You listen to your clients, and get to know their customers. You learn about their market and competition. You brainstorm with the creative team. You let all information and ideas "cook" a little in your head.
And then there's a moment that you just know, with absolute certainty and perfect clarity, what will work. It's the second-best day on any given project.
The best day comes a little later, when you get the results in, and you were right.
Over the years, C3 team members have won many awards for our creative work. Because most of those awards were given by the direct marketing community, they were based in part on how our creative achieved results.
We pride ourselves on creative excellence, but we never forget that great creative is a means to an end, a path to a goal: and that goal is sales and revenue.
People often ask us how long we remember the information we learn for client projects. The answer, so far, seems to be forever.
Even years after the fact, we can tell you the difference between cloisonee and champleve enamel (Hallmark), how to make buttercream roses (Wilton), what attractions you should see in Vancouver or Hong Kong (United Airlines), what a Tokyo subway token looks like (American Express), how programmers choose the language they'll work in (Microsoft) what keeps network administrators up at night (3Com, Cisco, and IBM), and what kind of HVAC you need to support a a fume hood (HLF).
We retain this stuff partly because people who become copywriters tend to be interested in everything. Partly it's because you never know when some fact you learned for a long-ago project will come in handy.
As a result, no one can beat a copywriter at Trivial Pursuit. Unless you ask some of us about sports.
It's used by everyone who creates or contributes to the campaign to make sure that everything and everyone stays focused on message.
It also acts as a touchstone for all the stakeholders and decision-makers on the project. Is a spinning logo a good idea? Should we advertise in local newspapers? Is that social medium a good fit? Often, a quick review of the creative brief has the answer, saving energy and resources for activities that meet objectives. For that alone, a creative brief saves a ton of time and money.
Who needs a creative brief? A creative brief is a necessity for all campaigns, and all projects that have multiple contributors, stakeholders, vendors, or reviewers.
They can be quite rough, like this:
Or quite detailed, like this:
They can be images, video storyboards, mockups, or a kind of web prototype we call a wireframe. Concepts present clients with choices, and help them visualize the end result when it's easier and less expensive to make changes.
People who do it are called "copywriters". That's true whether whether the material in question is an ad in a magazine, a direct mail or email letter, a brochure, website content, a social media post, a digital ad, a slide presentation...you get the idea.
What's the difference between "copywriters" and "content creators"? Sometimes they're one and the same, except that "content creation" specifically refers to material created for screen media, such as the web, and it may include other roles, people, and/or skills, including creating visual images or video.
BTW, while copywriters often write copy that is copyrighted, copywriting and copyrights are not the same thing.
It includes guidelines for how to use logos, colors, fonts, copy tone, images, and more for consistent communication to your customers and prospects. It can be a simple shared document or a beautifully produced booklet.
Who needs a style guide? Any organization that has more than one person creating, managing, or buying creative services will get more value and consistency if they have a style guide. Many think of a style guide as something only needed by large companies with multiple marketing teams and agencies, but it's actually just as useful for smaller organizations.
For example, if your product managers or sales reps create their own slide presentations or write their own white papers, a style guide assures that their work accurately reflects your brand. And it makes it easier for others to use within the organization. If you have one person updating your website and someone else creating social media posts, a style guide maintains consistency. It's also a signal to your customers and prospects know that you have your act together.
Designers, filmmakers, editors, web developers, content creators, and others use these elements to make components for your advertising and marketing more easily and efficiently.
These include different versions of your logo (for example, in different sizes, for use on light or dark backgrounds, or for use in different circumstances, like an email signature vs. a huge sign), icons, slide and document templates, web buttons, video components like title cards and audio cues, and even snippets of code. Think of it as a set of building blocks that are consistent in look, tone, and brand communication, but that can be combined in different ways to create new materials.
Who needs a design system? Technically, no one needs a design system. A designer following a style guide can build a new button that looks like the model. But what if they could reuse use the model instead of building a new one? That would be a lot more efficient. And you'd never have to pay anyone to repeat work that's already been done.
Building a design system from scratch is a daunting and time-consuming task, and not very practical for most C3 Advertising clients. Instead, we build one up gradually as we go, by intentionally creating new elements so that they can be re-used, organizing them, and sharing them in an online resource for our clients.
Over the course of working with a client, we may create, acquire, or use hundreds or thousands of images, video clips, stock photos, illustrations, product descriptions, and much more. These creative assets are valuable resources for future projects and uses.
We assign a unique identifier to each one of these assets, and we enter it into a client database with relevant information, like source, licensing requirements, other versions, and related projects. Everything is organized. Everything can be found and used again. Everything makes sense.
We don't know of any other agency anywhere that keeps creative asset catalogues as a matter of course for its clients, and they love it. As much as we would like to say that we started our creative asset cataloguing service purely because it was good for our clients, the truth is that we did it because we really, really can't stand looking for stuff. We just want to find it.