Tips For Approaching the Most Volatile Department in the Ad Agency
It’s no surprise to anyone working in advertising that the creative department is a tough one to handle. Many see creatives as petulant children, usually because they have a tendency to act like that at times. Sometimes, it’s entirely justified. Other times, it’s attributable to an over-zealousness for the work.
It’s important to remember that like musicians and other artists, being a designer, copywriter or art director is not simply a job. It’s a passion. It’s something that goes beyond the 9-5 office hours. Creatives will live and breathe the brand, and think about the project day and night. Many of the best ideas have come from midnight brainstorms and 5am showers. It’s not the kind of thing that can be shut off.
Also, it takes time, energy, and an incredible amount of deep thinking to birth a genuinely creative advertising campaign. Anyone who thinks it is easy has not been on the receiving end of a blistering WIP (Work In Progress) session with a fuming creative director. This is, in no uncertain terms, a tough job.
Another important aspect of the creative department is this: there is no correct answer. Creatives are not accountants. There are no specific numbers to produce. There is no definitive solution. So judging the work will always be subjective. A great campaign to one creative director could be a mediocre one to another. This leads to incredible frustration. And with frustration comes venting, which leads to dramatic outbursts and inappropriate behavior. It’s also the reason HR is very different in ad agencies that most other professions.
So, if you’re not in the creative department, chances are you’ll have to deal with these ticking time bombs sooner or later. From account services and production, to senior management and even clients, there are ways you can handle creatives that will get you better results.
1: Share Their Passion For The Work
If you work in a good advertising agency, you should be driven to produce outstanding creative work. If you don’t feel that way, then you will not be helping the cause, and eventually you’ll be filtered out. But even if you are not 100% sold on the idea, if it’s the choice of the creative director and the creative team, it’s your job to back it like it’s your own.
If you’re in account services, find out everything you can about the idea. This will help you sell it in if the creatives aren’t going to be in the presentation. If you’re in production, get inside the heads of the creatives. Understand their vision. And if you’re the client, have a little trust. The team has spent weeks falling in love with your brand, and doing everything they can to make it look amazing. They are not looking to be selfish, they have not got a hidden agenda. It’s all about you.
2: Give Constructive Feedback
The worst thing you can say to any creative team is something non-committal and completely lacking in direction. “I’m just not feeling it” or “try again” will pour fuel on the fire of a team that knows they have to go back to the drawing board. Provide clear answers, and explain what you didn’t see in the first round.
3: Have Some Empathy
Imagine you’ve worked nights and weekends on a project. Your last thought before your head hit the pillow was about a tagline. Your first thought as you rubbed the crust from your eyes was the social media extension of the campaign. This is your life. Now imagine after hundreds of hours of work, someone says “hey, it’s just a job, stop getting so worked up over an idea.” It’s not just a job. Serving burgers in McDonald’s is just a job. Handing over the correct change in a tollbooth is just a job. This is way beyond that. It’s a painful soul-sucking process.
Remember, if you have bad news for the team, sit them down and empathize. Explain how strong the work is. Tell them they did a fantastic job. Then, gently lay the bad news down. If they feel you’re coming from a place of support, they’ll happily help you re-imagine the campaign. Well, happily may be a slight exaggeration.
4: Show An Interest
Remember that feeling you got when you showed someone the photos from your last vacation, or maybe a picture your newborn baby, and they looked about as interested as someone watching grass grow? It’s not pleasant. The same applies to creatives. The work is their baby. They went through a lot to birth it. If you show no interest, or appear annoyed by the very idea that you have to try and sell this in, you will quickly make enemies in the creative department. If you’re a client, remember that the team has sweat blood over these ideas. A cold, soulless reaction is like a knife through the heart. Similarly, ask questions. You shouldn't pander, but if you’re asking legitimate questions about the work, the creatives know you are actually engaging with it.
5: Cater To Their Strengths
Some teams are better at some types of jobs than others. Some love to work in the online space. Some love television more than others. Some thrive with automotive accounts, others with the service industry. What’s more, you’ll see certain teams sniffing around accounts like a dog with a bone. They want them. You will get better work from a team who is enthusiastic about working on the project, than a team who is being forced to work on it. It can’t always happen, but when you can cater to the strengths of the teams, everyone’s a winner.
Credits: Okech Okoth Patrique