Faster, Cheaper, Better, and Braver
As pressure mounts for agencies to cut costs, short-term project work is increasingly being emphasized over lasting relationships. It seems like brands are looking for agencies to deliver their work faster, cheaper, and better—all at the same time.
Agencies, and the industry as a whole, used to push back with a pretty persuasive argument. “You can only get two of the three,” they’d say. Faster. Cheaper. Better. Pick two. Sacrifice one. However, plenty of agencies have attempted to achieve all three at once. Sometimes agencies accept these assignments just to prove to the client and themselves that they can do it. More often than not, they do it because they need the business and are willing to work under extreme conditions.
Unfortunately, it almost never works out. When clients look for faster, cheaper, and better all at once, it usually results in the agency losing money, work that suffers, missed deadlines, unhappy clients, and demolished internal morale on both sides. The faster, cheaper, better model is impossible, not because it can’t be done, but because the existing creative and strategic process isn’t designed for it. Our industry’s entire paradigm for the agency-client relationship is based on an industry model that has remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s. I think it’s fair to say that the world…well, let’s just say the world moved a little slower back then.
That process needs to change, and change begins with more accountability on both sides. It requires, dare I say, bravery. Bravery is the key to faster, cheaper, better. There’s no secret sauce—or if there is a secret sauce, it’s being willing to decide quickly and confidently. You can only do that if everyone comes along for the journey.
For faster work without compromising quality
Clients need to be invited into the creative process from the start. Don’t lock them out. Take advantage of what clients know about their own businesses and industries—like the specific nuances of the customer decision journey or the likely impacts of changing economic conditions. The move will save valuable time. No more going down paths that have already been explored and abandoned by the client’s marketing team. It’s time to build a process that gets all the cards on the table from day one. One of the best examples we reference was for our Pandora client. We brought them into the process early, and it became clear where the emotional opportunity was for their users. After a week of close collaboration with their team, we sold them a social campaign called “That’s My Shit” to promote ‘Thumbprint’ radio.
For a more cost-effective process
It’s no longer enough for clients to send over a brief with crossed fingers, in the hopes that their new agency partners can guess what’s in their head and their boss’ head. Agencies and clients must insist that stakeholders on both sides—brand marketers, agency creatives, and account leadership, to name just a few—actively participate in collaborative sessions. Why? Because this will lead to better work, more efficiency, and a stronger agency-client relationship. This was true in the case of Pandora. This seemingly audacious idea would never have seen the light of day had we presented it to them in the traditional way, which creates too many opportunities for members of the same team to second guess each other. Instead, all of their stakeholders, including the CMO, bought off quickly because they were in the room when the spark of inspiration occurred. They knew how we all arrived at such a provocative creative expression. The campaign turned out to be a huge success with a demographic Pandora had been struggling to reach.
For better work
To foster fresh ideas, go wide in ideation. Once all stakeholders are in the same room, create an atmosphere that welcomes all ideas, no matter where they come from or how outlandish they are. Let crazy ideas bubble up. You’d be surprised what senior management will think is possible when they’re included at the beginning of the process, when the ideas are born. Not only do they get to see in real time how these ideas come to life, but they become invested in the creative process in ways that would have been impossible under the old model. It saves huge amounts of time and allows clients to feel, wait for it…braver!
So, the next time an excited new client calls you up and starts listing their hopes and dreams, ask them if they have the courage to work a new way. Then, ask yourself if you do too.