How creative production can improve client-agency relationships

5 creative production tips every team should practice.

Historically, the focus of client-agency relationships has tended to be around the delivery of the creative idea, with production coming much further down the line or in some instances an afterthought.

However, with an unprecedented level of customisation needed on ever expanding platforms, all delivered under increasingly tight timelines, it’s not surprising that production is coming to the forefront.

It’s also not surprising that the WFA recently reported in a global production survey that clients rated their content production model a 5 out of 10, not a great starting point.

Creative production – an opportunity to improve.

More encouragingly, figures from Aprais’ global database of more than 24,000 client-agency interactions over the last 20 years show that substantial and rapid improvements in client ratings of agency production are achievable.

All this points to an opportunity to improve not just creative production, but the overall client-agency relationship.

The chart below maps the client scores of production-related areas in Aprais’ database.

Starting with a score of 56 (out of 100) for the first evaluation, the score jumps to 71 after three further evaluations. As these evaluations are usually held every 6-months, that means a potential 25% improvement in just 18 months. This shows that regular, formalised evaluations can achieve rapid improvements in client scores of agency creative production performance.

Client scores of agency – bottom 10% of agencies
5 tips to improve creative production

Using MCA’s experience combined with insights from the Aprais data, we identified five key areas that can drive improvement with regular reviews of the overall client-agency relationship;

  1. Early Involvement and alignment
    We often see the comms process being led by the client, creative partners and media agencies. These partners are clearly all important to the process but this can come at the exclusion of other key stakeholders in the process.

    Even agency producers are often left on the side-line until the last minute. Getting all parties around the table and aligned on overall strategy, key objectives, timings, and key deliverables at an early stage are critical to both optimise the process and identify any potential challenges.

  2. Visibility on the total scope of work
    Providing visibility to all parties of what is coming down the track can have huge benefits but is something that clients often struggle with. It’s essential to have a clear process in place for scope of work to ensure the maximum opportunity to plan workflow and resources, to combine work streams and bundle productions together, and help identify multi-market requirements.

    This also has a knock-on benefit for key agency partners, who are better able to manage resources and plan to meet the inevitable peaks and troughs that come with every campaign delivery.

  3. Process & Transparency
    It might sound a little boring or against the free-flowing creative process, but aligning and agreeing on core principles and processes at the very start will help drive a more efficient and effective process.
    In turn, the biggest challenge to delivering great work, on time and on the budget is time itself.  

    Clients will often say they felt pressured to make decisions and agencies say they never have enough time. Whilst nobody has found the ability to turn the clock back, agreeing on a robust process, being transparent at every stage and being open and flexible when needed always helps.

  4. Budgeting & Costing
    Don’t shy away from talking about money. Setting appropriate budgets at the very start of the creative process allows all parties to ‘cut their cloth’ accordingly. This does not mean compromising on the quality of the creative or the production values of the final asset, rather, it drives the right conversations and enables the right decisions for all parties in the process.

  5. Strategic Vision
    Laddering down from the overall company and brand vision should not stop at the creative briefing stage, but it often does. Having a joined-up strategy that runs through every vein of the comms development process is not only motivating for all parties but also drives the right behaviours and decisions at every stage.

    This is even more important for the production ecosystem, which is having to deal with more pressures, the creation of more assets, delivered through more channels, all on increasingly tight timelines. Expressing and sharing the business & brand vision early on allows time to adapt and optimise the production ecosystem to best serve the needs of both the client and agencies.

Stefan Kerridge is Chief Strategy Officer at MCA. Murphy Cobb & Associates is an Aprais strategic partner.

More evidence

To see how systematic and objective evaluations between marketers and their agencies can result in improved performance, download our report ‘Evaluations Work’.