The Secret Marketer doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his design agency


We’ve had a rollercoaster week with our design agency. I felt the briefing given by the brand team contained the right blend of insight, facts and data and the first phase of the design project was a great success as we worked with the agency to develop the creative brief.

Confidence was high, the chemistry was good and I was confident we were all on the same page with this one. The next step was the presentation of first stage creative concepts, and with every click of PowerPoint I was more and more confident that we were about to see something very special.

The nervous anticipation was killing me as the highly articulate history graduate planner-type finally handed over the baton to the creative god of torn jeans and trainers to show off his designer wares.

The first couple of routes were steady but unspectacular and I sensed that the agency was keeping its best work back for the finale. But sadly it didn’t get any better and my initial reaction was a huge sense of disappointment. I felt that the work lacked any sense of wow factor but I wanted to hear what others had to say first rather than dampen the party spirit.

“My team said they felt under pressure to be positive to the agency as it had clearly put a lot of hard work in”

I learned long ago that it is important to let your team give feedback first or else they are inclined to stand behind whatever their boss has already said. My team was very polite when giving their feedback. It was constructive and more generally positive, focusing on what they liked rather than what they didn’t. I told the agency that I would like to take the weekend to sleep on it and that we would provide consolidated client feedback early the following week.

At our team meeting, it transpired that nobody really liked anything that we saw. My team said they felt under pressure to be positive to the agency as it had clearly put a lot of hard work in. That may sound pathetic, but I’ve been there myself and know exactly how they are feeling.
It’s tough telling creatives that you don’t like anything they’ve done, but we have decided to put our feedback in writing and ask the agency to go back to square one.

It’s never fun when this happens and we’ll need a full and frank face-to-face meeting later next week to let everybody get things off their chest. These things have a horrible habit of descending into a messy blame game when only played out via email.

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