So, you’re equipped with bait, line, & tackle, and all set to fish for the ideal “Creative” agency! Well, best of luck to you. But what is this mystical concept called creativity? Presenting my very own heretical definition. Creativity is simply the ability to think differently and come up with original innovations, or better still, innovatively adapt others’ innovations! So, in a nutshell, a creative guy is a cat in thinking and a copycat in execution. How’s that for a definition? But enough, let’s move on to the serious business of the ‘Agency Swayamvar”.
But hang on.
Doesn’t the Indian groom need grooming before setting out to snare his potential bride? In our humdrum context, you need to specify the services required to achieve the company’s goals. So, before zooming off on your fishing sojourn, i.e., looking for a creative agency, “apne girebaan mein jhankke dekhiye”. Revisit your business plan and check your marketing objectives. Next, do a deep dive into the capabilities (or the lack of them) of your internal team. Only then will you unearth the gaps that a third-party service (aka a creative agency) could fill. HOW TO FIND THAT AGENCY?
The Ten Commandments:
1. They invested in the time to meet you
Oh! Darling, yeh hai India! Did the top thinkers of the agency meet with you either in person or virtually? If no, then this is a trailer of things to come. If they cannot commit time at the beginning of the process, how available will they be when actual work starts? We believe relationships are a contact sport!
2. Their proposal is amazing- actually understanding your challenges and pain points
Forget the audio-visual and credentials razzmatazz. The meat of any proposal is upfronting the price of services, and more importantly, the bespoke blueprint of what they will do for you/your brand. Generic proposals are not worth the paper they are written on. Does the potential agency’s proposal display a basic articulation of your unique needs and challenges? If so, bingo!
4. They have all-round expertise
Marketing creatives involve a host of connected activities. So, your creative agency should be an all-rounder, having a basic level of expertise in all aspects of marketing.
They may be working on your website, but can they appreciate how it will work in your social media context? In case they are executing content marketing for you, do they have clarity on how your branding materials will be integrated?
A good creative agency need not be able to offer all the marketing services you require, but they should be able to recommend vendors and advise you on marketing aspects other than their specialization.
5. They are creative!
This is where a creative agency’s rubber meets the road! Copy, design, headlines, AND the implementation, there should be no compromise. Their online portfolio will provide cues regarding execution; is it professional and fresh? Do you find their work for other clients inspiring? If so, you’ve struck gold!
Don’t be cent-wise and dollar-foolish by choosing an agency with sub-par creativity. Design and ideas are the cornerstones of your brand, and a great creative partner will build on this equity and find innovative avenues to make it even more valuable.
6. Market Buzz
References, awards, certifications, and affiliations are tricky, yet valuable indicators of the potential agency’s standing in the creative scape. Choose your sources with care, they should be in the same ballpark as you w.r.t. size, budgets, and credibility. Often sources from other industries and personal connections offer more honest and ‘real’ feedback. The answers to these 5 simple queries should be enough meat for your evaluation:
- Was working with them enjoyable?
- Were they process-oriented?
- Did they adhere to the committed timelines?
- Was the client happy with the result?
- Would the client work with them again? (key question)
7. The ultimate litmus! A creative test
A major caveat here! Do not rely solely on their past work, references, or the creative pitch to judge the agency’s creative potential. As a creative litmus, give them varied case scenarios to analyze and then propose effective idea building and strategy solutions targeting your unique brand requirements while sharpening your competitive edge.
8. They have industry experience
“There is no need to reinvent the wheel” is the greatest advantage of an agency with previous expertise in your sector. They will:
- Not need education on the dos and don’ts of the business
- Be generally aware of what the prospective customers want
- Be familiar with the distinguishing features of the competitors in the domain
- Have established relationships with essential media members of your sector’s beat
The last-mentioned will enable free PR attention via shoutouts or features, which can add substantial synergy to your advertising.
9. They lay down realistic expectations
They “over promise and under deliver” is the most disparaging remark one can make about an agency. If an agency agrees to your deadlines and budgets with just a superficial understanding of what’s entailed, either they didn’t understand the scope of the brief or, they are saying what’s pleasing to your ear. Either way spells disaster.
A good agency will not shirk from telling you what’s realistic, articulate the reasons, and suggest an alternate strategy if required. That is a far more palatable scenario than to have false promises, unplanned costs and missed deadlines.
10. There is ‘chemistry’
Remember, your grandma always shopped from the same grocer, though it was evident that he was charging a premium? The reason? His disarming smile! Client-agency culture-fit is crucial. Plus, relationships are a contact sport! Do they meet you, even if virtually, for important discussions? Do you feel comfortable bandying about ideas with them, and are you receptive to the ‘heretical’ ideas they come up with? ‘Meet’ the team. If they seem genuine and the type of people you’d enjoy spending time with- go for it!
To conclude, today’s fast-changing market dynamics require companies to value creativity and innovation over profitability and ROI. Therefore, the time is right to invest in the right creative agency to explore future avenues of success.
I hope the above 9 commandments (one lesser than Jesus!) has given you enough tips to choose wisely, because the cost of alimony may be too heavy a cross for you to bear…
The author is Dibyendu Deb, MD of Brandbajade.com a Delhi-based creative communications consultancy and an intrepid innovator and entrepreneur. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org