In this guest column, head of digital delivery at J. Walter Thompson Sydney, John Tozzi (pictured below), argues adland’s digital journey is too often a confusing one, but, he points out, things can be seamless amongst the mayhem…
“How can we pull buying behaviour data from a POS?”
“Have we used a bootstrap framework for this product”
“Do Facebook ads support HTML5?”
“Our client is asking about vanity URLs?”
“Did we submit our website for accessibility testing?”
or my all-time favorite “Do we have a builder guy available today”
you… mean… a “developer?”…
We get it; digital work can be frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is that by the time you work on your next project; process, specs and technical requirements have already changed. Change is good, but this creates a ricochet through business, agencies, account teams, and overall delivery that cause projects to spin in circles.
The overall goal is to create unity. Here’s how I think we get there and why we fail(ed).
Remember when we were kids and we played ‘Chinese whispers” outside classrooms? That’s basically what’s going on here, and businesses across the industry – whether client or agency-side – need to assign the right experts to be the brain trust of all the information to ensure that there is never any miscommunication. When a doctor steps out of the operating room, the nurses don’t jump in a say “Oh, he’s not around right now so why don’t I step in and pick up where he left off”. Creatives want “this” and brand teams want it “at this time” and production says “no” to all of it and we’re back at square one.
Five years ago, I switched from business development & client servicing to project management to try and figure out why projects were failing and where. What I found was that they were failing in two key places:
- A) Communication Breakdown (shout out to Led Zeppelin)
- B) Expectation Management
Communication breakdown it’s always the same. It comes from the fast-moving pace of our industry’s environment. Deadlines are tight, budgets are smaller and there is the overwhelming urge to always say “yes” (not always a great strategy) The pressure is definitely on these days and we need to over-communicate to be better than our competition.
In order to get ahead in this environment, you need to be able to present the right information, from the right experts, at the right time – every time, in order to run a successful project.
Communication doesn’t necessarily mean how well you handle calls or draw up emails but more importantly how “clean” is the information you are trying to communicate? Can your client make a decision based on it? Can your agency? Can their boss make a decision base on it? What happens if your presentation ends up on the CEO’s desk? He will give it 10 seconds before he says “sounds good” or “I don’t get it”.
We also fail terribly from poor expectation management with our audiences, whether they are internal teams, agencies, clients or managers. We all want to be “yes” people but it’s important to remember that most people are on the fly making quick decisions. We rarely have the time or courage to go back and change a concept or idea once we are down the road of building it. At each project checkpoint, we need our internal experts to give the green light on conception, ideation, functionality, and technical feasibility before we get in front of clients.
Agencies do a really good job of filling in necessary job titles for the digital production run like “digital producers”, “senior digital project managers”, “integrated producers”, but there is a gap between these resources and someone who can manage internal expectations, educate, grow the digital culture, and navigate the client through understanding how digital projects work. Here are some key characteristics of this said resource:
- Tech check on creative ideas – Technically speaking, can we even build this?
- Editing digital strategies (which are often developed outside of the digital team) to ensure fit for purpose.
- Influencing digital culture across agency and stakeholders.
- Simplifying client presentations to speed up decision making.
- Managing real expectations on timing, budgets, and scope.
- Bridging the gap from media to creative agencies.
- Helping all pitch teams to sell in digital concepts that aren’t embellished.
Businesses across the board engaged in digital activity should start looking for more “client experienced” experts to take positions in their growing services to help bridge the gaps from conception, creative design, development, and overall delivery in digital.
It’s not only the agencies that can benefit from this kind of thinking but everyone from marketing managers to national brand managers and even product designers on the client side.
Creative shops have started to re-architect their approach to keep the lines of communication open between internal teams/agencies with initiatives like hot-desking. An activity based office structure allowing employees to sit with the teams they are currently working on projects with. Yes, we all work on multiple projects with multiple teams but the goal is efficiency in communication.
There are some great strategies that all clients, agencies and other businesses can begin to study that will help tighten up the way they work on projects and how to deliver them in a profitable, time efficient and effective way.
It’s very important to look at your work from 30,000 feet and cut through the clutter of the minute to minute interactions. Your responsibilities are to deliver on your creative promise and manage multiple people and stakeholders at once.
Here’s a great takeaway about how “feasible” things really are: There is a robot that humans flew 54.6 million kilometers to land on the Martian soil that can drill rock samples, develop x-rays, take selfies, shoot laser beams, and sing happy birthday to itself every 365 days. Surely if we landed Curiosity on MARS we can manage to communicate our way through a few projects as promised.