Managing Creative to be on Strategy

Outsourcing and maintaining strategic direction


Having outsourced for many years at all different levels of budget size – whether that is from the most high end production suppliers to an online service like 99 Designs or Elance there are some pros and cons to doing this well to ensure the strategic direction is maintained as well as efficiencies. Many of these talented creatives are off shore or interstate and communicate via web links, online briefing or at least email with hardly any face to face contact these days. Here are my thoughts on some pitfalls and opportunities:

1. Understand that brand that you’re working on. Nothing should be produced without considering the brand values and the quality of the production meeting that brand’s look and feel. That may mean that the concepts need to be changed to be affordable and in the right context to suit that brand if there isn’t the budget to deliver a complex idea. 

2. Have some strategy in mind – ask ‘Why?’ you’re creating what you’re doing and think about the business objectives as well as working on getting a great idea. It’s not all about the individual execution or the idea – it needs to be done for the right reasons. What else needs to be done to maximise the opportunity?  Ensure your suppliers read any research reports that has been undertaken. 

3. Choose the right supplier for the right job. This means you need to know what you’re looking for. Folio pieces also don’t necessarily reflect just what each person did on the work. Don’t assume that they did everything so to ensure you get people who are actually capable of doing what is asked of them.

4. Brief with an understanding of their skills. Get the best out of them and catch any potential issues in how they’re likely to work. This means you drive them to do better than they might without you.

5. Don’t think that suppliers are one stop shops (unless they really are). Some services where they claim to be one stop shops may be true within a certain production style or quality, but they’re limited in other ways. Many suppliers claim this but really they’re pushing their own people and trying to up-skill on your job.

6. If you don’t really understand what you’re doing then use a production consultant or service to work for you to find the right suppliers and negotiate the right price for you. From my experience the really experienced creative services managers and consultants actually save you money or add to the value of the content even with their own fees involved. Experience tells me that this can be around 25% if they’re good. It is a false economy to think that someone consulting for you is an added cost. Keeping a complex job on track is worth volumes in potential over-runs and additional charges (that may even sound legitimate by the well meaning supplier, but there may be another way or good process would avoid the cost).

7. Pay promptly and fairly. A lot of creative outsourced talent is jaded a little by people that want something for nothing and don’t pay timely. Having a solid payment system gets the ‘laundry’ out of the way and the creative people can then focus on doing a great job. Since a lot of creative services are intellectual they’re also emotional. Treating suppliers well where it counts actually adds to the quality or value of what they deliver.

8. Have a clear brief and include references of what you do and don’t like. Use visuals as much as possible.

9. Use email and online communication for day to day communications but jump onto the phone or Skype for the opportunity to discuss and collaborate.

10. Get your own approval chains sorted out first. Collect up all the feedback in the one go and brief in changes or approvals in key, agreed, stages. Most of all ensure that this is cross-referenced to your strategy and take out your own subjectivity. You are not necessarily making the creative work for yourself, but for a very particular audience. A lot of to and fro in changes will just add to the bill as overages or alternatively takes away from the quality of the potential of the project and moves it further away from your strategy.

Your project managers are likely to be the kind of people that simply make what they're asked to without questioning the overall strategy and the overall creative fit to the consumer. Make sure that they are accountable for the strategic direction as well as creative success of the work. 


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