agencies in London, and I can confirm that the same rules apply if you want to get the best from them.

I learn t as I went along, if you read my advice you may just learn a little quicker!

But always remember…Relationships are not easy. Whether a personal or business relationship, the same amount of time and effort is needed to make it work.

You have just been given a campaign to own
…And you need to find an agency to do all the creative work for you.

Compare agencies
Create a shortlist of at least three agencies that meet your criteria and then set up an initial meeting at their offices.  Being in their offices you will get a feel for their culture and what resources they have.

The agency will have an opportunity to sell themselves, they should give you a brief introduction about their agency, their experience and clients. They will show you some examples of work.

You can talk the agency through a brief description of your campaign, mention your budget and timescales.

Write down some key notes at your meeting so you don’t forget. Aside from the obvious you should judge whether the agency is excited by the creative challenge your particular business provides? They may have some big impressive clients but will that mean that your work gets less attention if a big client demands their resources? Does the agency provide a full service for future needs?

You need to know what you want to accomplish
You need to know exactly what you want to accomplish, in detail, if you don’t know what you want to accomplish then how can you expect the agency to know, they will literally be working blind!

Communicate with agency from the onset
Before you send over a brief to the agency, it is a good idea to pick up the phone and have an initial conversation with regards to the campaign requirements, it is good practise to give the agency the heads up and will help build a relationship.

You need to determine what you would like created, e.g. a leaflet or a television advert, your target audience, the message you want to get across and the measure of success, whether it will be an increase in ticket sales or an increased membership.

Clear and concise brief
A verbal brief is not good enough, this can be misinterpreted or forgotten easily and actually a agency may refuse to write a proposal until they’ve received one.

In the written brief you need to provide the following:

  • Overview of your company, your customers and your market.
  • Objectives for the project and what you want the agency to do in brief.
  • What your budget is.
  • Project timescales.

Send the brief to the agency and then you should schedule a meeting with the agency or agencies that stood out as the best match in the initial meetings and talk them through the brief in person.

Request the agency to get back to you with a written proposal outlining how they will approach the project, who will be allocated to work on it, how much it is going to cost and how long it will take.

You are then in the position to make a decision as to whether you are going to hire the agency or not.

Ensure you read the agencies terms and conditions.

Have regular agency meetings
It is important to see the creative along the different stages of development so you can provide the agency with feedback if things are not as you expected / going off brief.

Agency is paid to think differently, trust them
When you write the brief, you will often have an idea of what the end result will look like.  But decent agencies will come back with something better. You are paying big fees to an agency in return for this, so it is fine to expect this.

Assessing creative
When you’re accessing creative, think about whether it communicates what needs to be communicated in a way that is interesting and powerful for your audience?

You can even put together a little research session with a small representation of your audience and ask for feedback.

Give useful feedback
Put yourself in the agencies shoes and imagine how frustrating it would be if a client says they don’t like something but they don’t even explain why.

Give feedback and back this up with explanation and maybe some direction or examples, and then the agency will be able to go away and make improvements along the right track.

Hopefully this was helpful, if you have any questions or have any advice to add, feel free to add a comment…


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