advertising, Art, Branding and Communications

How to work with creative people

In a previous post, I talked about why all creative projects have last minute deadlines. In this one, I want to give my suggestions on exactly what to do in order to ensure your project gets completed before the intended deadline. A lot of it has to do with knowing how to work with creative people. As someone who has been on both sides, I have created a set of guidelines that helps me complete projects on time. Here are the three most important ones.

#1 Select the ‘right’ artist for the right job

Would you select Hulk to open a bottle of pickle? Probably not. It’s the same with creative projects. Yet, many marketing communications folks make the same mistake. A creative graphic designer and a DTP operator are two very different people. Of course you can ask a creative guy to follow your concept to a ‘T’, but you would be wasting your  money, and the designer would hate it.

#2 Avoid micro-managing, and offering color suggestions 

This works for almost any job, but especially makes no sense in creative field. Any decent creative professional prides himself or herself over the smallest choices that they make. Moving the icons / lines / circles 5 cms to the right or left, changing the text alignment, and worst – asking for a completely new layout would only make them plot for your murder. Needless to say, they will respond by not caring about your project, which will make it harder to get approvals from your seniors.

#3 Don’t leave things for ‘feeling’, follow your own brief like gospel truth 

A bad brief could be unclear,  or misguiding, but what’s worse is changing brief. Creative professionals, hate it when the brief ‘evolves’ midway on the project. It means they could be living a bad dream over and over again. It’s better to spell out everything from the beginning, and then stick to it. Asking for endless options will seldom produce better results. Most designers I know give their best shot first couple of times, and then lose interest faster than speed of light. It helps to ban these phrases:

  • Not feeling it
  • Needs to be crisper
  • Something is off
  • I don’t know… can we try…(Insert any thing here)

It might seem like designers are vane, and just incapable of ‘getting’ it, but they do know what makes thing look good. Not everything depends on it, but most of it does. Bad design can screw good products. It’s always more helpful if your designer likes you. Believe me, if they do, they are more likely to come up with special sauce that makes things perfect!

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advertising, Branding and Communications, Technology & Gadgets

Challenges of creating interactive content

Interactive content is considered the holy grail of content marketing these days. Every other metric is bases on engagement, and it’s not uncommon to hear CMOs demanding ‘Kickass interactivity’ in their website.

Soon we would hear something like the following.

Lets get rid of all the text, and videos are old, lets do something kickass- like VR operated content accessible without internet

However, interactive content development is not simple, or more importantly cheap. Here are common challenges you should be ready for before sailing down that boat.

  • Demands more attention from user – You require more engagement from your users in order for them to get content from you.
  • Risk of technical errors and glitches – As interactivity increases, technical challenges also increase in proportion. Content may not remain accessible across all ecosystem.
  • Much longer time to market – It’s much more difficult to create and deploy interactive content than plain text or videos. It’s thus also time-consuming.
  • Inflated development costs – There’s an added cost factor for interactivity, and not all companies may be able to bare it.

Having said that, if you have the patience, and money interactivity pays off. Always.

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advertising, Branding and Communications, Marketing

Difference between brand awareness and brand salience

brandGoing just by definition, I would differentiate the two as follows.

Brand Awareness: How much do customers know about your brand. Have they heard about it, do they think about it, do they talk about it?

Brand Salience: Do customers think your brand is the ‘gold standard’ in the category. Is it the first brand that comes to their mind when you talk about the category?

A brand can have a higher level of awareness from time to time owing to the promotional campaigns they do or news about the product, however Salience is achieved through consistent delivery of value. For example, Samsung Galaxy 7 is right now pretty high on brand awareness scale due to reports about spontaneous combustion of the phone. However it doesn’t mean people will go and buy it. They will still go and buy iPhones. 🙂

 

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advertising, Art, Branding and Communications, Experience, Marketing, Reflections and rumination

Why all creative projects have an ‘urgent’ deadline

timeAround 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?”

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?

designers

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.

  1. Watching movies or listening to music to ‘get inspiration’
  2. Playing games to ‘get inspiration’
  3. Going on smoking/tea/ “other” breaks for stress relief
  4. 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.

  1. Keeping an extra buffer on ‘quality’ of the output, in hopes of completing the project sooner.
  2. Keeping an extra buffer on deadlines by having an ‘internal’ deadline.
  3. 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.

business

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.

  1. Reject ideas of the creative team in order to ‘align’ creative output to the brand.
  2. Have a long loop of emails to show that they have ‘worked’ at the project
  3. Provide abstract or vague briefs that do not include important marketing objectives.
  4. 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.

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