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How do you choose the right creative partner?

If you find choosing a creative partner, whether an agency, a freelancer, or both a challenging process then you are not alone. I recently spoke with John van Tuyll, Head of Brand Marketing Operations at adidas to gain a client side insight on his experiences of choosing the right partners.

Big or small? How do you choose the right creative partner?
Q: “John, how do choose your creative partners?”
A: “adidas is a large global organisation with many stakeholders, complex issues and structure so we often benefit from the broader resources of a large agency especially when we are developing huge campaigns including global TV commercials. This is because only a large ad agency has the breadth and depth of specialities and international reach required to handle this type of project.”

Q: “Are there times when freelancers or a hand picked team of freelancers are beneficial?”
A: “Yes, we are all for using freelancers. If we are developing a smaller more nimble campaign or something specifically retail or graphic focused then freelancers can definitely offer speed, flexibility and short communication lines that large agencies can’t. Freelancers are especially suited to you if your company has an established brand style guide or if your company has a small group of key decision makers with a clearly defined focus.”

Another good example here is my own experience of working with Bavaria. Together we are currently developing a new product and because Bavaria has a small number of key decision makers with a clear vision we are producing some outstanding results.

Do they ‘get’ you? Or have they just romantisied your brand?
Q: “John, have you had good experiences working with both freelancers and agencies?”
A: “Yes, the challenge has been picking the right ones because there are so many to choose from. Often the challenge for large brands like adidas is the fine line in balancing strict global guidelines with fresh and original creativity. We often get new agencies or freelancers trying to pitch us unprompted ideas that can be irrelevant and are not at all in line with where we are going with the brand.”

A challenge in working with both agencies and freelancers is that they can romantise working for your brand and lack the understanding of your company politics or worse your marketing strategy. Many years ago a younger version of myself was certainly guilty of this. I looked up to certain brands thinking that I could change them for the better. Today I’ve learnt that understanding commercial objectives and company politics is key to strong and relevant creativity.

Q: “John, how do you find a creative partner that understands your challenges and restrictions?”
A: “This is best managed with good briefing, working closely together throughout the project and giving consolidated feedback.”

Another trick here is to start small. Give your agency or freelancer a smaller project to see if you are on the same wavelength. This has never failed to help me build trust with my new clients.

Written by Hayden Roberts.

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