Your Agency: Inside/Out Getting the Best Creative From Your Agency

Your Agency: Inside/Out 

Everything your agency wants you to know but won’t tell you because they don’t want you to fire them. 

A Forbes study shows that only 41% of all marketing clients have a positive view of their agencies.  Only 38% report they are satisfied with their agencies.  But it doesn’t have to work this way.

Here at Push, we’d like to present a series of articles to help clients better understand and work with their agency. You’re welcome.

Now the second in our 8 part installment…


Getting the Best Creative From Your Agency

 If the strategy isn’t creative, the creative won’t be strategic.

Every agency has experienced it at least once. You presented the new concepts to a sea of client poker faces. At the end the presentation your client nervously said, “Thank you” and “We’ll be getting back to you.”

Then comes the dreaded you-missed-the-mark call. “It’s like you guys didn’t even read the brief. I outlined exactly who the audience was, objectives, desired outcomes…everything. Why didn’t the concepts reflect it?”

Droopy_dogInspired ideas usually start with inspired creative briefs. Great work is the result of a well-constructed creative strategy. It’s not just the creative director’s job to provide the inspiration. It’s also your job, as the client, to think creatively about the underlying marketing strategy and how it might be conveyed.

When creative misses the mark, it’s usually because there hasn’t been enough work put into writing an effective, inspirational brief. Simply saying a product is “best-in-class” or “revolutionary” doesn’t provide the creative fodder needed for good work. So, be a part of a creative brief process that answers the following questions:

1. What’s the problem? (need)

What needs does your product solve? What is your customer’s pain? Describe it to the nth degree and be clear with your agency.

2. Who has the problem? (audience)

How is the customer solving it now? How else might they solve it? What’s keeping them up at night? You must understand what your customers are doing now and what their other options might be.

3. What’s the root of the problem ? (understanding)

Customers are willing to consider you, only after you’ve demonstrated you understand their problem. And sometimes you have to dig deeply to understand the real issues.

4. What are we selling? (value proposition)

While this might seem to be a given, most of our clients struggle with a succinct way to explain how their product solves the customers’ problem. Be very specific.

5. How do we connect to emotion? (impact)

Why should they care? Customers buy for both rational and emotional reasons. Let’s brainstorm about what we can do to appeal to their intellect AND to their heart.

6. What will we say and how will we say it? (messaging)

Create a messaging matrix with key messages, reasons to believe, foundational concept pillars and organizing ideas that will grab your customers’ attention.

7. Now that we’ve got them, what do we want them to do? (CTA)

Whether you’re promoting a white paper or running a Super Bowl ad, it’s important to think through the conversion funnel and how your efforts are going to drive sales. The biggest reason the average tenure of a CMO is two years is the lack of ROI for the money spent. It starts with making sure nothing is done without knowing how your efforts are going to convert.

8. What are the requirements of the project? (givens)

Examples: tagline, logo, images, timeline, budget, approval process, stakeholders.

It’s the agency’s job to write the creative brief. But as a client, take responsibility for inspiring your creative team to do their best work. Here are eight things you, as a client, can do to better ensure the creative will be on target:

  1. Be clear about your value proposition – Articulate what it is you’re selling and why it’s the kind of product your customer can’t live without. If you’re not personally engaged and enthused about the product, don’t expect your agency to be.
  2. Don’t have a pre-determined solution in your mind. Erich Fromm said, “Creativity is the courage to let go of your certainties.” Be open to any new ideas your agency may bring. It’s not the agency’s job to read your mind.
  3. And the flip side – Come up with some of those ideas yourself. Write a tagline or two; find inspiring images or creative executions from another campaign. A good idea doesn’t care where it came from. Be a contributor to the creative solution, not just the arbiter and judge. If your agency doesn’t welcome your creative thinking, get a new agency.
  4. Be comfortable in the mess. Understand that solving the creative equation is not linear.  A great creative solution uses both sides of your brain.
  5. Get face-time with your creative team. As you speak to them about your marketing challenges, their minds will click away. We never stop creating. We just can’t help it.
  6. Make sure you have the right people involved from the beginning. Your decision-makers need to be involved from the get go. Late-to-the-party perspectives are the #1 killer of great ideas. As your executives are enrolled in the process (painful as it may be) they take ownership of the final solution and are more willing to embrace it in the end.
  7.  Learn how to give feedback. If you see something that’s not right to you, bring it up. Talk about it. Identify what bothers you and why. Then let your team go back and solve it for you.  We really want to work with you to get the best final creative solution.
  8. Try to separate your own preferences from those of your audience. Focus on your customer, not your loathing of san serif type.

Finally, continue to express confidence in your creative team – in person, in e-mail, and on the phone. With an inspired brief and a lot of elbow grease we’ll figure this out together and together we’ll nail the winning concept.


Don Low is a principal at Push. When he’s not working, he’s turning laps in a pool, riding his road bike, rooting his kids on or deciding what to make for dinner.


Your Agency: Inside/Out Getting the Best Creative From Your Agency