Around four years ago, I co-founded Purple Rabbit. It was possibly the most glamorous decision of my life. In terms of life lessons, it still is. However, when the crowd of well-meaning soothsayers leaves, and your bank balance still shows a depressing figure, things get real. Anyone who has ever worked in an ad agency would tell you that behind all the glamour, there are deadlines. It doesn’t matter if you own the agency, the deadlines own everyone. And the question we must ask is :
Why aren’t design or any other creative projects planned better? What stops people in marketing and communications from indulging in meticulous planning that is hallmark of corporate life?
The short answer is, design is taken for granted, even by the designers.
Over the last few years, I have worked with many creative designers, and have understood that their mind works differently than lets say a content writer’s or even a project manager’s. My experience as a part-time designer has often helped me bridge this gap, and communicate with them in their language. However, quite often I have struggled to get projects done. The deadline keeps extending, with Client servicing complaining about lack of commitment on creative side, and designers complaining about lack of humanity on client servicing side. So whose fault is it? Perhaps it’s the collective culture that is to be blamed.
- The maddening culture of ‘last minute stretch’
Since designers are temperamental beings, who need a lot of free time in order to come up with really creative output, their work culture usually lacks discipline. So, a project that needs to be worked at everyday for about twenty days, is put of in exchange of other ‘interesting’ projects, or even Youtubing random videos. In fact, here is a neat list of things designers procrastinate on.
- Watching movies or listening to music to ‘get inspiration’
- Playing games to ‘get inspiration’
- Going on smoking/tea/ “other” breaks for stress relief
- Taking up completely random, and sometimes even personal projects because they are in the mood.
However, before we put the whole blame on the designing community, we must understand why they do this?
- Many layers of ‘buffers’ in Client Servicing
The biggest fear of a Client servicing executive, is being found out as ‘unprofessional’, and losing the client.
Think about it, a Client servicing executive is a buffer between marketing communication and the creative team at the agency. However, their work involves a lot of coordination, with little creative input from them. This makes them eager to prove a point, and to make themselves appear to be ‘working hard’.They are also completely under the jackboot of the marketing communications department. So a client servicing person, by virtue of being in this field, has to conduct the following set of activities.
- Keeping an extra buffer on ‘quality’ of the output, in hopes of completing the project sooner.
- Keeping an extra buffer on deadlines by having an ‘internal’ deadline.
- Promising an oversell to the client when none was required.
Then, can we blame the client servicing for creating this culture of ‘last minute delivery’? Of course not. Because they turn to these means due to behavior of Marketing Communications, or even marketing managers at client end.
- Insecurity of marketing communications
Marketing communications professionals struggle with an existential crisis for better part of their career.
Unlike designers, marketing communications field has a more transactional relationship with creative projects. Usually a project is the means to an end, i.e. more publicity, and perhaps browney points from the management. Communications manager people often suffer from a secret insecurity complex, of not adding any real value to their company. To add to this, most have suffered an ‘escalation’ from the management because the agency they hired was unusually slow in producing the work.
In order to keep up appearances and to get a dose of self importance, communications usually employs following strategy.
- Reject ideas of the creative team in order to ‘align’ creative output to the brand.
- Have a long loop of emails to show that they have ‘worked’ at the project
- Provide abstract or vague briefs that do not include important marketing objectives.
- Keep an extra ‘buffer’ to ensure the calendar stays on track.
The big reveal.
Let me tell you an open secret. Every designer worth his or her salt has a very good idea about what an ‘actual’ deadline for a project could be. This sixth sense of deadlines develops with a lot of hard word rejected down the drain, many hours of burning midnight oil only to find out that the project wasn’t due for another week.
In short, the designers are tardy in their approach, because the client servicing is finicky. The client servicing is finicky about deadlines and keeps extra buffers because they know it takes a long time for project to finish, and they are eager to finish them earlier. The projects take longer to finish because marketing communications has insecurities and a false sense of entitlement, and feels that ‘agencies and creative people’ need a firm push.
So what we have here is a Marketing Mexican Standoff of the epic order.
Do you agree with the above? Do let me know in comments! I would be sharing my opinions on how the above ad agency standoff can be broken without anybody getting hurt. 🙂 Stay tuned for that.