What should businesses do before the creative begins?
Let's face it; businesses and organizations come to advertising agencies, and sometimes called ad agency, marketing firms, or branding agencies when they believe they have a brand problem to solve. And that's great because we truly believe the right advertising agency is made up of creative problem solvers. My role as an account executive at Rockit Science Agency, the advertising agency based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I call home, has taught me how to assess risks as well as "play out" all the potential scenarios.
This comes from years of working with clients and understanding their nuances, professional goals, and even personal preferences. Setting the expectation that there isn't one way to get to their desired result is essential. It's a collaborative effort that requires transparency and trust. If you achieve this, you are well on your way to a beautiful agency/client partnership.
Throughout the years, I've had many projects that varied in scope and required skills in many disciplines. And in every case, the project greatly benefited from having a discovery phase in the very beginning. During this phase, our agency meets with critical stakeholders (determined by the client) and individually interviews them. The questions vary from internal to external challenges and goals for the future. Although most business owners know every aspect of their industry, they typically have their blinders on when asked the hard questions. It's not their fault. It's just the business of running the business.
Overall, an informative discovery phase should uncover things about your organization that you may not have considered such as:
- Who are our key stakeholders?
- Who are our real competitors? Why?
- What truly makes us unique compared to our competitors?
- Who is our target audience (include segmented audiences)?
- What's relevant to our target audience?
- What does our target audience currently think of us?
- What do we want our target audience to say about us?
- How can we positively impact the lives of our target audience?
- How can we be a part of the communities* our target audiences care about?
*Communities are a group of people that come together, in person or otherwise, based on shared interests, characteristics, or goals.
The answers to these questions can sometimes be idealistic, and when you have many stakeholders involved, they can significantly differ in opinion. It's your job as an account planner to take all the information from the discovery phase and internalize it, process it, and find a common thread to get everyone on the same page. It's not easy, but it's possible.
More importantly, doing this process at the very beginning will give everyone a better understanding of your brand value and allows for more precise objectives, strategies, and tactics to achieve specific project goals. From there, you can get into the fun, creative stuff—the reason most businesses come to an advertising agency in the first place. Using creativity to solve a business challenge is one of my favorite things about this industry.
Advertising isn't rocket science; there may not always be a definite "if this, then that" to every plan. However, it's vital that you find a team that not only understands your challenges (professionally and personally) but can also provide solutions that excite and give you peace of mind.