Since the Mad Men days, the process of creating ad campaigns has remained more or less the same: Brands tell agencies their marketing objectives, agencies come up with campaign ideas to fulfill those objectives, agency creative teams put them into practice, and brands weigh in at every step.
Revisions, rewrites, reshoots... by the time a campaign launches, it may look nothing like the original concept the brand fell in love with.
If you ask brand marketers, that review process is essential to creating the best possible version of their ads: They know their brand better than anyone else, so why shouldn't they have the final say?
Yet, although, they may be experts on their own brands, they're not experts in creating amazing content. The people they're working with, on the other hand, are exactly that, and their unique expertise deserves to be heard.
If you hire someone to build you a house, you'd probably find good architects whose work appeals to you; they would show you a design, you'd give some feedback, and you'd work with them to make changes that make sense to both of you. If they told you a certain type of material wouldn't work for indoor flooring, you'd listen to them. You might check in on how construction is going, but you wouldn't make them move a door to the other side of the room after it's already installed.
You trust experts to build your house. Why wouldn't you trust experts to make your video?
In my company's work with brands and content creators, I've seen the same scenario play out again and again. Brands want content that appeals to a particular audience, so they work with creators who are experts in capturing that audience. Then, rather than trust the creators' expertise, they try to shoehorn the content into their brand guidelines, telling the creator to use this word instead of that one. This topic is okay, this one isn't. Use our product this way, not that way.
The creator's voice and perspective are buried under the brand's standards, robbing the content of its uniquely engaging perspective.
Brands, it's time to let go. Find creative partners you trust, get on the same page about the project, then let them do their thing. If you're working with the right creators, odds are you'll get back exactly the content you need—and, let's face it, it'll probably turn out better than if you'd been hovering over the creator's shoulder the entire time.
Before you hand over the keys to the kingdom, though, here are four tips to make sure your project goes smoothly.
1. Find a creative partner that you trust
A trusted partner is absolutely crucial, both for your peace of mind and for the success of your campaign. You can start with creators that you or people you know have worked with, or you can just seek out people who have done great work in the past.
Check out their portfolio, Vimeo channel, Instagram, and website and see whether anything grabs you. Does their work look polished? Is it clear from their past projects that they can deliver on what you need from them? When you contact them, are they responsive?
Doing your research now can save you some potential headaches down the line.
2. Get your team on board
Make sure your marketing department understands why it's not calling all the shots any more, and don't turn it into a referendum on team members' past performance. Get their help choosing a creative partner, and listen to any concerns they may have.
When everyone's in alignment right from the get-go, you can present a unified front to your creators, give them a clear picture of your expectations, and avoid confusion.
3. Spell it out, up front
When you're not going to be doing multiple rounds of revisions on a project, it's especially important to be clear—from the very beginning—about what you need from your creator.
You must clearly explain your brand, your audience, and the kind of content you're looking for; doing so is the only way to figure out whether the work is a good fit for the your creator. If everybody's happy, then get a detailed outline of what the creator is planning, ask any questions you have, and spell out the deadlines and deliverables.
The only thing that should be surprising is how freeing it is to turn the project over to your creator's capable hands, sit back, and get results!
4. Consider a portfolio approach
Once you get comfortable handing over some control to your creative partners, you can take on more of a curator role, collecting content for your brand from different sources and bringing it together to form your marketing strategy.
Different creators bring different strengths and different audiences to the table; so, to reach a broad consumer base, your campaigns may look a lot different from what you're used to. Instead of getting 10 videos from one agency, maybe you'll get two videos each from five independent videographers, each with its own unique "flavor." Achieving content that goes viral is always a gamble, but you're probably better off betting on multiple creators than committing all your resources to one.
* * *
I meet with and talk to amazing creative people every day, and I've seen what they can do when given enough flexibility by their brand partners. Ten times out of ten, the better branded content is the content that expresses the creator's, not the brand's, vision for achieving the brand's goals.
Let your creators fly free, and they'll pour their heart into their work—and bring their devoted audiences along for the ride. Tie them down, and you'll both end up frustrated, and all you'll have to show for it is the same kind of content you've seen a thousand times before.
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