The Creative Process – Agency and Production House Briefing

In my previous post, I made mention of how the agency and client briefing takes place. I highlighted some key areas that need to be addressed by both client and agency to insure the exact message and intentions behind the proposed advert in the campaign, are delivered upon.

We briefly touched on the production house being brief by the agency and some questions they may ask, and now we will find out why they ask these questions and what it may potentially mean to the job and costs. The questions may lead to ways in which a creative problem could be solved, or it may mean that costs can be reduced because of new techniques and equipment, or it may mean that what is being asked of may require more time and budget to fulfil the client and agencies requests.

Once the production house is called in for the briefing with the agency, the agency will generally show what was visually presented to client, or if that was not possible, a written version of what they would like to achieve creatively. It is at this stage that questions around treatments and look-and-feel usually come about and get discussed, if they haven’t been shown in the creative briefing already of the before mentioned client presentation. What this means is that the production now has an idea of the concept and, if shown references, the creative direction that they need to go in. Other questions about duration, delivery format and budget usually come up not long after the creative briefing has taken place.

In the above scenario, there are people of vital importance that need to communicate with one another at different stages of the process. During the creative briefing, it is vital to have both creatives and producers in the same room. This insures that the agency creative and production creative are on the same page to execute on what has been sold to the client. The creative expectation needs to be made crystal clear between them to produce a product that is not only creatively beautiful, but is also illustrating the message that is intended to be shared with the market for which the advert is intended. Once creative and the delivery is discussed, either the agency will say what their budget is and see if it works for what they trying to create, or the production house will go away and put costs together according to the creative the agency is wanting to achieve. The latter is usually the worse of the two scenarios because the cost on a job is the one thing that may cause the job to come to screeching halt. The importance of a producer being in the creative briefing is also of integral importance as producers are usually the less likely to allow bullying from both parties and act as mediators and help facilitate a smooth briefing process. The producers will also generally discuss costs, who will be responsible for audio, rough timing plans and delivery, which is the process by which both agency and production house have to adhere to to insure deadlines are met for work in progresses and final delivery. And on the note of final delivery, both creative or production staff will ask about deadlines and delivery dates and the same for the budgetary matter applies. Its better to be told when the deadline is then to propose one or work for an unspecified amount of time as this can become costly to the production house. It is important for each to know their role in this process as creatives have been known to just say “Yes, sure we can do that.” while the eyes of the producers grow so large you can almost see their soul. If you are uncertain about something while in a briefing and would need time to chat creative to producer, rather make a note and ask if you can get back to them later in the day to confirm. If you over promise and under deliver, you are setting yourself up for failure and that will only be to your detriment.

Once budget and timelines have been discussed, the next step is to insure what is being asked of the production house is possible with the budget and time that has been stipulated. What usually happens is the production house will rather take a chance on creating something visually superior at a small cost to them instead of lowering the potential outcome of the creative to insure they retain their margins. This is because at the end of the day, we are in business to make money, but we are also fortunate to be earning our income by doing something that we love and are passionate about, so compromise plays a huge roll in this initial phase of the project.

Now that we are all clear and satisfied with what the objective is, it’s time to get to work and that in itself is a what the next blog post will be all about: the details of how we go from brief to delivery and the fun, sweat and fears we have and go through during this process.

I can’t stress the importance of the briefing process as it’s the start of the job and sets the tone for the duration that you are working on the job. If the production house is unclear of the direction they need to head in, that is their fault as they had the chance to ask all the questions when initially briefed. While this is a very simple example, this briefing process, depending on the job, could be for more complex or simpler. If there is a production component that will require a shoot, your briefing process will be a little more complicated and will require a very sound understanding of what the job entails, but if the job is a short pack shot or animated titles for example, then the briefing should be a rather simple and uncomplicated process.

Please feel free to leave any comments or if you have any additional briefing specific suggestions or even questions, please do so. I will gladly answer any questions to the best of my ability or seek professional advice on your question and any comments or suggestions on how to further streamline the briefing process, I would love to hear about them.