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.