Creative café: are you being served?

Published in Slogan (October 2010)

Ayesha Hoda recounts the story of client servicing from the creative team’s perspective.

Life in the creative department starts with a salty email from the client service/account executive and ends with the innumerable campaign entrées that will be served hot to the client.

The creative team is often at war with the client service team. First there is a predictable, almost-friendly tussle over the creative brief – an essential ingredient – which, it is said, the client almost never provides. Often the executive defends himself saying the client did not really say much about what he wants and ‘I’ elaborated this much for ‘your’ benefit and understanding.

Once the brief formality is out of the way, the cooking, i.e., the brainstorming session starts. The creative chef (manager) is expected to churn out great ideas, which are also doable within the deadline. At the mention of that deadly word, the guard of the creative manager goes up – he knows he will soon be cajoled, blackmailed or coerced into accepting less time than he deserves.

Based on past experiences, the account executive and his manager use one of these strategies to convince him that it is a do or die situation, things can turn sour with the client without timely deliverables and ASAP as always is the best policy. Some knives are thrown each way but the creative unit almost always has to give in to the demands of client servicing.

Back in his department, the creative manager directs his copywriters and creative executives / designers: the artworks must be ready by COB tomorrow. All the usual ingredients are brought together, to be blended in the tried and tested ways. Sometimes past researches and previously rejected pitches for other clients are retrieved, to be peppered with some new design elements. At other times, ideas and taglines may be poached from the internet.

The genuine creative cooks struggle to strike a balance between satisfying their own creative souls – producing something out-of-the-box – and completing the work on time so that the client service unit can save face. Somewhere down this road, comes the ‘Eureka’ moment when the main ingredient, that is, the BIG IDEA is found.

After a late-sitting and early morning, the creative cooks prepare to serve the campaign options, to be tested by the client service. Waiting for the reaction is no easy task. The reaction is almost never neutral. It will either be a heart-warming “Wow” or a blunt rejection.

Either way, some changes are sure to follow till the creatives hit the boiling point. While some inputs (given from an idea-selling perspective) are valuable, others (given by recently hired executives with no background in design) can be tiresome. With the colour wheel and design principles thrown out of the window, some executives demand changes in colour, shape, images, video etc. based on their aesthetic sense (or the lack of it). Reasons as illogical as “This is my favourite colour” can be used to justify the change.

The work that is then presented or emailed to the client is generally a unique mixture of creative wishes and client service whims. In a temporary period of quietness and bliss, the creative and client service teams wait for the client’s response.

This response determines the client service team’s next set of actions. The creative can expect sarcasm or angry outbursts if the response is negative. Even if the campaign ideas are not rejected, a plethora of changes are sure to follow. While the client may praise the ideas, there will always be some addition, some little tit bit here and there that will be changed. Despite the ire of the creative, it is difficult for the client service team to hold on to its own ideas: the client is king and work needs to be completed on time. So creative battles do not last very long and creativity can be compromised to please the client.

The final ad or PR campaign then depends a lot on the understanding and trust of the client, and the persuasive powers of client service professionals. Their skills can help make a campaign brilliant and tasteful, or one that leads to dyspepsia.


12 thoughts on “Creative café: are you being served?

  1. Hello!, Very interest angle, we were talking about the same thing at work and found your site very stimulating. So felt compelled to com?ment a little thank you for all your effort. Please keep up the great work your doing!

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