Hey Brands! Here Are 6 Actions You Can Take Now to Improve Agency Relationships

Creativity can be complicated; it doesn’t have to be

Is your creative process running as smoothly as it should? Do you feel like you’re on solid ground with your agencies, content providers and other creatives? Are you really getting everything you want from the relationship?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no” and your agency relationship isn’t running as efficiently as it could, it might be time to take a hard look at how you’re approaching the creative process. And don’t wait until you’re on your seventh round of creative reviews and months behind schedule to do this.

A broken creative process can be costly. The blended rate for creatives is around $150/hour, so every time you send a campaign back to a five-person team, you’re incurring thousands of dollars of effort. That’s the obvious cost. But then there are hidden costs that you might not have considered including the missed opportunities and missed revenue that come from not having the right assets in the market at the right time.

The brand-agency partnership is inherently stressful, but that’s not reason enough to be stuck with an ineffective creative process. Knowing the pitfalls, and how to avoid them, can make everything less frustrating and help ensure a more successful campaign—but don’t put this all on the agency. Here are six things you can do as the client to take responsibility for getting the creative work you need:

Communicate the big picture

We recently looked at the creative brief process, but it’s worth reiterating what you need to do as a client to get a project moving in the right direction. Your role will be to provide the broader context for the work, not get into the weeds of the specific assignment. Your goal is to make sure that your agency understands where a campaign or piece of content fits with your overall business goals. Remember that you’re working with an agency because you want to take advantage of their creative problem solving and fresh perspective. Being transparent about your overall direction will give your agency what it needs to succeed with a brief.

Know your role

In addition to transparency, a little self-awareness goes a long way. As much as you may think you have the creative solution, remember that’s not your job as the client. Your responsibility is to give direction, not do the actual creative work. Not getting the disruptive ideas you’re seeking? Your role is to tell your agency that’s what you want. As much as you might think agencies are hotbeds of radical innovation, many are actually pretty risk-averse. If you want something unconventional, it’s your job to say so.

Trust your agency

Great relationships are based on trust. While you might have strong opinions and preferences about the creative elements of your campaign, keep an open mind. Your agency has extensive experience with a variety of clients. Leverage their knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. But don’t hesitate to intervene if what you’re getting doesn’t work for your brand (then return to your creative brief to be sure you conveyed that effectively). What you want to create is a culture of risk-tolerance that encourages good ideas and produces great work.

Give candid feedback

Want to know what perpetuates a broken creative process and throws projects off-schedule? Unclear and confusing feedback. Successful creative reviews require two things: honesty and clarity. Give honest feedback; if you don’t like something, say so. But don’t end it there. Articulate your feelings so that your feedback becomes actionable. Be specific about what works and what doesn’t. You don’t have to provide a solution, but you do need to be candid enough so that your agency has a definitive direction going into the next round. And if your feedback wasn’t useful, ask your agency what you could do to improve it.

Don’t leave your partner hanging

When your agency sends you something to review, chances are they’re on pins-and-needles wondering whether or not you liked it. Timely communications are paramount to client-agency success. Let your agency know when you will get them feedback so they’re not left waiting. And then keep to that schedule. Using a platform like OpenText Hightail can keep these lines of communication open and enable project punctuality.

Give real approval

A surefire way to irritate your agency is to tell them tell them how much you love their execution and then have the final decision maker send them back to the drawing board. As the client, you need to have a clear approval process. Make sure the agency knows in advance who has final sign-off, and then be sure you get buy-in from this person early in the creative process.

Remember, creativity and collaboration don’t have to be complicated. Clear, timely and candid communications will build a strong, effective client-agency relationship, which will ultimately help you save in both the obvious and hidden costs that were tied to your broken creative process.

Liana Tallarico leads marketing for OpenText Hightail, a cloud-based collaboration and file sharing software designed for creative content reviews and approvals. Before joining the Hightail team over 3 years ago, Liana started her career working for a number of advertising agencies prior to going client-side.