After years of working in youth entertainment, we’ve settled upon a surprising truth in the agency world: Clients aren’t everything.
Maybe let’s step back for a moment. Obviously, creating digital campaigns for brands that hire us to deliver an exciting and effective idea is important. After all, it’s why we’re here — right here, in fact, writing this article. Clients keep the lights on and encourage us to keep searching for the next, unexpected approach to solving a brand's problem.
In fact, client work is so valuable that anyone you partner with at an agency should have their own creative outlet. Whether you’re working with a producer, developer, or designer, you need to ensure their work is creative, consistent and, especially in the digital space, current. If everyone at your agency is solely focused on creating solid client work, then that’s exactly what will be produced.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But we prefer to set our sights a little higher. Frankly, our clients are important enough — and that’s what they deserve.
How creative experimentation uncovers unexpected results
For your brand to see effective work, you need to ensure your collaborators have room to experiment with something new. After all, how can an agency surprise you with a fresh campaign idea if they aren’t out there surprising themselves?
Working with an agency is built on your applying restrictions around the work your brand needs to see. Though the best briefs leave room for your agency’s imagination, your brand has standards for its voice, tone, and identity. Constraints like these offer their own fuel for inspiration, like working to solve a challenging puzzle. But similar to a sports car, creative professionals still need space to open up the throttle to stay competitive.
When a creative person has an outside outlet, they can explore without deadlines or brand standards dictating their approach. Creativity without constraints leads to experimentation, which is how your agency can find the unexpected, qualitative results your brand needs.
Creative outlets don’t need to connect with client work to deliver inspiration
Outside work doesn’t have to be related to one specific field to be beneficial to your brand. Granted, any digital designer experimenting with WebGL (Web Graphics Library) during off-hours will extend what they learn into client work. In a rapidly changing digital landscape, experimenting with animation software qualifies as essential professional development.
However, the connection between off-hours creative experiments and innovative solutions for your brand doesn’t have to be so linear. For a time, one of our designers at We The Collective explored creating pottery outside of work. Are we about to create a new virtual campaign that hinges upon a perfectly thrown salad bowl? Probably not.
But from our perspective, a creative person with interests outside of digital experiences gains a new perspective on their client work. If you’re working with a designer, developer, or copywriter willing to try new things on their own, they’re more likely to try new things for your brand too.
Finding a creative sandbox yields stronger campaigns for your brand
Even if outside pursuits like public speaking or pottery don’t immediately connect with client work, all creative outlets serve to freshen our perspectives. If you’ve been hitting the wall working with your in-house marketing team on a campaign idea, new perspectives are the only way your brand will find what it needs.
Whether you need to introduce a game to a new audience or market it to kids, every brand needs to resolve a problem when they come to an agency. By stretching their creativity in new ways, your agency partner is more likely to apply lateral, unconventional thinking toward the right solution.
At We The Collective, we believe if you make a space for creativity then it becomes a more dependable, flexible presence in our daily work. For example, back when we were going into the office, we used a monitor to welcome everyone into our workplace. Each month, we invited someone on the team to take a turn creating a sign. There were no guidelines beyond not using anyone else’s IP — the sign just had to say our name. Whether someone wanted to try 2D animation, stop-motion filmmaking, or whatever medium, all ideas were welcome.
Though it wasn’t a mandate, every month brought a new sign that was created in-house. Sometimes the results fueled someone else’s idea for the next sign, or even a fresh approach for a client’s campaign. In the end, we made a playground where free experimentation could flourish and that’s exactly what it did.
Cutting-edge creative campaigns come from unexpected places
Anyone who has hired a marketing agency under a tight deadline knows inspiration can’t be forced. However, if you provide a space for creativity to flourish, then the unconventional ideas you need tend to arrive that much sooner.
When you work with specialists for a digital campaign, you need them to be ahead of the curve on the latest trends and technology. A creative team that spends its free time expanding their capabilities without restrictions is more likely to uncover the cutting-edge approach your brand needs.
Plus, failure is a great teacher. Though you need to see quality work when reviewing campaign ideas, creativity sometimes requires going off the rails. Every animated short or mangled 3D rendering that goes wrong in the dark is just another step toward to acquiring a new, reliable skill for our clients.
By the way: Now that we work remotely, this website constitutes our playground. Before any article publishes, we give our team the guidelines that the images it needs could relate to the topic or not. But they need to incorporate the symbols and colors of our brand in some way.
What you see may appear strange or even silly — in fact, right now, we have no idea how this page will look. But this open-ended experimentation is another fun way to keep our skills sharp and stay connected. Plus, we know from experience that we'll ultimately like what we see. We think you will, too. Let's talk about what We The Collective can do to take your brand where it needs to go next.