An ambitious rancher looks out into his pasture and sees his cows lazily standing around, chewing cud. Angrily, he yells at the cows, “GET TO WORK YOU LAZY COWS! GET IN THE BARN AND MAKE ME SOME MILK!”
The rancher fails to acknowledge the fact that the cows actually are creating milk in the pasture – even though it appears they are simply standing around. In milk production, the end product is not realized until the cows are hooked up to the milk machine and the milk is expressed.
This analogy comes from a book I recently read entitled “Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace,” by Gordon MacKenzie – one of my new favorites! This analogy struck me as being eerily similar to the creative process in an agency life.
In the integrated creative process, the final work presented to the client is only the tip of the iceberg – all of the work that encompasses a project is often unseen – only a small portion (usually the end) of the process is visible. The creative work appears effortless; it is an extremely methodical process.
Let me further explain by giving you exclusive insights to what goes on behind the barn door at 70kft.
Our Integrated Creative Process
At 70kft, we recognize not everyone is familiar with agency life, specifically the creative process. Around here, a vital element to our integrated agency’s fundamental success is client education. We use a plethora of tools and methods to provide transparency to clients, enabling them to better understand what is going on in the pasture and how to be involved. Seamless integration guides the creative philosophy at our integrated agency. The first step of this ingenious path is immersion.
Immersion: Understanding The Milk Market
Our elevated expertise and knack for viewing projects from every angle ignite brands with a unique opportunity to define their essence. In the primary stages, it’s essential to deeply immerse our diverse, creative souls to solve the client’s communications problem. Discovery begins by scratching the surface; 70kft uses the following methods:
- Requirements questionnaire
- Client meetings
- Account Management project best practices
- Market Research
- Industry Benchmarking
- Subject matter research
- Competitive Analysis
- Web Development Requirements document
- Brand Design and Content Assessment
- Digital Marketing Assessment
- Public Relations Assessment
Basically, during immersion you can expect us to ask a lot of questions! Once we have a holistic perspective on the brand’s creative landscape and the communication challenge at hand, we move into step two: planning.
Planning and Aligning Expectations: Corralling The Cows
Once we determine what client and agency mutually agree on what is to be achieved, then we flesh out schedule, cost and roles and responsibilities. 70kft uses the following tools to align and spark the fundamentals of execution:
- The Proposal: A document outlining our proposed integrated approach to solving the client’s dilemma. In some instances, a proposal is used as a Scope of Work.
- The Scope of work: This document operates as a contract, specifically defining the deliverables, timeline, pricing and terms.
- The Estimate: The estimate is just that, an estimated investment for the scope the work.
Implementation Process: Making The Milk
Once the final logistics are determined, our creative team begins the implementation process. This is the execution stage where our organically picked talent lends their expertise, morphing from ideation to fruition. The talent at 70kft churns their creative minds to bring the client’s vision to life.
Integral to this success is our emphasis on the agency-client partnership; we work in-line with clients to support their brands. It’s crucial to collaboratively and interactively engage the client to ensure we are capturing their brand’s core essence, ultimately building trust in our competencies. During this phase, our integrated industry gurus take creative risks that pay off by utilizing prescriptive tools and methodologies, sparking creativity.
Discovery periods – similar to immersion, discovery periods put the creative team in the end user’s state of mind. We explore the client’s service offering, marketplace and operating landscape to align our thinking and understanding thus resulting in more effective creative solutions.
Brand workshops – a brand workshop is a dedicated meeting devoted to exploring the client’s needs, goals, vision, purpose statement and/or value proposition.
Executive summary – an executive summary is typically used to summarize the outcomes of a discovery period or a brand workshop.
Creative brief – a creative brief is a guide for the agency team to use as they solve the client’s creative challenge. Generally speaking, a brief summarizes the challenge at hand, challenges parameters and the overall desired outcome.
Mood boards - a mood board is a collection of images, sayings, colors – anything really – that is representative of the project’s mission. A mood board serves as a marker to ensure we are on the right track, and also a source of inspiration.
Brainstorming sessions – brainstorming sessions vary, but typically involve exercises to prompt thought. These exercises can be anything from building mind maps, to generating word lists, to role-playing and more.
Sketches/thumbnails – sketches and thumbnails are quick ideas drawn out on paper. Stemming from a brainstorming session, a designer user sketches and thumbnails to begin seeing their ideas and how they might come to life.
Sitemaps – when working on a web initiative, a sitemap is a visual representation of how the site is organized, i.e. the pages/navigation on the site, the page hierarchy and how they interlink.
Wireframes – a wireframe is basically a blueprint. It is a visual representation of an outline showing content hierarchy and placement. A wireframe acts as the skeleton for the design and copy team to build from.
Concept presentations – concepts are the first draft of the designed solution. Often, concepts are not fully fleshed out, but rather more refined sketches that begin to show how the ultimate design may work. 70kft typically develops a few concepts to present so the client can choose the concept that best reflects their vision.
Design presentations – design, sometimes called design execution, is the fully designed idea that has been vetted and polished. Design presentations allow the client to see what their solution would look like if approved for production.
Production Phase: Packing The Milk
Last but not least, is the production phase. When the cow is finally hooked to the milk machine, 70kft produces the work. This stage remains crucial to the agency as form of best practice to fine-tuned work, reviewed for quality assurance, and approved as final to then be delivered to the client. 70kft ensures production quality through internal and external quality assurance, proofs, and final approval and client satisfaction surveys.
Become a Part of the Processes: Drink The Milk
Now that you know a little more about how the milk is made at 70kft, consider how you’d like to join the process. Here are four quick tips on how you can make the most out of your involvement and become apart of an agency’s creative process.
- Engage the agency early on. It's NEVER too early to engage an agency. The time it takes to arrive at a creative solution is nearly always under estimated. Before you purchase a media buy, or commit to a website launch date, engage an agency to understand realistic timing. Remember, more creative time equals higher creative quality!
- Ask questions – even ones you believe to be stupid! When working with an agency, your account manager and creative team love it when you ask questions. Don’t worry about feeling naïve, we love answering questions and appreciate your curiosity! The more you understand the process, the better working relationship we will have.
- Understand creative milestones.The process outlined above can vary from agency to agency or even from project to project. Understanding the creative milestones will help you know where you are in the creative process, and what to expect next.
- Map your own creative process. Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, you have your own problem solving methodologies – this is creativity! Think about how you solve problems; do you make a list? Talk to friends? Take a bath? All of these activities contribute to your personal creative process.
Around these parts, we strive to produce the best and most creative solutions for our clients. We believe a brand represents a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships between a consumer and a product or service. The intellectual curiosity and immersive exploration behind this philosophy fuels our agency’s inventiveness.
Getting an insider view of how our creative souls scratch work gives our clients insights to the time and effort that goes into each and every deliverable we touch. We pour milk inspiration into every project; forming an emotional connection with each brand we have the opportunity to touch!