Seven Tips for Getting the Best Creative from Your Agency

By: Leslie Miles, Creative Director

Or: What I would want every client to know before we start working together

Think about the last big party you went to. Who is the person you most remember? Is it the one whose clothing blended in with the wallpaper? Who spoke in monotones, saying things you’ve heard over and over again? Or is it the person who was dressed just a little flashier than everyone else, and who was holding people’s attention with fascinating stories? The reason the latter was memorable is because they presented themselves differently from everyone else. It’s simple: they stood out.

It’s just human nature for us to be drawn to more “colourful” individuals, the ones who are different. Their difference intrigues us and draws our attention. The same can be said for marketing and communications. Anything that is different is going to stand out and be memorable. So why are some organizations afraid to do something a little different from the usual? Again, it’s simple: difference is a good way to get noticed. And if you’re going to go to all the trouble and expense of marketing yourself, you may as well get noticed!

Your design agency wants you to be successful. They want you to get noticed and want to help you build your business. So how do you make sure you stand out in an overcrowded marketplace? Well, it starts with great creative that communicates your message effectively. And by working collaboratively and openly with your design agency, you should be able to produce something memorable.

Here are the top seven ways to get the best creative from your agency:

1. Do your homework

Any good designer is curious and will want to ask a lot of questions before digging in to the design, so have answers ready. Really think about what you want this project to accomplish, and be able to speak specifically. Remember that creative design can’t be the “be all and end all” of your communications campaign—it plays a role in the larger scheme of things. What role do you need it to play? What other elements support this campaign? Be realistic about what creative design can and can’t do.

2. Show off your stuff

Show your agency everything you have done previously online and in print. They will want to build on what has been done to date, as well as grow your brand in a way that strengthens it with any new creative product. They need to understand your brand, the visual expression of it and how this new piece fits into the big picture. Poke around and look at examples of things other people have done. What do you like and/or dislike? This helps the designer zero in on your preferences and gives them a starting point to work from.

3. Create a clear set of objectives

Pretty much everyone seems to want to be involved in the creative process, and once the design has been started it’s hard for a client not to put their own personal stamp on it, whether that be through design preferences, colour preference or image style. This gets complicated when there is more than one decision-maker involved. Design can be subjective, so it helps to have a clear set of objectives defined at the beginning of the process. That way the designer can use those objectives to make sure the creative is doing what it needs to do. Does it need to follow certain brand standards? Does it need to be bold and striking? What is the hierarchy of messaging? Be specific, so that in the end you can hold these objectives up to the creative as a measure to make sure everything has been answered and covered.

4. Be flexible

You’ve already decided that the best way to communicate your message is through an 8.5″ x 11″, 8-page brochure. But perhaps the best way is not what you thought, in fact, but rather an idea you hadn’t considered—say, a series of postcards included in your monthly mail-out. Be flexible and open to a shift in media or tactics. Use the expertise and creativity of your design agency to brainstorm other ways to communicate your message. 

5. Keep an open mind

The big reveal is about to take place. You’re not sure what to expect, and you hope the designer understood you correctly. Well, your designer is hoping YOU understand, too. Designers want to be creative. They want to be brilliant. But they know that in order for the creative to be a success, they need to stay within the prescribed objectives. That doesn’t mean they won’t try to push you out of your comfort zone. So don’t be afraid of doing something new, unusual and unexpected. Be afraid of looking like everyone else and not getting noticed!

6. Remember, it’s not for you

Think of your organization as a person you are representing. The creative is for them, not you. You don’t need to love it for it to be effective. The point is: does it meet the objectives set out from the start? If yes, then you have an effective piece of communication for your organization—whether or not you’d take it home and hang it on your wall!

7. Don’t try to solve the problem

A good creative agency will want to collaborate with you to produce the best work possible. If you feel the creative isn’t hitting the mark, then state your concern. Perhaps the main message is getting lost within the imagery. Don’t feel like you need to solve the problem yourself by telling the designer to move the message to the top and make it bigger. Let the designer solve the problem—that’s what they are trained to do. They may come up with a solution that not only solves the problem, but makes the piece even stronger!

As much as I wish every job we work on could be out-of-the-box, ground-breaking creative, in reality that’s not the case. But when the opportunity presents itself, let’s embrace it, let go, have fun and be ready to get some attention!