When Suppliers Can’t Make Good Marketing Content For You
Regardless of the medium, there are foundation principles that apply to making good creative content. The secrets to getting this right run very deep of course, but here are a few highlights that frequently mean the suppliers are not getting the best creative (the most effective*) made for you.
Strategic Vision Doesn’t Make It Through
It is surprising that even big brands get this wrong sometimes too and start to think about the smaller details of one specific communication, even across a campaign, and lose sight of the bigger strategic vision of the business. They’re so immersed in the details of the day to day they forget to step back and consider each smaller task within the broader scope of the business or the deliverable. If you know exactly what your business is, what mindset you need to keep, and who you are talking to and focus on that throughout the entire process of executing any work you get a very different result than simply focusing on the product, or the specific message you are trying to communicate.
Creative services project managers and suppliers all bring their own touch to a brand’s work and without this clear vision in mind the work can become self-serving (mostly unintentionally). With the lack of any other vision creatives simply apply their own ideas to the work – sometimes their intuitive approach works; sometimes ends up serving their folio rather than the client’s mission. I personally don’t know any supplier that does this intentionally, actually – they think they’re doing the best for the client but unless it is clearly communicated and in context with the wider business goals it can become self-serving or diluted.
Advertising agencies are there for this task and their internal processes really protect against this happening (good ones that is). These days with the breakdown of the typical agency model and wide spread roster of suppliers this is a vulnerable issue right now.
Strategic vision these days is not just about how to talk about the client’s product but about how to make it engaging, how to make it the most effective, how to get it seen, how to get the most out of the value of it. These nuances mean that there needs to be a tighter link between strategy and those that actually get the job done with project managers no longer just about following orders and doing what they’re asked to do. There is nothing more personally frustrating than being involved in the process of getting good communications out there and seeing an obvious hole in the business model and no voice to have that heard because the process doesn’t allow for input from the bottom of the process chain.
Customers, Not You Or Your Suppliers
Whilst much is spent on research, data analytics and consumer insights it all can be forgotten once it leaves the strategy director’s office (client or agency) or past the creative director at best. An understanding of the customer needs to be shared right through the supplier chain so that every creative decision is made with this in mind. Even in the bigger agencies it seems to me that there is a missing link bridging the insights to the execution.
It is also surprising that clients and creatives alike can make value judgments on work based on their own sense of taste or design preferences, their own style of language and to what they perceive is in fashion, to their creative decisions throughout a project.
The biggest impact on the project costs and cost overruns can come from this mindset more so than other influences in my experience. The room for subjectivity slides in and flavours the process with many different subjective points of view sometimes in conflict, or simply many different (well meaning) ideas domino each other to slide the cost and time wastage up and up. Having project managers that have a sense of business, an understanding of what it takes to create communications that talk to specific types of people, and good internal process to rope in the processes all help consolidate the communications to work for the customer as well as it should.
I’d go so far as to say that project managers that simply do what is asked of them without asking why are the cornerstone to a poor communication – it is no longer just okay to do what is asked of you without asking questions. Likewise having creatives and project managers without any skills in consumer psychology to be able to apply this through linguistics, colour psychology, visual and behavioural economics means the good consumer insights stop at the strategy department.
The Gate Keepers Aren’t At The Gate Any More
The old agency model used to be there to be some kind of brand police with everything under the one roof, and in a way that went right down through the bottom of every piece of communication and strategic decision. These days with so many disparate agencies and suppliers this ability to keep everything connected is flailing. The suppliers sometimes suffer from a ‘not invented here’ mindset and want to put their own flavour and spin on things and well intentioned focus on what works for their own business rather than the wider brands’ needs. So, no longer is there that control that used to be there, and more and more the brand’s voice is watered down and disconnected.
With many clients taking over these roles themselves they’re sometimes not even aware of the influence or effect that their supplier choices and project management is affecting the delivery of the work and the unrealised potential of the work.
I’ve heard clients say that they have a preferred supplier for something like broadcast production or a preferred design studio and to my surprise they think that they’re covered for anything that comes up that is design related or broadcast related. Taking agencies out of the mix, clients think that simply choosing a few suppliers and keeping those jobs on track is all it takes to cut out the agency. This may be a suitable approach at times and there are benefits to loyalty and dealing directly, but in my experience this would certainly also limit the potential effectiveness of the work and at the same time isn’t the most efficient or cost effective method. With different marketing team members on the different parts of the job and running their own race the question to ask is – is the ‘Gate Keeper’ factored in if the agency is no longer in the middle or the agencies are multiple? Secondly – do you know really know what to do in every step of a creative project to ensure the brand is protected and the communication is on brief and maximised value?
The industry model is changing and there’s this gaping hole in the way creative work is produced now. These skills that agencies (good agencies) really do well is intangible until something isn’t quite working or the brand starts to suffer, the costs start to escalate, there is a lack of control over basic processes, suppliers are all doing their own thing, the client’s marketing team functioning in silos, and the projects seem out of control. The mystery is in just how to replicate that and in my experience it is a lot to do with how project management is done from strategic thinking through to every supplier, and their ability to not just do what they’re told but to made decisions with the wider business objectives in mind.
*Isn’t it time that those that think that process discussions are counter-intuitive to good creative is all done with? Surely there are enough statistics and support to prove that good creative is effective, that discussion is now ‘Advertising 101’, and that our mission should be to do what it takes to get the best creative out there. Having worked on countless award winning pieces with incredible creative talent over the years I know there is a direct correlation to good process and best work. Nothing drives me crazy more than this misconception. In many ways getting the process right also builds trust with clients, makes sure that the money goes where it needs to and that no one is burned in the process, which in turn allows us to make the best work. Likewise, focusing on using only the ‘coolest’ talent and suppliers is a limitation or a self indulgence sometimes, and wider business issues need to be considered above the ‘cool’ factor. I bet you’ll find the more inexperienced are the ones that disagree here. Just saying….