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Are your approval processes killing your creative product, marketing strategy and budget?


Does this sound familiar?

The marketing team and their agency have been working on a campaign for months. They’ve worked to a brief that has been approved at all levels of the business. Then, just as you are about to launch, someone comes in and want to make drastic changes that means you may miss your deadlines and will cost a fortune. How can you avoid this kind of thing happening?

Without a doubt I can assure you that you are not the first to experience this problem. The solution is unlikely to be just one simple solution and may not change overnight, but here are some places to start thinking:

Supplier Approval process

Firstly, be really clear on the key milestones for your project and the implication of making changes beyond each point.

Most suppliers have clear expectations about how many revisions at each point are permitted or budgeted for within the quote. But, most actually fail to communicate them clearly and don’t work with you to ensure your internal process actually fits with that.

Some simply say ‘two rounds of revisions’ but when you look at the fact that the advertising agency often has two layers of approval themselves, the revision budget is used up before it even gets to the client! This is unrealistic.

Be sure you know how many rounds of changes your marketing team get after the creative team (and/or agency in its entirety) have had their input.

Internal approval process

My suggestion is that if you have multiple tiers of approval, then you need to schedule adequate time and money for all levels of approval you need at the beginning of the project when the budget and schedule are being done.  

Suppliers don’t often account for this and assume you will simply fit your approvals into their proposed schedules.
Likewise, many clients expect suppliers to be more flexible than they are prepared for, creating conflict and additional charges.

his is simple communication and a basic, but often overlooked, step for your producers and project managers. Inexperienced, or inadequate, project managers are simply not thinking ahead here. Sometimes project managers get stuck on conventions rather than what the business needs.

Once you know the key stages of the job, you need to review with all the internal decision makers.

You need to determine what they will expect to see, what kind of feedback is expected at each point, what is necessary to keep the job on track, what you will be locked into as a business beyond that point and, who will pay for changes should they be needed, and at what rate.

Many business owners trust their marketing teams to just do the job and get on with it without approval at every step. But, by not including business owners in the approvals, there is a real chance of unscheduled revisions.

I suggest having a contingency fund for such occurrences. Allow additional time in the schedule for some sticky issues.  My recommendation is to hold that contingency fund in your own budget rather than giving it to the agency to profit from if not used.

Don’t forget legal approvals in the process either. Many businesses leave it to the last minute to show lawyers. This often results in the addition of more disclaimers and copy than is actually necessary. You will need some time for negotiation and resolving the issues without harming the integrity of the communication.

Make sure revisions are meaningful

You don’t need to make changes and revisions just for the sake of it. Make sure you are asking for changes based on facts, objective criteria that are relative to the brief.

Don’t make changes just for whimsy or, because ‘I don’t like it’.

Hiring the right team
It is the responsibility of the producers and project managers to sort out, at the start of the project, way before your first approval, the budget, process and schedule.

It is important that the people you choose are up to the role.

Not only are there different types of media that you have communications for but, within each there can be a need for a multitude of different roles.

Make sure that you choose a team with experience across the specialties you are producing because, with the wrong people on board additional charges can start to add up.

Have someone on your team

These days many businesses are going directly to creative businesses without an agency involved.

It can be that suppliers who are hired directly are profiting from revisions that may have been avoided if the process was handled a certain way up front. As much as many are well meaning, they are not always thinking about the client’s best interest.

Hire the best producer or production manager to assist in the choice of suppliers, negotiating budgets, planning and scheduling, and managing the whole process with the suppliers.

They’ll also be the ones to make sure your approval process really does marry up with the suppliers, rather than simply passing on a blanket terms of trading and charging when you exceed them.

Anne Miles is Managing Director of International Creative Services who manage creative and production projects. If you have a question you can Ask Anne About Advertising here or visit www.internationalcreativeservices.com.au.