Why creative agencies need to think commercially

By The Earnie Team

Being a creative agency used to just focus on delivering great creative work for clients. Today we need to do a whole lot more.

The way that agencies were judged was fairly subjective and the old adage of not knowing which half of your spend worked, was to a degree true. And amazingly it still goes on, more than you’d think. Right now, with all the measurement and tracking tools at our disposal, we want to become forensic in planning and delivering against specific business goals.

We are working with clients that aren’t looking for a creative solution, they are looking for the creative delivery of a commercial one. There is a very important difference. One comes from a brief, the other comes from understanding the wider business.

When we start working with clients we address the business rationale for running a creative campaign in the first place. And we want to really understand the success of existing activity, the number of partnerships that will provide cost-effective channels, the email opt-ins, previous CRM success, the site traffic to conversion, the average order value and so on. These are all factors that address channel selection, budgets and objectives. And they all come before we start the creative process.

Today we are finding many of our conversations are with investors, funding partners, commercial departments and owners. Given how competitive our world has become, marketing no longer sits as a nice to have, but a must have.

If we can’t track, typically we won’t start. Everything we do now must be based on the premise of ‘discernible return’. No retainers for retainers sake, no awards without the bottom line success, no egos or politics – just the hard facts of return on investment driven from a shared trust in each other’s abilities. Which comes to great creative, part of the mix but not the whole cake. When you’re in it together, it makes for agency staff that feel part of something valuable and popular marketing teams.

We hope to be able to share some really exciting news about some of the things Earnie has been doing over the last three months. We are on a mission to break the old agency / client adversarial nonsense and show the importance of shared goals, transparent partnerships and new thinking.

As for being just a creative agency, that’s all good – but clients need to know you can reach the others parts of the business other agencies can’t reach. I’m sure there is a creative idea in there somewhere.