A client once told me they’d been on an ‘agency management’ course where they’d been told a clever little trick for getting the most out of agencies. And, in hushed tones reserved for the most game changing of revelations, here it is:
‘Never accept their first ideas.’
Predictably, this struck me as idiocy. I understand the (facile) rationale behind it. I would just suggest that not only is it guaranteed to disillusion even the most enthusiastic creative team, but it rather ignores the possibility that their first ideas might be brilliant.
Anyway, to my mind there are two components to getting the best from your creative agency of choice. One is mechanical: giving an effective brief, providing constructive feedback, allowing sufficient time, etc, etc. The other is psychological.
And here’s where I’d like to suggest a slightly different approach from the ingenious philosophy espoused above. And, ironically given the acerbic tone thus far, it’s all based around ‘positivity’. Feel free at this point to fight down the inevitable wave of nausea before reading on.
It starts with tossing out the ever-popular but woefully outdated ‘carrot and stick’ (emphasis on the stick) model.
I could bang on about why this has repeatedly proven to be ineffective for any heuristic, non-linear task. But you could just read about it yourself in the fantastic, mind-blowing, wonderful ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ by Daniel H. Pink. You really should, you know.
Instead, I’ll boil it down to the practical outputs from two different client/agency relationships. In each, the goal is ostensibly the same: to produce excellent creative work. But the nature of the relationship changes the way this challenge is approached.
Scenario one: A client that’s interested, involved and positive. This gives the agency (and moreover, the creative team) confidence. Confidence that excellent work is worth doing. And the confidence to try new things – because if it doesn’t work out, they’ll get constructive feedback rather than a tantrum.
Scenario two: A client that’s aggressive, critical and demanding. Perhaps they never accept first ideas as a matter of principle. The creative team loses confidence. And, suddenly, instead of trying to do great work, their goal subconsciously becomes something completely different – to do work the client will sign off.
And there is no surer route to mediocrity than trying to second-guess the idea that someone else wants to see.
This all must seem rather simplistic, I know. But the thing is, I see it happen every day.
So, forget Machiavellian gambits. Instead, think positive. Assume your agency cares. Assume your agency knows what they’re doing. Heck, even be open to the idea that they might know things you don’t. (That’s why you hired them, surely?)
And if you try all that and it still doesn’t work out, well… pick that stick back up and I’ll give you a free thwack.
<Distanced voice, turned away from microphone: “That last line didn’t sound too Marquis de Sade, did it?”>