Is your ad shop a process agency or a revenue agency?

I’ve worked at some of the best agencies in the country and some of the crappiest. Mostly as writer in the creative department and a lot of times as a freelance writer. Maybe surprisingly, at both good agencies and mediocre ones you’re bound to be surrounded by talented people. Heck, I think of myself as a talented writer and I’ve darkened the door or more than a few not so great agencies (kids gotta eat).

What separates the great agencies from the mediocre ones isn’t always what people on the outside think. On more than one occasion, I’ve worked with really talented people who turn out crap at shops that regularly turn out crap. And I’ve worked with some similarly talented people who produce great stuff on almost every project at great agencies. It’s not always the level of talent that dictates the work product. More often than not, it’s the process.

Great shops have a process for turning out great work. They don’t just flip a switch when there’s an opportunity to do something good. They work the process that creates good work whether it’s a coupon ad or a 10 million dollar car campaign. They’re not always able to make a killer coupon ad but there’s a process that increases their odds. Just the same at a mediocre shop where it’s all about billable hours the process produces mediocrity.

At a revenue based agency the method is to assign resources based on revenue potential. If they think they have the opportunity to sell an award winning ad they will try to do great work but the process doesn’t support creating award winning ads it supports maximizing profits. So the print producer who’s been beating up photographers to lower their rates, the traffic manager who’s been wrangling the studio to speed things up and every single vendor who’s worked with the shop are not working in support of great work even if the creative team and the creative director are. Sure, they may answer to the CD who says this time it’s important, we need to do great work. But the muscle memory of the team is more likely to produce a base hit or a foul ball than a home run. Sure it happens but the odds are a lot lower.

How do you get your team to produce great work? If you’re a client, go find a shop that does it on a regular basis. If you’re an agency owner, President or a CD, you must make your team care and believe that you support great work and expect it on a daily basis. The entire team must be on board, from the account team to the media team. Let everyone know they are part of the process of doing great work and that they will be held accountable if they’re the ones who screw it up. And they’ll be celebrated for making great work too.

The account team is responsible too. If the president is telling the account director to watch the nickels on this job while telling the CD to do great work, you’re bound to have conflict and less than ideal result. The work will be second guessed from concept to final product.

I’ve worked at shops that were on the way up and the way down creatively. The ones on their way down are usually the ones who’ve lost a big client are are trying to figure out how to make payroll, keep their clients happy and at the same time keep their creative staff engaged. Usually in that order. Guess who usually loses out.

The agencies on their way up are usually newish shops or ones with significant management changes. They almost always had a creative with a significant partnership stake. And they have always had a strong process that guides the creative to be the best possible product in the eyes of management. Creative teams didn’t necessarily always agree with the opinions of management but it’s important the creative teams know management cares about the same things they do. Have fun! JG

Posted on: August 5, 2016, by :