A survey by Hightail, a creative collaboration company, asked creative professionals about the effectiveness of the creative process. Just 23 percent said the process was effective. Twenty-eight percent called it “OK.” But 43 percent said the process “could be better.”
Emarketer reported that, among those who said the creative process needed improvement, 34 percent blamed poor project management. Project management is a shift from the traditional division of labor in an ad agency. Once, AEs dealt with clients and transmitted instructions to the creative, traffic and production people, who then went to work. Project management blends production and workflow management with a touch of account service, and dips a few toes in the creative process as well.
Since today’s non-linear creative and production processes demand flexibility and efficiency, many agencies have adopted project management. So it’s a big problem if the process is deemed poor by the people working within it.
The Hightail survey identified three areas where improvement is needed:
- Client feedback
- Review process
- Approval process
All three of these tie directly into account service.
Working on Stronger Communications
Account executives are tasked with growing good relationships with their client contacts. But they need to do so with a focus on the process. (It’s not all about taking the client to lunch and joking about their kids’ sports activities.) And when there is a project manager working on the account service team, the AE and PM should work on tactics for double-teaming the client, each striving to alleviate client concerns by having good answers to client questions. When this pairing works well together, client meetings become smooth sailing.
To help your AE/PM teams improve at client contact, you need to examine your internal creative processes as well as how the AE does his/her job.
To improve client feedback, account executives need to ask clients to be clear about why they don’t like a concept, or have issues with a proof. AEs who take client’s vague input back to the agency are guilty of building inefficiency into the process. Two tips: In client meetings, listen, then probe for more clarity. AEs need to push until they understand how to revise, revamp or restart with the goal of avoiding creative wheel-spinning.
The ideal review process involves AEs reviewing concepts or proofs face-to-face with clients, so they can iron out reservations and concerns, and get clear input on changes. Sometimes, a need for speed forces agencies to use online proofing, or leave a proof with a busy client for later pickup. To keep slow client reviews from stalling a project, account executives must stay in contact with clients and keep nudging them to stick to the schedule. That means being a bit of a noodge sometimes, but if the AE has done his or her job and built a good client relationship, being a noodge when deadlines are tight becomes less annoying and simply accepted practice. Stress that your goal is to keep the project on schedule, and, “Hey, we really need your okay to move forward by 2:00 p.m. so we can get this to the printer, and if you have questions, I’m available to run by and talk with you directly…”
During the approval process, AEs should utilize the seven-step presentation process to gain client approval. Part of this process requires creatives to answer five questions as they sell the idea to account executives. When each team does their due diligence, the AE’s presentation confidence rises, and they can argue more successfully for a concept or against last-minute changes.
These internal and external adjustments can greatly improve the creative process, keep work flowing smoothly through the agency, and even improve client satisfaction with results. Take a look at your process and seek the inefficiencies that are slowing down your workflow and causing frustration for AEs, PMs and creative people. Small changes can lever your agency to new levels of productivity.
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