Creative people are the heart and soul of every good agency. They create art in service to commerce. The rest of us just sell it. That doesn’t, of course, mean that savvy account and strategy people can’t make significant — or even crucial — contributions to the creative process. We certainly can. We just have to do it right.
Ideally, account and planning types support the creative team by finding relevant insights, mining customer data, understanding the customer’s journey from awareness to purchase, and by projecting client business goals and communications sensibilities. Ideally, the support team packages all this up as a springboard for the creative, who then internalize the brief and make the magic.
Real life, however, is messier. The dynamic between your accounts and creative teams might be genial. It might also be tense or even hostile. It all depends on how you manage it. A long career in ad land has taught me a lot about bridging that gap and helping your creatives deliver great work, time after time. Here are four strategies I always come back to.
There are very few unique things on this planet. Every product or service has a competitor or two. Finding the real point of difference, the one that actually matters to prospective buyers, and communicating it to the copy and art guys is critical. Do whatever you can to explain, illustrate, and articulate the practical, physical, mechanical and emotional differences between your brand and its competitors. Use analogies, schematics, examples, or stories to get this across. Use sock puppets if you have to. But don’t stop until your teams can easily play back the point of difference.
2. Provide Context
Nothing happens in a vacuum. Your creative team needs to understand the full product cycle, the competitive environment, the brand history, voice, tone, and manner. They also need to know whatever else is going on in retail, social, or broadcast media. Keep in mind that you’re asking them to board and re-route a moving train. They need to know what they are getting into, and the forces that their ideas will have to contend with.
3. Think Experience
An ad prompts seeing, thinking, and feeling. The good ones prompt action. These are going to be different for each campaign that you launch, and you need to be sure that you clearly communicate what you need the creative execution to accomplish. Detail where prospects are (physically and emotionally), what they already think about the brand or the category, what kinds of offers and ideas they respond to, and what you want them to do in response to your message.
Remind them how a person goes from total ignorance of a brand to fervent advocacy. Yes, they already know this, but remind them anyway. Then map out the key inflection points and the media touches over time. Factor in reach across channels and frequencies, as well as the number of times or ways your target population is likely to encounter your ads. Creatives need to see the world from a prospect’s perspective. Help them get inside the prospect’s head, and their creative execution will be much more successful at intercepting them in the course of their routine online and offline behavior. Sharing the experience expedites the process.
4. Set Limits
Most people need deadlines. Some geniuses don’t, but they’re rare exceptions. Clearly and carefully cue creatives about what is needed and when. Be very clear about client mandates and sensibilities and legal requirements. These can (and probably will) annoy or limit creative people. But they’re necessary evils that have to be properly accounted for.
Working with great creative people is one of the joys of being in advertising. If you support them the right way, they’ll do great things for you and your clients. There’s no better feeling than knowing that you’ve set them up for success.