We tend to think of creativity as something free of boundaries, something with no rules or requirements, just free-flowing inspiration… and we’re not entirely wrong on that front. In order to come up with a new, valuable idea, we need some room to breathe. But, for creative agencies, it’s a balance; agencies can’t run all that effectively without at least a little structure. At the end of the day, a creative agency is a business, after all. So, you’ll need a replicable, fine-tuned creative agency process — one with room for creativity to flourish.
Kick Off Your Creative Agency Process With a Concepting Phase
The concepting phase is an essential component of the creative agency process; it’s where designers seek inspiration, collaborate, and ultimately come up with the “big idea” they’ll use moving forward. This idea, or the creative concept, is meant to gain the target audience’s attention, and hopefully, encourage them to take the desired action, whether it be to buy a product, download an ebook, sign up for a newsletter, or attend an event.
The concept should be informed by the creative brief, as this will help to ensure that the concept is based on key market research, the client’s objectives, and the audience you’ll be speaking to. It’s important to get the concept right because it will be used across the campaign in slogans, taglines, calls to action, imagery, and the like. The concept should make the product or service stand out from the competition and get people talking about it. A strong concept, one that really delivers on its promise to stakeholders, is easily understood, well-defined, relevant, and has a predictable outcome.
It’s perfectly fine to have a few unrealistic, fantastical ideas; they can inspire other, more realistic ones. However, when thinking up potential concepts, try and make sure that at least half of your ideas come in under budget. How much you have to spend on a campaign tends to be the biggest constraint, and no matter how good an idea is, if the client can’t afford it, it won’t work out.
First, Understand Your Customers
A campaign won’t do the client any good if it doesn’t resonate with their target audience. So, start the concepting phase of the creative agency process by getting to know them. The brief will come in handy here, as will some additional market research (and if you’re feeling extra thorough, maybe even a focus group or a survey).
Specifically, find out how taking the desired action will benefit the consumer. For instance, if it’s donating to a charity, maybe the result is that they feel good about themselves, or if it’s purchasing a product, find out what problem that product solves for them. And remember, your audience can also be an essential part of your marketing team. When people enjoy a product or service, they’re likely to recommend it to friends and family, and people tend to take recommendations from their loved ones to heart.
Then, Determine Which Stage The Advertising Is In
The best direction to take the concept in will depend heavily on which stage the client’s advertising is in; it’s crucial to make sure your creative agency process involves understanding how well people know the brand and it’s products/services. If the product or service is relatively new to the market or not well known, you’ll likely be best off utilizing pioneering advertising, where you show the product/service, establish a need, and explain how that product/service will meet that need.
If the product/service is relatively well-known, you may benefit most from competitive advertising instead. This type of advertising revolves around showing that your product/service is better than its competitors, and you’ll often see it in things like cleaning commercials (ex. our disinfecting spray removes x amount more germs than other brands).
And last, if the product/service is a household name, the best route to take may be retention advertising, also known as reminder advertising. This method is used when the buyer is already convinced that the product/service is worth buying, but they may need a reminder to actually do so.
Work Together To Refine The Concept
All concepts start out as raw ideas; mental constructs of a business opportunity based on opinions and perceptions. A concept, on the other hand, is more refined; it’s a concrete plan that can realistically be implemented. Developing a full-fledged concept is crucial in the creative agency process as the concept will help you assess how your product/service will be perceived by the market.
To transition an idea into a concept, you’ll need to look at the best and worst aspects of the idea, focus on the best, and see what you can do to fix the worst. Then, you need to get into the specifics. What deliverables will you need? What media channels will you share the content through? How can you align each media channel and deliverable with the overarching concept?
Steps To Refine A Concept
The most important piece of the creative agency process, hands down, is collaboration. Get feedback on your concept frequently, ideally, from a diverse set of individuals. Then, refine the idea into something more realistic based on their thoughts. You’ll want to involve people from every department that’s involved with the project (designers, copywriters, etc.), as they may find constraints and risks that you didn’t see. In addition, you’ll also want a few fresh pairs of eye that can provide unbiased feedback, as your team may be too close to the project to see all of the potential outcomes.
After gathering the first round of feedback, refine the concept, and if possible, test your assumptions. You could host a focus group, conduct a survey, test the concept out on friends and family, etc. Then, repeat the process until you’ve landed on a completely refined, bulletproof campaign.
Give Yourself Wiggle Room
Unfortunately, the constraints you were faced with at the start of the project aren’t going away. If you didn’t have the budget for a three-minute TV spot then, unless the circumstances change, you won’t have it now. To account for these constraints, it’s a good idea to give yourself some wiggle room. That way, if something costs a bit more or takes more time than anticipated, the project won’t suffer.
Some of the most common constraints in the creative agency process are:
- Time: missing the deadline for one piece of the project could cause the deadline for others to have to get pushed back. So, make sure you have a little extra time allotted just in case this happens.
- Budget: limited budgets are often the biggest constraint creative teams face; pretty much every company would have massive multimedia campaigns if it weren’t. And this constraint tends to lead to other constraints; a lack of focus tests, inability to send out free samples, a limit on the number of deliverables, etc.
- The product itself: sometimes, you’ll be tasked with advertising a product that doesn’t really meet a consumer need, a product that’s priced far to high or low, or a market that’s too small. By knowing what outside constraints you’re dealing with, you can create a campaign that works towards solving them (ex. expanding the market by appealing to a new customer base)
Don’t Minimize The Review Phase
The review phase is where you get to really hone in on the project, ensuring that every detail is to the client’s liking. But, the client isn’t the only one who should be giving feedback, it’s also important to get feedback from your team. The review phase gives the team a chance to collaborate, highlights the fact that everyone has a stake in the project’s success, and allows designers to distance themselves from their work. During internal review, it can help to involve people from every phase of the project, as they’ll know best if changes to another phase will impact theirs.
Once you involve the client, be direct about what aspects you want them to review during each round of revisions to keep the feedback focused, and be sure to document their comments. It’s not uncommon for clients to forget their past commentary and give contradictory feedback the next time around, but documenting what they say can help prevent this from happening.
Streamline The Review Phase With Ashore
Thinking of revamping your creative agency process? Ashore is here to help. With automated notifications and reminders to review, fully customizable workflows, and proof timelines to keep everyone on track, Ashore has all of the tools you need to facilitate a better review and approval process. Ashore offers version stacking and dynamic tagging to keep your team organized, whitelabeling capabilities, and best of all, contextual commenting. When reviewers are placed in a position to point to something directly and talk about it, you all but guarantee that the feedback will be direct and actionable.
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