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.

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