Collaboration: The key to getting it right… the first time.

It’s probably safe to say that everyone in advertising has at one point experienced a “re-brief. We’ve all had those moments where we were 100% sure we nailed it, and yet somehow ended up being 50% wrong.

We’ve all experienced the feeling of pouring everything we’ve got into a new campaign – from getting the whole team on board to the endless rounds of refinements – only to march into a boardroom to share our brilliance and be met with… blank stares.


After some awkward pleasantries, the conversation usually veers towards something along the lines of: “We like the idea, but… we were really wanting to focus on (insert new information here).


The good news is, that these conversations are generally very constructive, and everyone aligns on a unified new path forward. The bad news? It’s back to the drawing board.


So, what went wrong? How did things get so off-track? Well, the answer could be a number of different things: A brief with a few holes, a last-minute change in strategy, or maybe just simply trying to tackle too many primary objectives. Regardless of what happened, there was ultimately one important part of the process missing: Collaboration.


Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

Having been on the receiving end of these situations occasionally, our agency realized years ago that the key to success is bringing the right people into projects at the right time and keeping them in the loop throughout. We’ve worked hard at implementing many different checks and balances that help us plan and execute projects in the most efficient and economical way possible. In fact, this concept is at the very core of our Human Connections Process.


To be clear, these collaborative moments aren’t exclusive to client-agency dialogues. They need to be part of all aspects of a project, and this includes making sure the departments within the agency are on the same page as well.


At Elemental, we’ve found a few effective ways to set ourselves up for success:


First and foremost is our Human Connections Process itself. This process helps guide our thinking through every stage of our projects – from research and strategy – all the way to creative development and launch. We always keep our lines of communication open between our different departments and our clients by diligently following the same steps for every project: Learn, Understand, Create, and Connect. Through this, we’re able to keep all parties aligned and pointing in the same direction.


In the early phases of a project, this means working collaboratively with the client to clearly define objectives and working together to align on an air-tight brief. Later, in the creative phase, staying on the same page can be as simple as a quick temperature check on different campaign territories or angles, or dividing deliverables into smaller more manageable groupings. We’ve found that by breaking down our projects into bite-sized milestones we can identify any issues early on, so they don’t derail future steps.


Another useful tool we regularly make use of at Elemental is our BriefStormTM sessions. BriefStorms act as a sort of handshake moment between strategy and creative where we bring in all members of the team to help get the conversation and ideas flowing. This includes departments like Strategy, Digital, and Creative – but it can also include the client as well. Good ideas can come from anywhere, and BriefStorms are a great way to get everyone talking and keep the spirit of collaboration alive. They also help us fine-tune our brief right there in the room and allow us to work through any problems or red flags together as a group. The end goal is really to get everyone aligned so that the following stages of the project run smoothly as possible.


It’s easy to get caught up in our own separate silos when working on projects, and this can sometimes lead to missteps along the way. But when you take a more collaborative approach and work through any issues or roadblocks together, the end product is always better for it.


By creating regular touchpoints and check-ins throughout your project – not only with your client, but with your internal departments as well – you can ensure you’re always keeping an eye on the bigger picture, and not losing sight of the overall objective.


No one likes a “re-brief”. And when you follow the right process and don’t skip vital steps, it’s a lot easier to avoid 11th hour teardowns… and to get it right the first time.