Opinion: The dirty, hidden truth about fast, cheap and good
Just in case your head's been buried in sand: our industry has changed. Mass media advertising has given way to technology-driven, one-to-one customer experiences spanning every point of contact between brands and customers. An omnichannel media landscape has led to an explosion in the need for content.
It’s safe to say that for most brands, however, there has not been a corresponding explosion in budgets. Marketers are faced with delivering more for less—and faster. But time remains finite.
At the same time, consumers are savvier and harder to reach than ever before. In fact, they are actively taking steps to avoid advertising. Producing loads of lousy marketing that people ignore will not drive the business outcomes that marketers are on the hot seat to deliver.
Which all adds up to brands seeking ways to get work done fast, cheap and good.
Clients—78 percent of them according to an ANA survey in 2018—have in-house capabilities to establish speed and cost efficiency. According to the report, the top challenges they’re facing are managing growth (specifically workflow, resources and prioritization), maintaining quality creative, and finding and keeping talent.
This makes sense. Solving large-scale production problems isn’t easy to do. We’re seeing our biggest growth come from clients for whom we are supporting in-house teams with onsite resources and consulting engagements to help them solve these problems.
Conventional wisdom says fast, cheap and good is not possible. Agency creatives are known to say, “Pick two.” When clients aren’t in the room, they’re apt to mutter, “Pick one.”
But conventional wisdom doesn't account for the ludicrously inefficient way that most work gets done—either through internal or external agencies. The hidden-right-in-front-of-us truth is that there are levers to pull that allow us to work in new ways to get faster, cheaper and better at execution.
What are these mysterious levers? Here are four:
Control. Simply put, there is an inverse relationship between the number of stakeholders who want to have a say in work in an organization, and speed. More rounds of reviews take more time. More rounds of revisions cost money. And the reality is, adding layers of stakeholders rarely translates into better work. If you want quality creative fast, define the rules of engagement; get smart, talented people lined up to deliver the work; and get the hell out of their way.
Subjectivity. The phrase “make the logo bigger” isn’t part of the industry lexicon for no reason. Marketers actually say things like, “I showed it to my wife and she said that blue isn’t working.” If your husband or your wife knows better than the people you have producing the work, get rid of those people and hire someone with expertise.
Chaos. When your pants are on fire, it’s hard to be thoughtful. Or organized. When you’re not thoughtful, work is produced without strategy behind it. When you’re not organized, you lose out on efficiencies and economies of scale that can be achieved by planning work. One-offs are efficiency killers. An initial investment of time up front to plan how work will be executed can produce huge rewards downstream, both in terms of efficiencies and the quality of content produced.
Splatter paint. Throwing poop at the wall to see what sticks is not a good strategy for producing work that makes an impact. Insight is the foundation of good content. Be scrappy about customer research if you need to be, but make sure it happens. And maintain a feedback loop between creative and analytics, so work is consistently driven by knowledge about the needs, desires and behaviors of your audience.
Blindly striving for fast, cheap and good is a fool’s errand. But everything is relative, and by making changes to how work gets done, you can achieve the speed and cost savings you need—and strive toward producing creative that doesn’t get ignored.