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Playing in the creative sandbox

Despite living in a ‘creative’ world, most agencies are pretty linear.  They take the brief, then they do the creative.

Velocity is a bit different.  When we do consulting engagements – helping companies clarify and communicate their positioning and key messages – we do creative as part of the engagement, before any specific brief is on the table.  Lots and lots of rough concepts — headlines, images, copy, straplines…

What we’re doing is exploring a wide range of attitudes (statesman-like, aggressive, cheeky, outrageous) and many different ‘ways in’ to the story.  There are thousands of ways to start any given story and the creative shows us which ones make the reader want to know more.  These tend to end up somewhere near the home page of the eventual website build.

The rough concepts often look like badly-designed ads, not because we’re recommending print advertising (it’s amazing how little we do these days) but because the one-page ad is the ‘elevator pitch’ of the marketing discipline.  If we can get a compelling story down in a few paragraphs, a headline and a photo, we know we’re on to something.  They’re badly designed because they’re not designed at all — they’re simply thrown together in Adobe InDesign (the marker pad de nos jours).

At first, we did this because  it’s fun and we knew it would make an impact, taking the abstract ideas from our recommendations and making them come to life.  Covering a conference table with short, sharp, confident ideas invariably gets people all fired up (we love that).

To justify this part of the engagement, we started saying that it ‘informed the strategy’; that the proto-creative work gave us a valuable steer about the positioning and messages we were recommending.

Then, after a few of these engagements, we realised that our cover story was actually 100% true.  The creative work ALWAYS changes the strategy and the recommendations.  It really is a great way to road test our ideas.  If a positioning idea that we’re recommending just doesn’t have an edge on the page, there’s usually a good reason.  Maybe it’s just not very credible or it isn’t as distinctive and differentiated as we’d thought.

Sometimes the perfect way of crystallizing a complex story just pops out of an unpromising stab in the dark. Which sends us scurrying back to the presentation decks for some intense post-rationalisation.

We know of no other agency that does this creative play so early in the consulting process. Most don’t do it at all.  But it’s become an invaluable part of our process that we forego only under supernatural duress (pretty much never).

A few of our clients have given us permission to share these ‘idea harvests’ with other (non-competitive) companies. So if you’d like to take a look, feel free to give us a call.

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