Working With Creative Agencies

This is the fifth installment in a series that explores how applying creative tools and principles in the workplace can help deliver better results and engender positive change. 

If you are attending MARCOM 2013, please join Christina Flavell at the Peer2Peer Roundtable on Tuesday afternoon to learn how to “Gamify Your Work”. 


As we have strived to demonstrate over the past few weeks, creativity can have very positive effects on all aspects of your work. And its game-changing potential is available to anyone who is willing to learn. With patience and practice, a commitment to creativity is sure to pay off. If you haven’t had the chance to read our previous articles already, please do! Links to them are below.

One way to accelerate the creative process and take it even further is to enlist the services of a creative agency. Whether you’re planning to run a multi-platform marketing campaign, or just trying to brainstorm “outside-the-box” ideas, working with an agency can help take the transformative power of creativity to a whole new level. Having been in business for over 40 years, Banfield-Seguin, the co-creators of this series, is very familiar with the benefits of creative partnerships.

The creative agency advantage

In many situations working with an agency can bring new insights, opportunities and added value to in-house marketing and communications, and to senior management teams. For example, Banfield-Seguin works with clients from a wide variety of industries, equipping them with a broad perspective on different markets, audience behaviours and business strategies. This more open perspective, along with a less biased point-of-view, can result in the discovery of innovative new solutions an organization might struggle to find internally.

In addition, full-service agencies staff experts from different disciplines, including advertising, design, writing, digital, video, social media and more. This diverse team of specialists is expected to be informed on best practices and tactical innovations, and offer the best-in-breed across marketing and communication platforms.

With experience running multiple campaigns simultaneously, agencies also develop processes that ensure fast and efficient execution. By leveraging their experience and in-depth knowledge, agencies can more effectively negotiate with printers, media outlets and other suppliers. And in the case of medium and large-size agencies, because of the scale of what they produce, they can sometimes negotiate lower costs as well.

Ultimately, the truth is that agencies are professional service organizations. They are responsible for deliverables that are high quality, on time and on budget — and are always accountable for meeting objectives.

Optimizing collaboration with agencies

Working with a creative agency means entering into a unique business relationship — one in which the client and the agency are ideally true partners. An essential, common factor in our most successful projects is collaboration. Below are a few tips on how to collaborate with an agency to ensure the highest possible quality of work.

The briefing – A clear and comprehensive briefing with specific objectives is perhaps the most critical part of the creative process. Based on the briefing, the agency’s strategist or account executive will develop the “creative brief” which provides direction and insight to the creative teams, and ensures alignment between the client’s objectives and what the agency ultimately develops. Therefore, the creative brief must be a joint effort, with the client providing input and sign-off.

In some cases, clients will prepare the creative brief themselves. In these situations, we ask them to adhere to one key guideline: be concise. A long, highly detailed brief will only make creative development, evaluation and feedback more difficult. To do this, we ask clients to think critically about each section of the document, e.g. “Purpose of the Creative”, “Key Messages”, “Proof Points”, and include only what is relevant. Ideally, the brief tells one unified story from start to end, with every element building to the next without repetition. Additional details can always be provided as appendices to the brief.

Giving feedback – The ideal creative process should always be collaborative and iterative. This means that both client and agency have to be able to communicate openly — something that is especially crucial when providing feedback on ideas and creative concepts the agency presents.

The key to giving helpful, constructive feedback is… the creative brief. Having guided creative development, the brief then serves as the reference point for clear and focused feedback on the ideas presented. It can help move the discussion away from personal preferences, and on to objectivity and objectives. Without the brief as a reference, the feedback and revision process is purely subjective and can be frustrating for both client and agency.

Another secret to solid feedback is to use the magic word: Because. Creative agencies pride themselves in being creative problem solvers, using strategy, writing and design to arrive at uniquely tailored solutions. For us, it is much more productive to find out why clients have a concern with an idea or concept. But often the inclination is to tell the agency exactly how to fix or revise the concept. This leads us down a narrow path that doesn’t allow us to deploy our full problem solving expertise. It’s more likely that we’ll overcome the concern creatively if we know the reason behind it.

In conclusion, although working with a creative agency can have many advantages for your organization, the results are not automatic. It is important to help your agency help you. Whether this means allowing the time to develop a tight, insightful brief, or providing clear and focused feedback, a rigorous commitment to collaboration and process usually pays off. In the end, it is important to remember that successful creative work always benefits both the client and agency.


What do you think?

Do you think you and your team could benefit from working with a creative agency? If you already do, what are some lessons you learned that can help improve such a partnership? Can you share advice on what to include in a creative brief or how to provide feedback?


Past articles:

The Benefits of Creative Work Cultures

What Highly Creative Workplaces Can Teach You

Making the Most of Your Team’s Unique Creative Abilities

Tools and Techniques to Unlock Workplace Creativity


The Creative Spark Series
is a joint initiative by the MARCOM Professional Development Annual Forum and marketing communications agency Banfield-Seguin, a proud official supplier of theme creative for MARCOM 2013. The series promotes the benefits of creativity in the workplace and presents ways to successfully apply creative tools and techniques to inspire, influence and act.


Banfield-Seguin and Canada Post Send Wineries an Important Message in a Bottle

Before a wine lover cracks open a new bottle of wine, they may pause. There is a moment of reflection, bordering on reverence, filled with anticipation for what is to come. 

A little over the top? Perhaps. Still, the key insight that opening a bottle is always an enjoyable moment inspired Banfield-Seguin and our client Canada Post to create a “message in a bottle” direct mail campaign to promote the company’s revamped wine shipping services. And so far the results have been nothing short of sparkling!

Now more than ever, the Canadian wine industry is experiencing increasing recognition and success around the world. In the summer of 2012, federal legislation preventing inter-provincial wine shipments was lifted, with provinces maintaining the authority to set limits on personal importation. Canada Post saw this as a key opportunity to connect with wineries, specialty wine stores and wine-related associations across the country.

The objective of the campaign was to raise awareness of the benefits of Canada Post’s wine shipping solution and generate sales leads. Canada Post’s unique end-to-end solution features the nation’s largest business to consumer distribution network, a suite of advanced marketing tools and a new Deliver to Post Office service — offering unparalleled reach and convenience to help wineries grow their business.

With these key differentiators identified, Banfield-Seguin went to work developing attention-grabbing creative that would spark our audiences’ curiosity, and, of course, deliver on all objectives. The result was our “message in a bottle” concept.

Each of the targeted businesses received a wooden box debossed with the simple message: “Open up new opportunities”. Inside the box, recipients discovered a Canada Post-branded wine bottle in which we had inserted a one-page fact sheet, in the form of a scroll. The fact sheet highlighted key features of the Winery Solution, a campaign URL for more information and a call to action to contact a Canada Post representative.

As further sales support, we also designed a Canada Post-branded package of water crackers, to be delivered in person by a sales representative. Because crackers are used during wine tastings to cleanse the palate, the idea was to offer potential customers a “shipping palate cleanser” to prime them for a brand new shipping option. The packaging was carefully designed to have them stop and think about this new offer and fully appreciate its business benefits.

And mission accomplished! Results from the first phase of the wine shipping solution campaign have exceeded client expectations, with breakthroughs made even with previously unresponsive wineries and associations. Canada Post is also very pleased with the positive feedback received from key industry players and via social media.

We want to thank Canada Post for the opportunity to fully leverage the potential of direct mail, and for their involvement and enthusiasm throughout the campaign’s development and execution.


Alcatel-Lucent IP Video Innovation: Video Case Study

In Fall 2012, Alcatel-Lucent asked Banfield-Seguin to assist with the creative strategy, messaging, image selection and video for a new campaign, IP Video Innovation.

The IP Video Innovation solution delivers video content to customers wherever and whenever they want it, and Alcatel-Lucent needed to prove to today’s consumer that their IP video offering is better than the competition’s. To achieve that objective, we developed the creative concept “Seeing is Believing”.  The campaign challenges the audience to see for themselves how unique IP Video Innovation truly is.

View the video below to learn more about the project and in particular, the captivating still-motion video we produced for the IP Video Innovation campaign.


Banfield-Seguin Collects 8 Communicator Awards — Including 2 Gold Awards of Excellence!

Banfield-Seguin is proud to announce a total of 8 wins for our clients’ print, video and web projects at the 2013 Communicator Awards — one of the largest competitions of its kind in the world.

Banfield-Seguin was recognized for work done in a variety of disciplines and across different industries, both on the national and international stage — a testament to our versatility as a full-service marketing communications agency.

We consider it a true privilege to be able to help clients like Aireon, Alcatel-Lucent, Iridium, and the National Arts Centre take their rightful place next to other notable Communicator Award winners like Nike, Ford, Microsoft, IBM, Red Bull, Verizon, Audi, NASA, Boeing, 20th Century Fox, Intel, AOL, Porsche, Lego and others.

From the over 6,000 entries submitted by companies and agencies around the world, the International Academy of Visual Arts has recognized the following work:

National Arts Centre
NAC Dance Poster 2012-13
Category: Marketing/Promotion-Poster
Company HolidayCard 2011-12
Category: Marketing/Promotion-Greeting Card
Iridium Pilot Ad
Category: Print Ad-Business/Trade Publication
High Leverage Network Website
Category: Web-Corporate Communications
Iridium Pilot Ad
Print Ad-Magazine
Aireon Website
Category: Web-Corporate Identity
National Arts Centre
NAC Dance
Brochure 2012-13

Category: Brochure-Business-to-Consumer
Aireon Corporate Video
Category: Online Video-Technology

These 8 Communicator Awards now bring the number of international awards we received in the past year to a total of 29 — which includes 14 Davey Awards and 7 AVA Digital Awards.

Banfield-Seguin is very grateful for these accolades, and would like to thank its clients and everyone involved in making these projects a success.


About the Communicator Awards:

Founded nearly two decades ago, The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program recognizing big ideas in marketing and communications. It honors work that transcends innovation and craft — work that made a lasting impact, providing an equal chance of winning to all entrants regardless of company or agency size and project budget. As it enters its 19th season, the competition is also introducing expanded mobile and new cause marketing categories, making this year's edition bigger and better than ever.
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Getting Creative at MARCOM 2013

As a proud partner of the MARCOM Professional Development Forum, Banfield-Seguin decided to bring added value to this year’s event by getting creative — quite literally. In collaboration with CEPSM, who produces the forum, we developed The Creative Spark Series, a collection of articles about creativity in the workplace.

Taking place on May 28-29, 2013 at the Ottawa Convention Centre, MARCOM is the premiere educational forum for public and not-for-profit sector marketers and communicators.

As part of our partnership, we also developed the theme design for MARCOM. The title of this year’s forum, Mission Possible: Change Agent, inspired us to create this look and feel, along with the tag line: Inspire, Influence, Act.

Demystifying creativity

The Creative Spark Series was designed to help demystify creativity in order to deal with change more effectively, and to redefine it as an open form of problem solving. We also wanted to make creativity accessible to all by providing strategies, tools and tactics that could apply to any workplace and sector.

Topics covered in the series have included The Benefits of Creative Work Cultures, Making the Most of Your Team’s Unique Creative AbilitiesWhat Highly Creative Workplaces Can Teach You, Tools and Techniques to Unlock Workplace Creativity, and Working With Creative Agencies.

The series will culminate in a Peer-2-Peer roundtable at the conference on how to “gamify” your work. Banfield-Seguin’s very own Christina Flavell, Director of Strategy, will lead the session.

“It all began when we first started working with MARCOM on this year’s theme creative as an Official Supplier to the forum.” explained Flavell. “Claire Mills (Vice-President of Professional Development at CEPSM) encouraged us to further demonstrate and showcase our creativity leading up to the forum. Together, we came up with a plan to provide MARCOM with content that would serve to increase engagement with the MARCOM community and drive more potential participants to the program to learn about its merits. And for us, it’s been a great chance to share what we have learned over the years and to further refine our own creative process.”

Spreading the word

To make the most of the series, Banfield-Seguin and MARCOM developed a distribution strategy that utilized our combined online channels, including blogs, newsletters, emails, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One of our articles was also included in the April enewsletter from MARCOM partner IABC Ottawa.

Judging from the reception to the first few articles, it looks like we’re off to a great start! So far, The Creative Spark Series has garnered very positive feedback from MARCOM organizers and helped increase traffic to the www.marcom.ca website .

Banfield-Seguin wishes to thank Claire Mills for the opportunity to work together on such an inspiring project!


Tools and Techniques to Unlock Workplace Creativity

This is the fourth installment in a series that explores how applying creative tools and principles in the workplace can help deliver better results and engender positive change. 


If you have read our previous articles, then you will no doubt be familiar with the benefits of workplace creativity, and the different ways to maximize your team’s unique talents, as well as develop an organizational culture where creativity can flourish

The next step is to provide you with some tools and techniques you can use to help set creative problem solving into action. All of the examples listed below have been tried and tested by the Banfield-Seguin team, and many have helped get us out of even the toughest of creative jams. Enjoy! 


Brainstorming is one of the longest standing and most popular creative ideation methods around the world. The goal of these sessions is to use lateral thinking and collaboration to produce as many different solutions as possible. 

To achieve that, it is important to create an open and positive environment that makes everyone feel comfortable enough to share what comes to his or her mind. This means that judgment and criticism should be avoided at all cost. We always suggest that the person leading the meeting start by letting participants know “The Rules of Brainstorming”, i.e. no judging of ideas, and be open to even the most counterintuitive or quirky of the proposed solutions. With the combined input of the group, something outlandish could morph into something truly innovative and possible. 

Ideas should be evaluated only after the meeting is over. At that point, the most promising ones can be organized into a shortlist and further developed. 

One of the drawbacks of brainstorming is that results are often dictated by the individual tendencies of participants. As mentioned in our second article about unique creative talents, some people find it difficult to spontaneously produce ideas. Others may be afraid their ideas will be rejected. There is also the risk of those with a lot of energy for ideation dominating and/or defending their ideas too forcefully, and failing to listen to others. 


Brainwriting, on the other hand, gives everyone an equal opportunity to contribute. Like brainstorming, it is conducted in a group setting where participants are asked to explore different solutions. However, brainwriting is different in that it is a quieter process that allows for participants to write their ideas down, and not worry about breaking through the clamour of out-loud brainstorming. 

Brainwriting can be done in various formats. One is to use a sheet of paper where each participant writes down three ideas; participants then exchange papers and add more ideas, and so on, building from the ideas already there. 

Alternatively, participants can simply write ideas on cards (or sticky notes). These cards are then placed at the centre of the table (or on a wall) for team members to use as inspiration for more ideas. In turn, news ideas again get captured and shared, and serve as triggers for even more. 

At Banfield-Seguin, we find brainwriting is particularly helpful when trying to solve more complex business problems that require a more methodical, “building-blocks” approach.


Mindmapping is an effective tool when you really need to break out of fixed thought patterns. Our creative teams often use some form of mindmapping to try to come up with truly unexpected, “out there” ideas. 

A mind map is usually created around a single core word or phrase, placed in the center of a white board or a large piece of blank paper. From there, key related concepts are added as “branches,” radiating out from the central node. Identifying the first-level branches is critical because it will guide the thinking done at lower levels. These categories therefore have to be broad enough to allow many sub-ideas to flourish, and relevant enough to the problem to help focus the team’s creativity.

The rest of the process consists of building out from the primary branches, and again from the sub-branches and sub-sub-branches, until you feel you’ve exhausted all possible connections and the mind-map feels complete. Ideally the last level of ideas will consist of unexpected but compelling ideas that will point to highly creative potential solutions.


Starbursting is a creative technique that focuses on questions instead of answers, and serves as a great information-gathering tool. It is particularly useful when faced with a situation or problem that is unfamiliar to the team, or with a proposed solution that is still raw and undefined. Starbursting helps bridge the knowledge gap by taking this new element though a series of questions to ensure all relevant aspects have been considered before work begins.

The first step to starbursting is to draw a six-pointed star on a white board or a large sheet of paper, and to write the name of the item being investigated at the centre. Next to each point of the star, you then write the words ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where,’ ‘when,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’, before proceeding to address each of them. For example, next to the word ‘how’, you might ask the questions: “How will this new service benefit our customers/clients?”, “How will they use it?” or “How will we market it?”. Both the questions and answers should be captured in short form on the startbursting board.

To get the most out of starbursting, it is important that the six headings are explored in a systematic and comprehensive way, every time a new item is considered. This process can also be repeated over multiple stages, with a new set of questions being asked about the answers to the first set. Only stop once you feel every important detail has been clarified.

The Charette

When multiple related issues need to be tackled at once, traditional brainstorming can often be unfocused and unproductive. However, creative ideation can still be effective if you take a different approach to it. One such approach is the charette technique.

The charette takes its name after the French word for ‘cart’ or ‘chariot’, and involves dividing participants into small groups and having each of them brainstorm solutions to a single problem at a time. After a given time period, the problem and solutions brainstormed by one group are “wheeled over” (hence the notion of a cart) to another group.

At that point, another round of brainstorming takes place, with the second group refining the work of the first one and expanding upon it. This process goes on until every group has had a chance to work on every problem, so it is a truly collaborative tool. (And some may note that charette happens to be the last name of our Creative Director, John Charette – an amusing coincidence, for us at least!)

In conclusion, there are many tools and techniques to generate ideas. The key is choosing the most effective ones for the situation. To do that, you need to consider the tendencies and talents of those involved, and the nature of the problem that needs to be solved. It usually helps to use more than one technique. For example, you may want to start with individual mindmapping and then transition to out-loud brainstorming. 

In the following weeks, we will take a look at how working with a creative agency can help you and your team better use the above tools and arrive at even stronger creative solutions.


What do you think?

Which of these creative tools could you and your team use right away? Can you share any other techniques that have helped you produce creative solutions at work? What are the keys to executing these other techniques to get the best possible results?


The Creative Spark Series is a joint initiative by the MARCOM Professional Development Annual Forum and marketing communications agency Banfield-Seguin, a proud official supplier of theme creative for MARCOM 2013. The series promotes the benefits of creativity in the workplace and presents ways to successfully apply creative tools and techniques to inspire, influence and act.


It’s a Boy!!!

Introducing Tyler Gravel!
We’re thrilled to report that Banfield-Seguin Account Director Julie Gravel is enjoying her time on maternity leave with her first baby boy.

And we couldn’t be happier for her!

Tyler arrived 6 weeks early and caught us all by surprise — especially Account Executive Kelly MacNaull who is backing up Julie while she is off.

At birth, Tyler weighed in at just under 5 pounds but was very healthy and strong – he was even seen kicking around a soccer ball in his incubator on his second day of life (he’s going to be a forward like his mom).

Tyler is now 3-months old and back on track at over 11 pounds. And he's even starting to smile. Aaawww…

Congratulations Julie from your Banfield-Seguin family!