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A Field Guide to

Finding & WORKING WITH a CREATIVE AGENCY


Field Guide

1

Our Field Guides are little books designed to help you get the best out of your design & marketing budgets. We’re kicking off with a guide on how to find & work with a creative agency. We explore what it is a creative agency does, what they offer their clients & how to get the best out of working with them.


What is a creative agency? When Socrates leapt from his bubble bath and cried “Eureka!” it was because he’d had an idea (not that the water was way too hot). He had just experienced that wonderful moment when an idea is born*. Creative agencies thrive on ideas. In fact, ideas are at the heart of everything we do. Creative agencies are places where ideas happen every day. We sell our ideas. It’s how we make our money. Whether that’s expressed in the form of a newspaper advert, a brochure or a website is irrelevant – all our creative output is powered by that initial idea. Creative agencies exist to help their clients create and build brands, promote products and services and help generate marketing activity. An integrated approach means that we will draw upon a pool of experts. Who they are will depend upon the task facing us. That team will work with a client to define a brief, often challenging and developing new ideas as the project evolves.

What does a creative agency do? Creative agencies are increasingly strategically focused. Success of a project is based upon certain criteria being met e.g. footfall, spend or brand awareness. These criteria are considered when the project is at planning and design stages and measured when being executed. Using a creative agency means that you will have a single point of contact for all your design and marketing activity, as well as consistency, leaving you to get on with the day-to-day running of your business. A successful agency will build healthy, productive and profitable relationships with its clients. *Apparently he went on to play in the Brazilian national football side as a result of his 4-4-2 revelation.

Don’t let it cost you an arm & a leg


What can an agency offer your business? As an integrated creative agency, we can tailor specific services to suit your business needs, including: »» Branding & identity »» Brochures & literature »» Advertising & marketing »» Websites, online advertising & social media integration »» Events, signage & interiors

Mallet resistance

« But this isn’t all we can do. A creative agency can help you think deeply about your business, your services or your products, from a totally different and fresh perspective. We can act as a focal point for your creative activity and help you explore new ideas to help your business grow.

“Most clients come to us with no real idea of what identity they’re trying to achieve. They’ll often come to us thinking that what they need is a new logo, that going forwards all their problems will be solved by this new logo, and our response to them would normally be, ‘Who do you think you are? How does your audience see you? How would you like your audience to be seeing you?” Walnut destroyer

Neville Brody


An experienced agency will help you!

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Reach the right audience A experienced agency takes an idea and turns it into a product that attracts attention and gets results. Explore all avenues An experienced agency works closely in partnership with you and asks pertinent, and often challenging, questions about the scope and goals of each project. Measure and adjust A experienced agency will measure the success of its creative output and evaluate that data to continually adjust and improve the work it does for you. Stay organised An experienced agency will project manage your campaigns and meet deadlines while staying within agreed budget and time constraints. Did we mention we’re an experienced creative agency?

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Acorns rule oak-ay! If you are thinking of spending a fair amount of your hard earned cash, then you want to make sure you are working with the right people. “If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you’re playing by the rules.” Paul Arden

Start off small and see how things go. Once you establish a successful working relationship, you will feel more confident in commissioning bigger projects. You will end up with a happy, reliable and effective working relationship with someone in the future. Someone like us!


Finding the right agency for you It’s important to get things right from the start. That means finding an agency with whom you are happy to work and someone with whom you can communicate clearly and productively. They need to have experience, so that they can transform your needs into success and they need to have good business sense to ensure that your project stays within budget and time constraints.

Looking good Most agencies will have a portfolio of their work online so that you can look at their style of design, and see what they have produced for previous clients. This is the best way to judge what they do and how they approach different projects. Look at examples of their work which are similar in tone to your own needs. E.g. if you are looking at a new logo then spend a bit of time looking at the brands they have created.

It must be love! Come to our premises and meet the team. After all, if we don’t develop a great relationship with our clients, how are we going to empathise with their projects and respond with great ideas? Book that meeting today. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

“I never design a building before I’ve seen the site and met the people who will be using it.” Frank Lloyd Wright

The Soda team hard at work in St Margarets


What’s your problem? That’s a bit rude isn’t it? Oh, sorry, we didn’t mean it like that. By now you may have read through the lofty preamble about how rewarding it is to spend time with a creative agency. But wait. You’re the client right? You’re the one with the money and the work. You’re busy. Before you hand over your precious time and money, let’s remind ourselves why you are here. You’re here because you have a problem.

Do I? Sure. Creative agencies solve problems. We’re primarily thinkers. We listen to you. We research and evaluate your problem and present our response, which is usually, but not always, visual. A typical project goes something like this: You present the problem. We provide a solution in the form of an idea. If you like it, you buy it and we roll it out. That’s it in a nutshell.

Wait a second. You people are a creative agency right? What about the pretty pictures? What about using my niece’s brilliant drawing of a cat zombie? Hang on a bit. Let’s not jump into the design process too soon, although that cat zombie drawing is awesome. We’re a creative agency so we are multi-disciplined: We’re made up of account managers, designers, strategists and writers and other specialists who are brought in when needed. Firstly, before we unleash the designers, we need some things from you. We need to find out everything we can about you, your business and your audience.


Really? Can’t you just get on with the logo/website/brochure? I’m a busy person. An essential part of an agency’s role is communication. We will have a ton of questions about your business, your message, your goals, your audience and your competition. There should be an on-going dialogue between client and agency before, during and after the design process. If we fail to get this information out of you before we start working together then we’re not doing our job properly and you won’t get the most out of your budget.

Okay, okay. Keep your (artfully-styled) hair on. How do we start then? You know your business. We need to learn about your business; so tell us as much as possible about it. Our staff would probably rather sit around drinking hyper-expensive, ferret-digested coffee. But they’re not paid to do that. They’re paid to think about your business and that starts with knowing exactly how it ticks. Some of the most common questions we may ask you are: »» What’s your business about? What are you trying to achieve? »» What differentiates you from the rest of the crowd? While we’re at it, who is your competition? What do you like or hate about them? What’s your favourite liquorice allsort? »» We need to know about who we’re going to talk to. Who’s the audience. What’s the tone of voice? What motivates your audience? Money, flowers, small puppies? »» What’s your deadline? When do you want to start seeing things? »» Are there goals, marketing schedules, deadlines in place we should be aware of?


Alright, I get it! What should I do next? You can start by downloading our little questionnaire which is available on our website. Down the bottom. Down, down, down a bit more, that’s it! Have a read. Fill it out, send it back and if you have any questions just pick up the phone. Once we’ve had a read through and had a chat among ourselves, we’ll get back to you with any further questions we may have. Once we’ve established a conversation, and you’re comfortable with us, it’s time to get onto working with each other. So come in and meet the team. We have one of those posh coffee pod thingamajigs. And a pool table! Let’s talk about you, your business and what it is you want to achieve.

But I hardly know you. How do I know you’re the right fit? The truth is that you don’t. It’s like all new relationships. You need to take small steps first. How about trying us out by giving us a small project? What are we saying? Give us your whole account (pretty please)! To be honest, working on a small project will allow us to see how we get on with each other. It can be an ideal way of kicking off a relationship with an agency. See it as a first date. We’d only go for a quick drink on a first date, wouldn’t we? Wouldn’t we? Remember that the more your agency knows about you and your business, the more likely they are to come up with a solution that works straight away, saving you both time and money. And that’s a good thing, right? Once we’ve met up, drunk some coffee, exchanged business cards, baby/dog photos, and you’ve decided that you‘d like to start working together, then we can begin producing a brief.

What, there’s more work to do still? Come along, this is fun! Left, right, left, right »


What is a brief & where do they come from? What is a brief? A brief is a document that sets out in writing exactly what you want your creative agency to accomplish. It defines the scope of the work to be undertaken and ensures that, as the project moves forward, there’s something to check that progress against. Briefs should be written down. Verbal briefs are often too subjective, can be forgotten, misconstrued or even misheard. A simple, clear and well written brief can avoid lots of misunderstandings further down the line, by enabling everyone to agree on the direction of the project right at the very beginning of the creative process.

Writing a brief A brief should include relevant information about your company, especially if it’s the first time you’ve worked with a creative agency. It should clearly state the reasons and the objectives behind the project. It should also outline your budget, your measurable goals and the timescale for the completion of the job.

“Designers need briefs like newsreaders need news.” Adrian Shaughnessy


A brief should contain… Some background information Who you are? What are your product or services? Who are your competitors? Where do you see yourself in the market? Project objectives What exactly is it you want to achieve and what is the ideal outcome for your project? Scope & constraints Does the project have to fit within existing guidelines? Are there any legal requirements that have to be considered etc The creative direction What’s the look and feel of the project? What’s the tone of voice that should be used; who are we speaking to? What’s the mood and focus of the project. Are there other similar projects to align the work to? Process How will the project be managed? What is the schedule? What are the contact details of the stakeholders involved in the project? Measuring success How will the success of the project be calculated? Is the end result quantifiable and who should we report into? Handover How the project is to be finally approved? Are there any legal or sign off issues? Is there a hand-holding or support period required? Now if all that looks a bit scary, don’t panic. We don’t expect you to meet us for the first time with a complete brief. A brief is partly collaborative, the information in it comes out of the meeting between client and agency, it’s the result of a discussion.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to write the brief on your own. We’ll help.


The end? Once you’ve got a brief agreed with your agency, it’s time to focus on the design process itself. We’ll be exploring that in a future edition. We hope you’ve enjoyed our first Field Guide. We had lots fun putting it together. If you’ve got any comments, or have any ideas for future Field Guide titles, then please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. We’d also love you to call us and discuss anything you might have that we can help with. Our premises in St Margarets are a perfect place to meet for an informal chat or we’re more than happy to come to you.

sodacreates.co.uk t 01483 238920 hello@sodacreates.co.uk Soda, c/o The Completely Group, Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX Registered Offices: Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX Registered in England no. 5150978 – VAT registration no. 854 6758 79


Notes


Our Field Guides are little books designed to help you get the best out of your design and marketing. If you have any suggestions or comments please drop us a line. If you like this then please pass it along using your favourite social network *cough* Facebook *cough*.

sodacreates.co.uk


Field Guide 1 - Finding and working with a creative agency