How to get better creative work from your agencies

It isn't easy for marketers to work with agencies. But these ten tips will help build a powerful relationship.


The four main reasons marketers don’t get better work from their agencies:

  1. They don’t really want it

  2. They don’t know what it is

  3. They don’t want to pay for it

  4. They want process for the sake of process

Marketers miss the point when they seek obedience from agencies they try to dominate. This is operating from a place of insecurity. Yes, there’s a transaction but the people doing the work are trying to do significant work. Meet them there. Don’t beat them there.

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It isn’t easy to do marketing or work in an agency right now. Perhaps it never was. The following ten points might help.

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1. Tame the Crazymakers. Julia Cameron’s word. Each company has them. Self-important Tasmanian devils who frenzy into rooms, thrust their status at people, and leave.

2. Don’t brief and run. Don’t phone in a brief. Don’t brief and then disappear for two weeks. Think. Take responsibility. Or write the brief with your agency.

3. Reveal the decision-makers. Don’t play games. When people know how decisions happen they can prepare for it. And work with the decision-makers.

4. Avoid team sprawl. Good talent flees team sprawl or they send people to sit and take the mess in the face while they stay in the office.

5. Bring the right people into the room. If people who do the work aren’t in the room it’s because your meetings aren’t useful or the agency is keeping people out.

6. Learn your team. Take an interest in their side projects. Understand what they’re into. Invite them to bring it into their work for you.

7. Reduce the drama. People who do the work and spend their late nights and weekends thinking about it don’t need to waste time in meetings. Keep interactions straight-forward.

8. Study “great work”. Read case studies. Have more than “that one thing I did ten years ago” to refer to. Share examples of work you want people to beat.

9. Keep feedback short. You don’t need to share every brain fart. Share feedback in one paragraph. Perhaps, answer: “What needs to happen to make this even better?

10. Don’t bore people. Most marketing plans start as copy-and-paste from last time. They are difficult to get signed off. We empathize. But keep briefings short and presentations interesting. Read How to make a presentation make a point for tips on this.


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