Fast Company Shows How Partners + Napier Got…Well, Faster

It doesn’t matter whether you work in BDA or a small agency, the fact is that clients are looking for ways their agencies can cut costs. And we can bitch and carp about client procurement departments and reduced budgets until we’re blue in the face, but clients themselves are under pressure to cut their own costs, so they spread the pressure around.
This month’s issue of Fast Company, takes a look at how my agency Partners + Napier responded to this pressure from one of our clients, Kodak, by receiving an ISO 9000 certification that Kodak makes its other suppliers use.

“When Kodak first asked us to do this, people worried that no one understood how long it takes to get to a great idea,” concedes Partners’ CEO Sharon Napier. Chief creative officer Jeff Gabel says the opposite has happened. More often than not, Gabel says, creative work resembles a “giant hair ball.” And that’s fine with him. “You don’t want to straighten it out,” he says. “It’s nonlinear, illogical, and often occurs at unpredictable hours.” But, he says, if the time allotted to a project could be rejiggered so more time went to creating great ideas — and less against the job’s ancillary grunt work — then he was game to try.
The certification process took six months and required each step of an assignment, from developing a brief to reviewing final work with the client, to be documented. It cost roughly $20,000 out of Partners’ pocket, but it revealed some surprising inefficiencies, including a lot of time wasted in back-and-forths for approvals of briefs, concepts, ideas, and directors. Partners was able to trim the time on a job from eight weeks to three, save the client approximately 40%, and boost productivity by 3.5%.

We’ve been getting more work from Kodak as a result, and it’s enabled our agency to grow even in this economy. No, it’s not the sexiest story in the world, but every agency has a process for making the work happen. And let’s face it, lots of these processes are dysfunctional and wasteful to some degree. Whether agencies change the process to meet their clients’ changing needs can determine whether they succeed or not.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.

  • A counterpoint

    In my agency, our process gives-
    1.
    account service two weeks – a month to tell the creative team what the client wants
    2.
    the creative team 1 – 4 hours to concept a strategy including research, and get strategy approved by account service.
    3.
    the creative team 1 – 3 days to concept and create “rough comps” of multiple campaign options including print, interactive, guerilla, social media, and sometimes broadcast, and getting all internal approvals.
    3.
    Creative and production 1 – 5 days to produce the “approved” concept including multiple internal and client revisions.
    Creative is threatened at least once a month to increase efficiency or lose our jobs, while no effort is made to expedite account service or client approvals.
    Despite this, our best campaigns still win awards and get mentioned in the press on a regular basis. And despite this, there are other agencies in my town which shortcut the creative even further.
    I cannot fathom how this industry expects to squeeze ever more blood out of their creative talent while refusing to hold account service or their clients accountable to a process or a timeline.