Understanding the new
A number of recent new business wins have reminded me how much I love working on new clients. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the sort of guys who are attracted by the ‘newest and shiniest thing’ but I love...
a number of recent new business wins have reminded me how much i love working on new clients. don’t get me wrong, i’m not the sort of guys who are attracted by the ‘newest and shiniest thing’ but i love the learning and discovery that comes from building your understanding of a business and an industry.
new clients, especially those in industries you’ve not worked in before, deliver a level of stimulation and curiosity that you don’t get with clients you know inside and out.
as a strategist, i get to work with many of our new clients helping to deliver the ‘insights’ bit of insight creative. that means a mix of business, communication and channel strategy to ensure that the work we do delivers the results clients need.
i start most new client relationships by reading their annual report. some are better than others but all give me a sense of who the organisation is and what they see as important. the good ones give you a clear sense of the direction they are driving the business and an appreciation of their strengths and opportunities. the style of the report tells me something about the tone of the organisation and their focus on the needs of their stakeholders.
i tend to follow this up with a bit of online research, starting with a media search for the category. this helps me understand external pressures – like consumer trends, politics, supply issues, technology, etc - that drive company decision.
by now, i have learnt a who lot of stuff i didn’t know about the industry and the business. chances are that i also have a whole lot of questions so catching up with some of the client’s leadership team helps round out the picture. in these discussions i generally focus in on three areas:
- the value chain to understand how they make money and where growth will come from. after all, our work will be part of how they drive that growth;
- the audiences they are aiming for, what drives them and the unique value proposition they offer each audience; and
- the culture of the organisation particularly around decision-making, change, risks and innovation. this gives me a good sense of how far we’ll be able to push our ideas and design.
this process isn’t just about what i enjoy and my learning. the output is a session with everyone who will work on this new client to talk through what we’ve learnt and what that means in terms of how we best work with them.learning, discovery, learning, new business, business wins, business strategy
Taking a deep dive into understanding our client’s businesses is always one of the most fascinating part of our jobs. Last Thursday Gabe and Holly were lucky enough to spend the morning with our lovely clients at...
taking a deep dive into understanding our client’s businesses is always one of the most fascinating part of our jobs.
last thursday gabe and holly were lucky enough to spend the morning with our lovely clients at airways. for those of you who don’t know a lot about airways, they provide our air navigation service and are responsible for monitoring and controlling the air traffic to ensure all aircrafts are travelling safely between airports in new zealand domestic and oceanic regions. their air traffic controllers are constantly in contact with the pilots arriving and departing new zealand.
after a work in progress meeting they headed over to the operations centre where their enculturation started.
as holly tells it, they were given a comprehensive overview: “did you know the airspace they control covers 26 million square kilometres including the pacific and tasman oceans which extends from the south pole to 5 degrees south of the equator?!“
they learnt about the ins and outs of air traffic control, flight path management, the different stages of flight and procedures that follow each. they were tutored in the different flight maps and charts and got a solid understanding of what’s involved in air traffic control training.
“these were all demonstrated to us when we visited the operations centre. no work station can be left unattended and a full handover must be given before a team member can be dismissed.”
here’s one person from the team monitoring the aircrafts flying into auckland.
holly continues: “from there we ventured up into the control tower where we had a full view of the runway and where three air traffic controllers were stationed. each controller was managing a different stage of flight and were busy chatting with the pilots. typically the training to be an air traffic controller takes 12 months, but with my 2 hours of training, the team felt i was qualified to at least put on the headphones and listen to the conversations!"
airways, client enculturation, insight creative
What makes good client service?
It’s the strangest experience when you’re climbing Mt Ngauruhoe on your way to reach the most beautiful coned top, when every step you take makes you slide further backwards. Strangely, somehow you do reach the...
it’s the strangest experience when you’re climbing mt ngauruhoe on your way to reach the most beautiful coned top, when every step you take makes you slide further backwards. strangely, somehow you do reach the top. it’s a lot later in the day though and you’re tired and scratched all over, but what an amazing feeling to finally stand up and look around. few vistas compare, and an especially good feeling when you’re standing next to your newlywed wife and best mate to take in the expansive landscape. that was almost 30 years ago…
i've lost count of the number of times i have thought back to that moment. when i do think back i’m usually reflecting on where we’re at with a project. the stage where the client indicates their brand project is on hold, the marcomms project is changing direction, that digital project requires more (…), etc.
we recently had a high-profile marcomms project change its course. the project was slowed down whilst many aspects are being reconsidered. this is a tough time for one of our key contacts who has given the project a lot of their energy and is emotionally invested too. a phone call with the client, a chat that was reflective but also forward looking, proved to be a worthwhile opportunity to lend support. we agreed that, although the track had gotten a little more tricky, we’d find a way to continue our way to the top together.
the promise of success is pretty powerful, if you believe in it. often, we’re the ones who have the opportunity to motivate our clients, keep them going, support or guide them. it can be during these times that the client needs us most. and when we start climbing again, it somehow seems to get a little easier.partnering clients, supporting and motivating clients, the supporting role of creative agencies, keeping clients motivated
When is a prescribed solution not the right answer?
The client briefing at their office had not felt right from the start. We had enjoyed working with this client for some time and had always thought we were in a partnership. However, today was different. There...
the client briefing at their office had not felt right from the start. we had enjoyed working with this client for some time and had always thought we were in a partnership. however, today was different.
there were none of the preambles chat about how the weekend was, and the client team looked like they needed to be elsewhere. the brief that was handed out was a tome. it felt as dense as the atmosphere in the room and was filled with pages of technical jargon.
after being given a cursory review of the opportunity and why the brief had been written, i asked for more details. it was clear at a glance the proposition was vague, and the brief hadn’t defined what success looked like at the end. it was also prescriptive and telling us what the solution had to be.
“this needs to be done. just get on with it please.”
so with that, the client looked at her watch, stood up and said she had to go.
as i suspected, the client had other significant issues on her plate and that day’s briefing was an anomaly. however, knowing that later didn’t help me in the ride back to the agency that day.
the tricky part was being told to deliver a prescribed solution.
reading the brief in the back of the uber, i surmised we could live without clear goals. they could be drawn out in the reverse brief stage. i also knew we could tighten the proposition.
the tricky part though was being told to deliver a prescribed solution. agencies and clients work best when they start at the beginning of an opportunity or problem with an agnostic approach to the solution. it invariably never works when a client says we must have ‘one of these, one of those and two of them’. it also restricts us producing what we’re paid to deliver – the best insight-led solutions that make people sit up, take notice and act.
besides, if the parameters are too tight, the breadth of thinking becomes restricted and real creativity risks being suffocated.
however, it’s not just clients who can prescribe solutions. every client service person has been guilty of rushing a brief, ‘banging out a solution’ and handing it over to the creative team without really thinking about what needs to be solved.
before writing a brief, i always recall one of my favourite lines ‘i apologise for the length of this letter, but i did not have time to write a shorter one’. by making a brief sharper, tighter and more focused, invariably the creative work that comes out is sharper, tighter and more focused. instead of confining the work, tighter briefs will have the opposite effect. they instead have a liberating impact on creatives who can more easily explore in and around the direction the brief provides.
which also means not being prescriptive with a solution.
but how to address this with the client?
agencies produce their best work through collaboration. not just within their own walls, but with their clients. no matter how well we think we know our client’s business, they bring a unique point of view to the process. at the beginning of each relationship, agencies should always stress that they want their clients actively involved in the work. this particular client was usually a more than willing participant, and i knew that by asking her more questions – in a day or so – that her experience working with us would come to the fore.
which it eventually did. based on the original brief it was clear our client hadn’t taken the time to ‘write a shorter letter’. instead of pushing on we went back and asked three clarification questions; 1) what exactly was the business problem and why was solving it was so important 2) what did we want our target audience to feel, think and do as a result of our work and finally, 3) what did success look like and how were we going to measure it.
by being open, not rushing the reverse brief process and helping our busy client ‘write that shorter letter’, we got her to realise her first brief wasn’t going to deliver the results she wanted.
the eventual result exceeded the expectations of everyone involved.
Sticking to your annual report timetable
I’ve just spent two full days with about 20 annual report preparers on an integrated reporting training course. In amongst the learning and sharing experiences about preparing content for integrated reports, it...
i’ve just spent two full days with about 20 annual report preparers on an integrated reporting training course.
in amongst the learning and sharing experiences about preparing content for integrated reports, it became very clear that the internal process of herding the various cats within the organisation who are responsible for their own pieces of content can be a harrowing experience.
as annual report producers, we feel it hugely when clients don’t meet the contract that is the agreed timetable. currently we have 15 annual reports progressing their way through our artwork studio, and managing the logistics of typesetting and design turnarounds and checking all the changes accurately is an enormous challenge at the best of times. but when the client is late with their content – and more than one coincides in that regard – the pressure goes on us to catch the timetable up, and that’s usually physically impossible (although we always try our damnedest!).
"it became very clear that the internal process of herding the various cats within the organisation can be a harrowing experience."
and so i couldn’t help but have empathy with the individuals on the course. their task is a thankless one, often. and their demands on others in their organisation are often dismissed as less important than their own work and thus ignored. and because these contributors are often many levels senior to the poor content co-ordinator, the imbalance of power plays out very visibly.
occasionally companies will even outsource this co-ordination – and often writing – to a short-term internal or external contractor. well, if an internal employee has no clout, then you can imagine how well demands from some hired help is accepted (or not!). one attendee even told me of last year’s contractor whose contract wasn’t renewed this year because his efforts to deliver to the timeline were not taken at all well by those whose job it was to deliver content but failed to do so on time. and now the internal employee is being treated in much the same way. and this is from a major new zealand company who should, quite frankly, know better.
these projects are a massive undertaking for any organisation. but they’re not a voluntary exercise. companies don’t do this because they want to. they do it because they have to. and they need to do it to the best of their ability because so many critical people will form their views of the company – and make critical decisions on the company – as a result of the stories that are told, the future picture that is painted, the risks and opportunities that are highlighted, and the strategies that management are activating to achieve the company’s goals.
that’s no small thing.
so what’s required to grease the wheels for these projects?
first, leadership. the c-suite needs to send clear messages that the process is important to the business, important to the board, and set clear expectations that those contributing must meet their deadlines. often the target for this message is the members of the leadership team itself, so it falls to the ceo to make his requirements vividly clear.
second, the project co-ordinator. this role needs a loud and strong champion - his/her manager and department head. that manager also needs to set clear expectations and fiercely defend and support the project co-ordinator, taking the internal battles on personally if required to reset the tone. the project co-ordinator also needs a certain personality: dogged, persistent, strong, resilient, and yet always professional and polite. they also need the appropriate level of seniority and maturity to achieve the goals.
and finally, the internal process. there are a host of elements to be brought into play here. perhaps an initial meeting of all contributors where they are educated on the intricate and highly inter-dependent process, where domino effects can easily jeopardise the vital end delivery. perhaps a shared online project management system where every contributor’s role is mapped, tracked and monitored, and visibility is such that peers can see who’s letting the side down, whether it’s in content delivery or meeting their deadlines through the iteration and checking part of the process.
but in the end, it’s about the corporate culture. the working together. the seeing internal clients as ‘clients’ that need to be serviced just like external clients. and culture is established by the company’s senior leader.
it starts and ends right at the top.image: the japan times / roger dahl annual reports, timetable
A Good Experience
What do clients want? It’s been 25 or so years that I’ve been, in some capacity, in front of clients. In fact, longer if I add the time I’ve been in front of customers: the lovely people that visited our...
what do clients want?
it’s been 25 or so years that i’ve been, in some capacity, in front of clients. in fact, longer if i add the time i’ve been in front of customers: the lovely people that visited our liquor shop back in holland. their needs were rarely a challenge. they would point to a bottle (jenever, whisky, beer, 7up, etc), followed by an exchange of money, and that was that.
occasionally a wine connoisseur would drop in – my mum loved these people since wines were her passion, her specialty – they described at length, and sometimes rather colourfully, the type of wine they were looking for.
they loved my mum. she’d talk with great insight and fluidly flick between dutch and french and german to articulate the wine’s properties, its background, etc., making the whole experience rather authentic for the connoisseur. we stocked good and great wines, and some were collectables with prices to match.
once a year, the regulars would be invited into our living room, literally at the other side of the shop’s till, for the first release of the beaujolais primeur or nouveau. we were the first ones in our home town every year to stock the new release (that was my dad’s thing – always wanting to be first with everything. something about differentiation). these were exciting social get togethers. mum and dad would be chatty, hand out cheese and bread with a glass of beaujoulais and in the company of ‘friends’ tipple a few afternoons away (incidentally, i’ve never seen them drunk. some of our customers yes, but not my mum and dad).
customers loved it, they felt very special.
"no one created the experience my parents offered, such was our brand."
you could get the wine in most liquor shops within a day or so of the release, but no one created the experience my parents offered, such was our brand.
working with a design agency now, the client doesn’t point to a product. they are much more like the wine connoisseur. like in my mum’s world, these people come to us because we are the specialists, they have a particular need not easily come by. what else do these clients want?
a rounded, authentic, savvy offering means a lot more to these clients than a clinical transactional exchange of service for money.
my mum was a good listener and took her time with customers. mum always let people finish what they had to say, used pauses for reflection and asked lots of questions to find out more about the customer’s likes and dislikes. being genuinely interested in people’s stories made the whole approach a lot easier.
mum was excellent at talking the customer’s ‘language’. she would pick up on people’s jargon and use it back to them in a respectful manner. so much so that wannabe connoisseurs (the odd wine dabbler deserving of an education) would be suitably advised in their own ‘language’, leaving a whole lot smarter, only to come back for more another day. she also managed to elevate conversations so it all felt a bit more special. she would use words like 'chique' (french for elegant) and kostbaar instead of prijzig (prijzig = costly, kostbaar = valuable), simply adding a bit of panache which reflected the wine on offer. you could say that she used her own tone of voice.
and mum was and is a gezellig mens (a cozy person, inviting, engaging, warm and appreciative - words fail to explain it properly), with a slightly dark wit that keeps you tuned in, in a good way.
what do clients want?
let’s rephrase. how do we make our clients feel when they come looking for what they want?
clients, design agency, service experience, insight creative
Spark has announced it's adopting an agile way of working across its business. I applaud them for so tangibly demonstrating their commitment to breaking down silos, improving speed to market, innovation and achieving...
spark has announced it's adopting an agile way of working across its business. i applaud them for so tangibly demonstrating their commitment to breaking down silos, improving speed to market, innovation and achieving more customer focused solutions.
i’ll follow their progress with great interest, knowing that what they’re proposing challenges almost everything we know about organisational behaviour.
an agile spark transforms from a traditional hierarchical structure, with large business units, to small self-managing teams (squads), each with clear accountabilities. they collaborate with one another to deliver specific products and service projects for customers and for the good of the organisation. it’s no longer about people working in a particular business unit or function. in this model, senior leaders act as catalysts, setting direction and establishing systems for people to do their jobs effectively. and they assemble the right mix of skills, talent and experience to collectively make decisions about the what, how and when of each project.
i worked in a self-managing operational team 20 plus years ago (an experimental team within a bigger traditional structure) and my experience was mostly positive, especially at the start. some of us embraced the freedom self-managing teams offered and the opportunity to contribute ideas, to learn, to step up and have a voice beyond our title. for others, the transition from what they knew was a step too far. eventually, as we settled into bau, my enthusiasm waned and i got frustrated at the inability to just get on and do stuff without needing a whole team involved. over a year, people naturally settled into a more specialist division of labour. as far as i can remember, the experiment never ended, it just naturally devolved back to the old way.
maybe this experience is driving my slight nervousness about how spark’s tribes approach will work for the people who work there.
"people at work are largely driven by fundamental motivators closely aligned with maslow’s hierarchy of needs."
history has taught us that people, and groups, at work are largely driven by fundamental motivators – closely aligned with maslow’s hierarchy of needs - like survival, recognition, reward, progression, belonging and identity. spark’s new approach delivers a number of challenges on many of these fronts.
with more emphasis on the team’s deliverables over an individual's, how do people know they are achieving? team success is one thing but we all still want to be recognised for our own contribution. and without a clear and recognisable hierarchy how do people plan for progress and feel that their career is going somewhere? no doubt, as you deliver more and more successful outcomes you’ll get to work on more complex and wide reaching projects. maybe this represents your growth and progress but people may still want the visible symbols of progress that titles, responsibility and hierarchy offer.
our jobs are a big part of our identity and therefore more fluidity in what i do has the potential to lead to less clarity in what i stand for. without a defined work identity there is a danger that people struggle to see themselves in their jobs and this could lead to some dissatisfaction for some.
traditional functions, teams and divisions also provide a sense of belonging that this team collective may not be able to replicate. i’ve worked with a number of clients who’ve moved to open plan, hot desk approaches only to find that people end up all sitting together in the same place and same desks every day. apart from the functional benefit, the clear lesson here is that people need to feel that they belong to something. as you move from project to project where do you actually belong? who are your people?
"as you move from project to project where do you actually belong? who are your people?"
organisational behaviour has a strong competitive undertow and this approach plays well to this. short sprint work allows quick results and satisfies our desire to achieve and win. but without that longer term focus, competitiveness may see the good of the project override the longer term good of the organisation. clear measures of success are needed to signal what really is important.
despite my concerns, i love the braveness of what spark are doing here. i really do want it to succeed. i encourage them to invest in a strong company-wide internal communications programme that builds momentum in the core idea behind this initiative. a programme that reinforces key long-term outcomes as well as immediate success stories, keeping people engaged with the entire organisation and its objectives. regular communication that promotes aligned interests and behaviours and helps people feel they belong to the bigger spark team and where the organisation is going.agile, tribes
What clients can expect
This week a client asked me for a service level agreement. We’ve produced a few of them over the years but for more technical processes such as website management. Given that managing expectations is key to good...
this week a client asked me for a service level agreement. we’ve produced a few of them over the years but for more technical processes such as website management.
given that managing expectations is key to good service, i approached the task with a broader client distribution in mind. as a result i’ve been drafting a ‘service promise’ that outlines what clients can expect when they work with us. and – fair’s fair - i’ve also outlined what we expect from them.
what do you think? does this fairly represent what you would expect from us if you were a client? what else do you think we should expect from clients?
what you can expect from us:
- listen and ask questions to make sure we are clear about your challenge, your audience and what you need.
- always deliver creative and innovative ways to engage your audiences and deliver the results you need.
- base all our recommendations on good insights, research and/or best practice models and frameworks.
- deliver the best solution across multiple mediums including print, on-line and experiential.
- give you our best professional advice on what the best course of action may be including challenging you (in a good way) if we think something isn’t right.
- utilise your expertise as a subject-matter expert.
- collaborate with you, and other parties you work with, to deliver the best results possible.
- ensure our work is correct and accurate at all times.
- assign you a dedicated relationship/project manager who will be your main point of contact for all dealings with us.
- take the time to understand your industry, your business, your objectives and the way you like to work.
- celebrate success with you.
- always allocate the required resource volumes and skills to your projects to ensure we can deliver what you need within the agreed timeframe and budget.
- return your calls, emails and texts within a reasonable timeframe.
- provide you with estimates for all work we undertake and outline the assumptions we’ve used in the estimate.
- never charge you more than the higher range of the estimate, unless the scope of the project has changed.
- notify you if something is out of scope before taking on the additional work. we’ll provide you with estimates for the additional work as soon as we are able to.
- deliver detailed project plans for all projects of a significant size, as agreed.
- use clear project methodology that facilitates the efficient and effective delivery of projects on time and on budget.
- keep you informed of progress against timeframes and budgets and raise any risks which arise that could compromise quality, budget or timeframe, at the soonest opportunity.
- work with a network of specialist partners who have the skills and professional practices to help us deliver the outcomes you need.
- take responsibility for all freelancers or contractors we bring in to help us deliver your work.
- have the appropriate insurances in place for the nature of the work we do for you.
- ensure adequate health and safety processes are in place for all work we undertake for you.
- make all endeavours to keep material, information and other items provided to us confidential and safe.
- notify you as soon as we become aware of any conflict of interest that may arise and propose a course of action to mitigate and manage the conflict to your satisfaction.
- have a clear escalation process if you are not happy with some aspect of our work or the way we are working together.
- comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
- keep good records of all time we spend on your projects.
- invoice monthly within eight working days of the end of the month.
what we expect from you in return:
- provide us with reasonable notice of work you intend to give us so we can plan the right level and type of resources for what you need.
- be open and forthright with all aspects of your business so that we can tailor our solutions to what’s right for you.
- be clear with your objectives and how success will be measured.
- give us some leeway to explore ideas and solutions that have the potential to deliver better strategic-creative outcomes.
- be reasonable in your expectations: effectively balancing the budget, time and quality trade-offs to achieve the best result possible.
- carefully consider all material we provide you before approving it. this helps minimise changes at later stages in the project which may add additional effort.
- provide us with the necessary information, content and approvals in a timely and orderly manner that allows us to deliver the agreed specifications, budget and timelines.
- keep us informed of any developments that may impact our ability to deliver the agreed specifications, budget and timelines.
- give us the opportunity to address any issues or concerns you may have.
- give us open and constructive feedback on our work and process so that we can continue to learn and grow as an organisation.
- pay us for all work you commission us to do – whether you progress with it or not.
- pay our invoices by the 20th of the month following the date of each invoice.
leave a comment below with your thoughts!
sla, service level agreement, client expectations, client satisfaction, design agency performance expectations
Angels and devils
' Angels and devils ' is how one of my clients organises her stakeholders. She’d prefer everyone to be an angel, a person that supports the cause, has bought into the process, actively engages....
she’d prefer everyone to be an angel, a person that supports the cause, has bought into the process, actively engages. these are the champions that make a brand project go a long way, smoothly. how does the saying go again? "you go faster alone but further together". enter the devil. you guessed it, the devil is the kind that goes faster alone (or nowhere at all). the devil tends to be a roadblock to new initiatives that break the routine, are different from bau, and given the opportunity, actively hinders the move forward, any move.
in my experience, devils don’t typically set out to work the furnaces. in fact, they often have relevant ideas, interesting observations, useful insights, and a surprising amount of energy to get things done. sadly, due to lack of support, direction and isolation the furnaces get stoked and the devil comes out.
devils have a lot of knowledge about their realm, how things work around here.
devils don’t like crowds and do love a little attention, to be taken seriously, listened to, and involved for their knowledge and experience.
devils are valuable stakeholders. devils can make the most fabulous angels. devils are worth spending a bit of time with. get to know them. offer support and be rewarded. the furnaces may continue to burn but with a soothing warmth rather than a charring heat.
and, who knows, you may uncover another angel.
Both sides now
The following article by Insight CEO, Steven Giannoulis, was published in the March 2018 issue of NZMarketing magazine. Client-agency partnerships are often love/hate relationships that leave both sides delighted...
the following article by insight ceo, steven giannoulis, was published in the march 2018 issue of nzmarketing magazine.
client-agency partnerships are often love/hate relationships that leave both sides delighted and frustrated all at the same time. insight creative’s ceo, steven giannoulis, shares his experience on both sides and dishes up advice on working better together.
many agency suits, strategists and even creatives switch from agency to client side at some point in their career. maybe it’s the ability to focus on one thing and do it well or the opportunity to call the shots on what gets done. often, it’s just that greater sense of job stability and structure that corporate life appears to offer.
when i started out as a marketer, the glamour and pace of the agency world really appealed. i envied them having the freedom to come up with clever ideas, every day working on cool and exciting projects, with the latest technology and hanging out in uber-creative environments. i, on the other hand, spent my life writing memos and business cases, analysing research and data, coordinating internal meetings and sign-offs while wrangling suppliers, distributors and sales teams. from my dull grey office-cubicle, the grass definitely looked greener on the other side.
over the next 20 years, as i moved up the ranks (and age brackets), i found myself falling less and less in love with the agency world. having worked with dozens of agencies - across advertising, digital, design, brand and dm - i found myself constantly frustrated at their focus on the coolest, newest and shiniest things. i seemed to be the financier of their obsession to come up with the most out-there ideas, win as many awards as possible, be the first to try the latest technology and to out-do something someone else had done.
it’s not that the work wasn’t great. most of it was brilliant and ultimately very successful, but often it felt like i had to work really hard to make it ‘fit for purpose.’ mostly agencies showed me extremely clever execution ideas and left it up to me to determine whether the ideas would communicate the messages and deliver the results needed. if i felt it didn’t (but had potential to), i got actively involved in dictating design and copy changes. this was often a battle of wills, as they focused on preserving the creative idea while i fought to improve roi. no doubt they were just as frustrated with me as i was with them.
"this was often a battle of wills, as they focused on preserving the creative idea while i fought to improve roi"
ironically, though many clients covet agency life, few make the switch across. it’s more common the other way.
in 2011, i had the opportunity to swap my cmo role for life as a strategist in a branding and design agency. i’ve always been a strategic marketer and i liked the idea of being able to work across multiple clients and industries to solve diverse business and communication problems. i was determined to use my own experiences with agencies to drive a client-led approach to delivering effective work.
over seven years, i’ve learnt that there is a lot of grind behind the creative exterior that agencies let clients see. i work just as hard now as i did when i was on the corporate side and (surprise, surprise) the bulk of my work is neither exciting nor glamorous. i’m always blown away at how passionate creatives are about producing amazing work. and they are way more strategic than we give them credit for. they prefer to let the work speak for itself rather than attempt to articulate the logic they followed.
and many clients have unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved, by when, and at what budget. in hindsight, i know i did. often this comes about because account management teams fall over themselves to deliver, constantly raising the expectation that clients have. and clients often expect agencies to just know stuff about their industry, their business or their other marketing activities but they don’t take the time to tell us about it.
“there will always be a tension between clients and agencies and in many ways this is healthy, driving each of us to do more”
there will always be a tension between clients and agencies and in many ways this is healthy, driving each of us to do more. we may think differently and speak a different language but we need what each of us brings to the relationships. understanding just what each party brings – and respecting it – can build a trust that creates powerful work. like the words of a good joni mitchell song, it always comes down to good communications, a little compromise, a whole lot of empathy and a shared vision of what you can do together.
once you’ve found it, hold onto it so both businesses can prosper.
steven’s advice to agencies on working better with clients
- take the time to learn the client’s business and their key challenges, opportunities and their strategy. these are the ‘why’ behind every brief and if you can deliver on these clients will always love you for it.
- invest in training your people on explaining their thinking using the client’s language. give them skills and tools to connect creative ideas with how these will lead to the desired business outcomes clients are paying for.
- push clients to think beyond what they know. they’ve done things that have worked and often look for you to do the tried and tested. show them why doing something different can deliver something better.
steven’s advice to clients on working better with agencies.
- brief in the problem or opportunity, not just the solution you think is needed. this allows the agency to think about all the best possible solutions to achieve the results.
- invest in the relationship. take time to ensure your agency knows your business, your audiences, your channels, what’s important to you and what you expect from them. let them know about the strategies and bigger picture their works fits into.
- there’s no point having a dog and barking yourself. trust the experts to do their job but always challenge them to come up with more creative and innovative ideas than you could have come up yourselves.
The Real Client Treatment
Talking to a (hopefully soon to be) client last week about growing staff advocacy for their client service experience, got me thinking about how well we apply our own service ethos to ourselves. This prospective...
talking to a (hopefully soon to be) client last week about growing staff advocacy for their client service experience, got me thinking about how well we apply our own service ethos to ourselves.
this prospective client works at one of the big banks and the discussion was about how to give staff a first-hand appreciation of the customer experience. it’s a wonderful idea and it aligns nicely with my desire for us to all see ourselves as our customers do.
client-first is one of our values. we track client satisfaction, monitor net promoter scores and actively look to engage clients in discussions about what we can we do better. these are all good actions and collectively they’ve contributed to making us exponentially more client-centric than we have ever been.
but it seems we still struggle to recognise the internal client as a real client. this manifests itself in numerous ways: from not meeting internal deadlines, not making time to address key internal matters, being late to internal meetings with no ‘heads-up’, or postponing internal meetings last minute because “i’m just too busy.” it shows in the priority given to new business proposals, marketing activities or other similar jobs, which are essential to our survival, but are the first to be put aside when external client work comes in.
mostly i see it in our business plan activities whose importance is somehow always trumped by the ‘urgent.’ it’s this work that will make the biggest difference to us and our clients but doing this work is never as high priority as even the smallest client job.
we wouldn’t dream of saying to a client “sorry, we didn’t do your job because work came in from a more important client.” effectively, that’s what we do every time we don’t deliver on our internal timeframes and promises. if we were our own client, we’d probably sack ourselves!
am i suggesting that we need to give our work priority over paying client work? yeah, maybe. mostly i’m saying that we can’t use clients as the excuse for not doing what we said we would. we must treat ourselves like a real client and manage expectations, agree realistic timeframes, communicate proactively and do everything we can to deliver what we said we would. and it starts by giving external clients realistic timeframes for delivering their work based on our full workload. never assume that we will just drop the internal work.
reality is, things happen and we need to reprioritise. and sometimes we just can’t find a way to do what we promised to do. talk to the client (internal or external) before the due date and agree a new timeframe and deliverables. most clients will be reasonable about it, if they can. and if the scope can’t change then at least they have the option to find alternative ways to achieve what they need. chances are they’ve also made promises and this allows them to manage any expectations they’ve created.
and as we all know, good service experiences are all about expectations being exceeded.
Tamaki Regeneration drop in a big box
Our client, Tāmaki Regeneration Company, really want people to know what's happening in the Tāmaki , Glen Innes and Panmure area. So they've dropped a big box into the neighbourhood that opens next Monday. ...
our client, tāmaki regeneration company, really want people to know what's happening in the tāmaki, glen innes and panmure area. so they've dropped a big box into the neighbourhood that opens next monday.
the container will move around within the tāmaki community - to community events or neighbourhoods breaking new ground. when open, the box will be manned by tāmaki representatives and the inside features detailed information regarding new housing developments, the story of tāmaki and what regeneration means, as well as a timeline, progress and future projects. and a touchscreen featuring interactive maps.
the container is powered by solar panels and includes a retractable awning to ensure it can operate in all weather conditions. our design is bold and bright, and on message: tāmaki is an awesome place to be!
tamaki regeneration, marketing, community engagement
Something special for NZSO’s 70th
The first ever concert of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) was held on this day in 1947. 70 years on and they are still going strong, attracting the cream of talent from New Zealand and around the world....
the first ever concert of the new zealand symphony orchestra (nzso) was held on this day in 1947. 70 years on and they are still going strong, attracting the cream of talent from new zealand and around the world. globally applauded and grammy-nominated, yet they still put all their passion and energy into entertaining and delighting kiwi audiences right round the country. happy birthday nzso, you make us very proud kiwis.
nzso has been a client of ours for three years and we are delighted to have helped them tell their brand story, grow their ticket sales and attract new audiences. they represent the pinnacle of creative excellence, inspiring us to lift our game to match theirs.
so what do you have on your 70th birthday? cake of course and our team were pleased to be a able to celebrate with them, presenting them with this special hand-made card designed exclusively by our creative director, brian slade.nzso, 70th birthday, congratulations
And we win again, and again, and again and again
NZ may not be doing too well in the Rio Olympics, but Insight is winning golds, slivers and bronzes where it really matters: the New York based international Annual Report Competition (ARC Awards). Gold: ...
nz may not be doing too well in the rio olympics, but insight is winning golds, slivers and bronzes where it really matters: the new york based international annual report competition (arc awards).
gold: sanford. the best combined annual and sustainability report in the world (they don’t have an integrated report category yet):
silver: nz super fund. with no gold awarded, it's still the best pension fund annual report in the world:
silver: stand children's services. the second best charitable organisation annual report in the world:
bronze: auckland international airport. the third best airport management annual report in the world:
this is effective design that is driven by the collective collaboration of our strategists and creative talents. you can read in depth case studies on the gold and silver winners here on this website. to help you find them easily, we've collected them together for you right here.
arc awards, design awards, annual reports
Awards, awards and more awards
Last week's Australasian Reporting Awards (ARA) resulted in massive success for every one of our clients who entered (all two of them!) But 100% success is still 100% success. And as Insight is the common denominator,...
last week's australasian reporting awards (ara) resulted in massive success for every one of our clients who entered (all two of them!) but 100% success is still 100% success. and as insight is the common denominator, let's draw this achievement to your attention.
nz super fund
not only did the 2015 nz super fund annual report receive a gold award (one of only four new zealand companies to receive a gold), it also won best of two categories in the special awards:
winner, governance reporting - public sector, and
winner, online reporting - public sector
and all this on top of last month's win as best annual report in the 2016 asia-pacific excellence awards
our sanford integrated report also made a big impact at the awards, also winning a gold award, and also taking out a total of three categories in the special awards:
winner, sustainability reporting award - private sector
winner, integrated reporting
winner, ara hong kong sustainability award
view our case study on this integrated report here.
congratulations too, to the only other new zealand company to win a special award: watercare services (sustainability reporting award - other).
ara awards, sanford, nz super, winners
Spirit of ANZAC
This Thursday 21st April and Friday 22nd April, our client the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra continues to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in a special concert of remembrance and...
Creative Director, Brian Slade, concludes his review of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. In the last in this series, we take a look at how a picture can say quite a bit. As designers, we...
creative director, brian slade, concludes his review of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.
in the last in this series, we take a look at how a picture can say quite a bit.
as designers, we use imagery a lot right? it obviously ranges from the well considered, art-directed, idea-based to the sometimes not so much! personally i like to encourage clients to allow us to generate their own imagery, but image libraries have come a long way and definitely can play their part.
precinct decided to go very low key with their report this year, but all it took was the inclusion of one hero image to set the document up to be more than the simple mandatory regulatory document.
fletcher building fully embraced our art-directed, direct-to-camera approach to show the scale and scope of their operations. with a good mix of detailed ambient imagery and site specific images the reports are high impact and engaging.
a clever use of metaphor imagery was used in this spread for auckland international airport… simple but effective integration and play with the type and messaging.
stock photography that worked well in my view was used on the vital healthcare property trust investor newsletter update. a touch of humour, and it mixed well with the overall graphic direction of this year's report.
the final word goes to the sanford team, the last of this season's reports. with a theme of ‘salt in our veins’ connecting sanford's genuine passion and resolve to achieve a sustainable future, we worked with lush and beauftifully executed ‘brand’ imagery supplied by a third party.
thanks for reading this far… let me know what you think of these creative projects and this review of our reports.2015 annual reporting season review - imagery
Creative Director, Brian Slade, reviews aspects of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. As designers, it’s what we do. The definition of graphics, from the Greek graphikos, is ‘something...
creative director, brian slade, reviews aspects of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.
as designers, it’s what we do. the definition of graphics, from the greek graphikos, is ‘something written e.g. autograph, visual images or designs on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, screen, paper or stone to inform, illustrate, or entertain…'
vital is a great example of the use of graphics combined with the overall message to communicate with a very positive effect. the target device works well to keep on giving, used on a few spreads and as a cover for the shareholder newsletter - simple, clear and effective.
nati whatua o orakei has this delightful spread in it: a timeline that is a real pleasure to look at. aesthetics are crucial in delivering strong graphics and this spread is confident, bold and assured. giving me a sense that what i’m looking at is controlled and purposeful. i think this is a real win for the report.
in a previous post in this series, we looked at the deconstructed typography in stand children’s services report this year. however this report also illustrates how type can be treated as a graphic element to help tell the story. each deconstructed typo’graphic’ element was balanced and considered in relationship to the image on the spread and the accompanying text.
a strong part of our ports of auckland identity tool kit is the set of icons we use to illustrate the volumes and diversity that come across its wharves each year… 28,349 tonnes of tractors… and how many tonnes of bananas do you think?
steadfast threw up its challenges this year. we were required to explore a very high number of cover options. it was finally resolved with this well-executed graphic cover that draws from the logo shape to house a diverse range of staff and customers linked through the client's logo.
we’ve been working with transpower to graphically illustrate how they are connecting new zealanders through the use of an illustrative image. we’ve been able to use this graphic flexibly across the reports to give the appearance of change without the base document elements changing. this has allowed for economic production and efficiencies.
2015 annual reporting season review - graphics
if you’ve read this far congratulations… let me know what you think of these creative projects and keep an eye out for the last powerful annual reporting results 05. imagery.
Creative Director, Brian Slade, reviews aspects of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. A highly emotive aspect to all graphic communications and subject to trends and association, colour...
creative director, brian slade, reviews aspects of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.
a highly emotive aspect to all graphic communications and subject to trends and association, colour throws up challenges that can scare even the most battle-hardened of designers and be an ‘aladdin’s cave’ for others.
ngati whatua’s three reports rely on strong colours to distinguish between them, ochre, blood red and green with a healthy dollop of black. this primary colour palette supported by desaturated and well graded full colour imagery has developed over the past three years, creating a very solid and consistent look and feel.
if you're after a colour fest, stand children’s services' report takes it to the next level. the first 27 pages are uncompromisingly full-on colour, multiplied over full colour images that were delicately image-worked to create subtle depth. a brand full of colour, this document is colour central.
soft and muted tones support nz super fund's visual identity. excellently executed, this year's report creates a sense of calm, organisation and thoughtfulness. colour tabbing is cleverly used on the leading edges of the pages to aid navigation between the multitude of financials.
vital’s two primary support colours are used really well in this report to focus the viewer on the graphic message. strong use of ‘controlled’ white space guides you and helps focus the eye on the target. this report feels clean, fresh and clinical.
there are generally two ways to ‘own’ colour in a visual identity. either minimise its use within a communication, using supportive neutral colours for it to be projected off, or minimise the use of other colours in the palette and use it boldly. this year for ports of auckland, we pulled back on the colour usage with a few notable exceptions on the infographics pages, restraining the report to only a couple of colours.
if you’ve read this far, congratulations… let us know what you think of these creative projects and keep an eye out for powerful annual reporting results 04. graphics, coming soon.2015 annual reporting season review - colour
Creative Director, Brian Slade, reviews aspects of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. Typography remains a powerful weapon for any designer to wield in their creative work. In the last few...
creative director, brian slade, reviews aspects of insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season.
typography remains a powerful weapon for any designer to wield in their creative work. in the last few months of 2015, the design team showed their skills and passions to good effect.
david storey and natalie moinfar created a new headline font for nati whatua’s three reports. completely bespoke, this hand crafted font has an authenticity and freshness that uses three parallel lines working in harmony to depict the three areas the iwi are focussed on: governance through the trust; social wellbeing for whai maia; and commercial profitability for whai rawa.
building on the strong visual identity we created for esr, we had the opportunity to showcase its flexibility by creating a type face for their internal team to implement across their report. robust and strong it is powerfully used on the cover and used as initial caps within the document. it seamlessly ties esr’s graphic language to this year's core message.
deconstructed type was used to communicate this year's message in stand children’s services report. fragmentation within the sector is tackled head on with the typography building to the rally cry of ’stand up’. secondary messages of stand strong, stand with purpose, stand with courage, stand as one etc… complement this narrative.
without introducing anything new to the identity guidelines, we created an adaptation of transpower’s corporate font trade gothic. a simple outlining and inlaid chevron created a contemporary and lighter weight version of the typeface that is used as a display face on high level communications.
finally, it’s not all simply about adding more to create impact. edwin hooper’s mastery of white space, scale and expert detailing in fletcher building's report this year showcased the very best of balance. he has managed to create a compelling and engaging feel with the use of font weights and the introduction of a stencil display font fit for purpose.
if you’ve read this far, congratulations… let us know what you think of these creative projects and keep an eye out for powerful annual reporting results 03. colour, coming soon.2015 annual reporting season review - typography
Yet more evidence of our effective work
Our 2015 NZ Super Fund Annual Report has been named winner of the Annual Report category in the Asia-Pacific Excellence Awards 2015. The Awards honour outstanding achievements in the fields of PR and...
Creative Director, Brian Slade , reviews aspects of Insight's body of work over the 2015 annual reporting season. Meet Lulu and Rufus/ Over the past six months, in one of our busiest periods, we’ve managed...
meet lulu and rufus/ over the past six months, in one of our busiest periods, we’ve managed to create some really powerful work. one of the key aspects for the reports we do is the messages they communicate.
Christchurch: you can see the momentum now . . .
We’ve worked with the team at CERA & CCDU for over 4 years now. We've seen first hand how hard they work for the people of Christchurch - and just how tough a challenge the rebuild actually is. They truly are...
we’ve worked with the team at cera & ccdu for over 4 years now. we've seen first hand how hard they work for the people of christchurch - and just how tough a challenge the rebuild actually is. they truly are great bunch of people whose efforts mainly go unrecognised or are undervalued, so it's great to see a document like this one that really brings home the huge amount they’ve actually achieved. it's equally great to see some of our work included in this timely milestone document.
Two key websites go live
Insight launched two important corporate websites on Friday 7 August. Property for Industry’s new website builds solidly on the down to earth brand story, personality and muscular visual identity that we created and...
insight launched two important corporate websites on friday 7 august.
property for industry’s new website builds solidly on the down to earth brand story, personality and muscular visual identity that we created and launched early last year. it’s a highly complex site made to appear very simple to users, with distinct user journeys for their two separate audience groups. a data rich site, the intelligent back end database makes updating a plethora of property information a one-point-entry, dynamic exercise. the site elevates video to a key role in the communication toolkit of the site.
fletcher building re-work was a timely temporary upgrade while a full site re-vamp is meticulously planned. two quick fixes were employed: the first to make the site responsive and allow the content-duplicate separate mobile site to be retired – now fletcher building only have to update one content management interface; and the second, to redesign the home page completely to move it from static to newsy, topical, interesting and much more dynamic. it allows rapid deployment of important new stories and enables video content as well – all in a much fresher design.
pfi, fletcher building, website
Fletcher Building comes on board
Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, joined Insight's enviable portfolio of clients in May 2015. Already, we're well into projects for their corporate website and annual reporting programme. ...
fletcher building, new zealand's largest listed company, joined insight's enviable portfolio of clients in may 2015. already, we're well into projects for their corporate website and annual reporting programme.fletcher building
The Evolution of the Ports of Auckland brand
While the Ports of Auckland are currently embroiled in a public standoff over wharf extension into the Auckland Harbour, there's still no doubt about the short- and long-term economic impact the Port has on our city....
while the ports of auckland are currently embroiled in a public standoff over wharf extension into the auckland harbour, there's still no doubt about the short- and long-term economic impact the port has on our city. and their visual identity needs to operate by the rules of commercial necessity too. and so, in mid-2014, we embarked on an evolutionary update of their logo, colour palette and typography to keep them fresh and contemporary. creative director, brian slade talks about the process and the lessons for other companies looking to refresh their visual identities in this article in the may/june edition of marketing magazine. you can read it online at stoppress here.
ports of auckland, brand refresh
Major law firm gets a rebrand
May saw two exciting developments for law firm, Meredith Connell. First, government announced that the firm had retained the warrant as Auckland's Crown Prosecutor after a lengthy - and much delayed - assessment...
may saw two exciting developments for law firm, meredith connell. first, government announced that the firm had retained the warrant as auckland's crown prosecutor after a lengthy - and much delayed - assessment process. and second, the firm's bold new brand was launched. it's difficult to be different in the higher echelons of new zealand law firms, but meredith connell were determined to express an explicit point of view and powerfully differentiated personality. you can see a full case study on the 'work' section of this site, and also have a look at the new website we launched as part of the new brand launch: www.mc.co.nz
brand, meredith connell, insight creative
Cross channel communication for Mighty River Power
Hot off the press . . . this stakeholder newsletter for Mighty River Power was designed for screen and print from the get go. Seamless communication. ...
hot off the press . . . this stakeholder newsletter for mighty river power was designed for screen and print from the get go. seamless communication.
mighty river power newsletter, online, print
The 5 day Visionarium
The challenge was to dress a travelling container, the Visionarium, for Future Christchurch that was approachable and informative. Turnaround was about 5 working days from start to finish. The creative solution was to...
the challenge was to dress a travelling container, the visionarium, for future christchurch that was approachable and informative. turnaround was about 5 working days from start to finish. the creative solution was to stretch the more formal aspects of the visual identity we've created; to go bold and visual and get my paints out to create bespoke eclectic typographic elements; and with positive messages that supported the display board content, fly-throughs and website. job done - in 4.5 days.