The Creative Who Became a Marketer. The Marketer Who Became a Creative Director
I may have discovered an answer to one of life’s greatest mysteries… and it links to how you ensure a better creative partnership between agency and client. First, a quick backstory to how and why that may be important. Originally I worked as a creative. I then became a marketer, and specialised in building entrepreneurial-run businesses and brands. After several successful brand-building positions, including the build of the 5th fastest UK tech company in 2014, I arrived at the conclusion that true partnership was broken in the creative process towards branded content.
During my journey from middle to senior management, I found that more of my content requirement was digital, with tighter deadlines and less budget, and this was inevitably causing numerous challenges for my creative partners.
So at the end of 2015 I moved back from client to agency, believing my client insight could improve the creative process.
Now I will admit there have been times as a marketer where I have come to the end of a successful campaign and arrived at the self-centred conclusion, “that was all me, the agency just got in my way…”(this tends not to happen at the end of a bad campaign) and then there have been times on the agency side where I have come to the conclusion, “that was all me, the client just got...” You get the point.
My dual-sided perspective highlights that there is often a competitive disconnect between what a collaborative partnership between a client and an agency can achieve…or on the other hand it highlights that I’m just very self-centred… but lets focus on the competitive disconnect.
It’s no secret that the agency makes money and builds a brand's reputation, likewise it’s no secret the marketer will build an impressive CV, in addition to achieving their immediate objective. We are equally bound to the success of the campaign… neither wins if one fails.
What I have learned and refined over the last few years back in the agency world is to start every partnership with honesty. I don’t mean that first-date type of honesty where we play our best selves, dropping in tales of how we saved a puppy from a burning building (if my fiancée is reading this, that did actually happen)… I mean a straight talking conversation that clearly identifies what everyone intends to bring to the project, what we all want to personally achieve and who is accountable. This is the simplest of observations, yet one I rarely see in practice.
There’s a great teaching used in the construction industry referred to as ‘the cost of errors’ which happens to transfer perfectly to the creative agency and production model, because it highlights the importance of honesty. At the start of a project errors cost nothing but time. The further we progress down a project the more foundation is built and soon that foundation becomes more and more difficult to move and reshape, until eventually we are left with something even money can’t fix… it’s at this depressing point we have to accept what we have built and walk away. Due to the intangibility of creativity and much of the content production process, clients can often fall into the trap of thinking that everything is fluid up until the point of delivery and if we sell ourselves as creative magicians, you can see why they arrive at this conclusion.
The trick for both sides is to catch this misconception at the start of the project and rather than oversell how great we are, we need remove our creative and hierarchical personas to enable us to talk plainly with our partners. Whether it’s jargon or bravado, industries construct barriers that restrict communication in order to elevate the perceived importance of the role or service. The only way to evolve with external pressures rather than fighting against them is to work and build together with respect, clarity, knowledge and trust.
Jason Dollery is Creative Director at SANDSTORM