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How to Work Better With Creative Agencies

Jul 31, 2020 | 12m

Gain Actionable Insights Into:

  • Establishing a relationship that encourages open dialogue without fear of judgment
  • Why you should fully immerse the agency into your brand
  • How to inspire and encourage the creative agency to do their best work yet


The Case For Building Trust

For a marketer, figuring out new ways of engaging our consumers and clients is the heart of the job. I have to stay up-to-date with their needs and consider how our brand can best serve their needs in a changing context.

This is where the role of creative agencies is so crucial. A creative agency will help create marketing campaigns or solutions for your brand and its suite of products and services. They are wired to create work that captivates the audience while effectively sharing the brand’s story. In a nutshell, they share the responsibility of creating compelling marketing stories for your brand.

A partnership with a creative agency could range from a short-term project of two to three months, or if all goes well, it could turn into a long-term relationship of several years. Similar to a marriage or really any relationship, a partnership with a creative agency has both good and bad days. And it takes time, effort, and investment to leverage the skills of the creative agency and create a partnership that works for both parties.

Sometimes, marketers who are just starting out in their career may wrongly assume that the process goes something like this: select an agency, write a brief, send it to the agency, sit back and wait for the agency to deliver. But this is not how it works. Like any successful relationship, active engagement will help you create better results.

Inspiring Creativity

Your relationship with the creative agency must be inspiring for all parties involved. It must stay fresh and new so that the creatives can continue to create, innovate, and overflow with novel ideas. The most important aspect of this relationship is trust. And building trust always takes time and effort. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of trust in a client-agency relationship because the brand and vision are essentially co-owned.

If I simply make all of the decisions and expect the creative agency to blindly deliver something that meets all of my expectations, then the creative inspiration and outcome that I receive will never be up to par. A creative person can only be inspired when you allow her into your space, invite her to share your brand’s vision, and give her space to translate your brand’s vision into something you may never even have dreamt about.

One of the most memorable experiences that I’ve had when working with a creative agency happened through an unconventional way of working. We met over coffee and started talking, and before you know it, we were jamming, brainstorming, challenging each other, and co-creating work in a safe and transparent space. We were so comfortable with each other that either of us could freely put out their worst ideas on the table without fear of judgment.

While you may have more understanding of the brand, the agency has a lot of creative inspiration to offer. But co-creation and sharing can only happen if you develop a relationship of trust and transparency that gives the creatives permission and space to share freely without being shut down immediately. It takes time for ideas to evolve and for creatives to innovate, so you must give them space and freedom to do so.

On the contrary, one of my worst experiences happened when the conversation and trust completely broke down. We were so focused on the brief and the script, trying to edit the same piece of work such that it conformed to the construct I had in mind, to begin with. This approach stifled the creative freedom of the creative and to our detriment prevented us from leveraging each other’s strengths.

Because these two approaches are drastically different, the quality of work that results from them would naturally be worlds apart. So as a marketer, it is your responsibility to use an approach that would inspire the creatives and give them space to dream, innovate, and create something that they would be proud of while simultaneously fulfilling the vision for your brand.

Establishing an open relationship with creatives from the beginning ensures that conversations surrounding your brand are engaging, fruitful, and rich. If you are too focused on making sure that the creative blindly follows your command, you won’t be getting their best work. Without room for free-flowing thoughts, the job becomes mundane and uninspiring.

Get to Know the People

The whole creative process hinges on the people who are involved, so it is essential to make sure that you have chemistry with the creative agency you choose. In order to gauge this, I usually insist on talking to the agency first to understand the people involved in my brand, their credentials, and their appetite for work. Through our conversation, I can have a better sense of whether or not a long-term relationship with them could potentially be fruitful.

When the creative presents their work, it’s important to take the time to understand the process through which they got there. Allow them to talk about what excited them about the project, what they enjoyed, and what struggles they encountered in the process. The ultimate goal of this conversation is to understand the culture of the agency: how they work, what inspires them, what they like or don’t like, how they manage and resolve conflicts.

Just as you have expectations of the creatives, they also have expectations of who they’d want to work with. Ask questions that will reveal their expectations so that you can get an idea of whether or not they’d enjoy working with you. After getting a clearer picture of the culture of the creative agency, you can then decide if their work ethic and passion are in sync with your brand.

While you need to assess the creative agency as a whole, it is equally important to take a deeper look into the person who will work on your brand. Ask to look at their previous work and observe the evolution of their work over time. Even if this creative person has done similar work but does not produce the kind of work that you are looking for, regardless of how good the person is, the fit is not right. You’re ultimately assessing the person for fit, not just quality.

It’s always a good idea to meet key people one-on-one. I almost always meet with the Account Head and the Planning Head because these two people will rally the creative team and be my voice in the agency. So, it’s important to understand their way of thinking, the work they’ve done, and what inspires them.

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Deepali Agarwal

Former Sales and Marketing Manager | Head of Business Development, EU (UK/Ireland, Italy)

Pantone | Amazon



Creativity in Marketing