Thought Leadership

Why you can’t blag great creativity with good design alone

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Every man Jack is banging on about the importance of creativity in B2B marketing; it’s usually the same condescending line about stressing to in-house marketers how important creativity is to the effectiveness of their campaigns. As if they’ve just arrived in a gift-bowed bassinet delivered by a stork.

Even we’re bored of it and we’re not the target of agency advertising (unless they’ve really messed up their media buying), so we can only imagine what you lot in-house think about it. The value of creativity isn’t up for debate, and we reckon that clients have recognised this for years.

But the challenge is finding an agency that does this well, which isn’t helped by the confusing way many agencies describe what they do. The different approaches, philosophies, over-complicated diagrams of martech you’ll never afford or use 90% of the functionality from. With all this noise how do you sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to creative quality?

Here are some of the important factors we think you should look for…

1. Good design doesn’t equal good creativity

This is a common misconception that more and more agencies seem to be fuelling. Good design is a crucial part of the mix, of course, but it’s not the same as the ability to come up with the great idea in the first place. If you look at the skillsets of the most famous ad people it’s no coincidence that there’s a healthy mix of different backgrounds and disciplines in there. Bill Bernbach started out as a copywriter, David Ogilvy was a salesman (among other things) and Leo Burnett began his career as a journalist.

You’d let those guys near Adobe at your peril, but they were still responsible for some of the most successful campaigns in history. So when you’re assessing the creative ability of an agency, look beyond their design capabilities. Test how they think, test what some of their favourite campaigns are and why, ask them to talk you through the process behind some of their portfolio.

2. The best ideas won’t happen without a good briefing process

This might seem counterintuitive in a way, as the last thing you want is to limit creativity with too much process. But it’s about how creativity is focussed. If your agency spends enough time getting to truly understand the problem you’re facing, then they’ll be able to produce a brief that hits the mark. In turn, that means the creative minds are given the freedom of a tight brief to focus their thinking. Without that prep work, you’re relying on luck to get things right.

Learn more about how good briefing happens here

You can usually test how capable an agency is with regards to briefing by asking them to take you through their process. What does a typical briefing form look like? What kind of questions do they ask? How do this link into the creative team?

3. Make sure they’re nerds

B2B marketing involves balancing a load of important technical information with the need to communicate effectively. If your agency can only do the second part of that, then your job is a lot harder in policing where they will likely go wrong – where a creative idea might completely overstep the mark or undermine the credibility of what you’re trying to achieve.

The benefit of working with nerds is that they’re interested in all that technical information, and their understanding feeds into the quality of creative ideas produced. They have a natural curiosity to learn about new stuff. So you’re not going to get back a load of off-beam junk that you’d never be able to sell to the board, and instead receive ideas that might push the limits creatively but in a way that still fits with what your business does.

So next time you’re after a creative agency, be sure to look beyond “just” the design capabilities and check how they’re able to really support the best possible B2B creative.

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