• Roberts on What to Do When You’ve Won the Business.

    This is the last installment of a series discussing how to successfully transition from winning a sale to producing a billboard ad.  Insider previously interviewed Debbie Collvins of Billboards, Etc and and Greg Callaham or Greg Callaham Design.  Today we talk with OBIE nominated billboard designer Melody Roberts, the founder of Out of Home Creative.

    What common mistakes do billboard companies and clients make when dealing with a billboard designer?  

    1.  Forms such as the “creative brief” can’t take the place of a human.

    When we forward a form to the client to fill out, we’re not practicing what we preach in OOH; Less is more. Keep it simple. Instead, we’re giving clients free reign to write everything and anything which usually turns into too much information. No one is there to talk to them about why they need to concentrate on certain elements for their outdoor advertisement.

    As a visual person, it takes more than telling me a client wants their photo, logo and website on their advertisement. I want to understand why they’re buying out of home… what kind of emotion are they trying to convey to the public… are they willing to give the designer creative freedom to put a concept together (and not over direct the creative) so their advertisement is memorable vs over informative.

    Clients, especially local ones who are new to outdoor advertising, need more than a creative brief or a forwarded email and should receive one on one attention from an experienced OOH designer. I provide clients with a stripped down creative brief that guides them into a minimalistic direction and once it is filled out, I schedule a creative consulting call to go over their request. That is when I dive into who they are, what they’re selling and how we can emphasize the most important elements to execute a great OOH advertisement.

    Ex: Legacy Granite (creative brief provided by the OOH company) I no longer have the client provided creative to show a before/after but this project had several revisions (even with the statement at the bottom of the brief) because the client requested too much information for a billboard advertisement. Once the client realized this amount of copy wouldn’t work they finally said, “Please let your designer design what they think is best.” I wanted this advertisement to make consumers turn into their parking lot which was below the board location. Since this was a 12×48, I was losing 2ft of height from the normal size bulletin. To save space, I used the extension to house their logo vs two separate graphics (and because their name is their URL). This space saver allowed the marble to be the focal point and I only listed the top 3 top selling materials. If a consumer is interested in this type of product, they can turn in or go online to find out about all the things that were listed on their creative brief. I designed the below and it was approved.

    2.  Clients need to trust the outdoor advertising design process.

    Playing the “telephone game” at the start of the design process doesn’t benefit the designer or the client. Going back and forth between the AE, the client and the designer causes room for error and miscommunication which in turn can leave the client frustrated.

    Sometimes a wide-open canvas can overwhelm the client. Allowing the client to work direct with an OOH designer (keeping in mind the designer needs to have OOH experience) gives the designer the opportunity to connect with the client and ask design questions that are not found on a creative brief and not really listed in this article because the questions are all going to be different based on the category of business. Part of the process is the designer understanding the client’s vision and being able to translate it into an advertisement. If you gain the clients trust, they are most likely willing to giving you more creative freedom.

    Let account executives sell, let designers design.

    Most Account Executives will read off a creative brief or give it to a client to fill out. The sales person doesn’t normally want to deal with the creative process, the specifications, template sizes, file formats, etc. and there’s nothing wrong with that. Let them sell. Let the designer, design. Don’t get me wrong, I have worked with some of the best Account Executives who are just as interested in the sale as they are in the creative input. Some of my best work has come from brain storming sessions with the AE and/or marketing.

    What should be the key questions asked to a client concerning billboard art work and creative?

    1.  “Why did you buy outdoor advertising?”

    It may sound redundant but you’d be surprised how this simple question can ignite the client to focus on what they want. I often work with clients that are looking to me to figure out what they want to advertise. This is the type of conversation you have with your client whether you’re the designer or AE to understand their business model.

    2.   “Are you willing to focus on a concept, and not the content, to make your advertisement memorable?”

    When asked what billboards a client has seen that they like, it is usually a national advertiser or billboard advertisement that is a great concept without a bunch of content (think Rapala, Chick-fil-A or Coke). If we position ourselves as OOH experts, we need to be able to deliver a similar concept to our clients whether they’re Greystone OBGYN or Rolex.

    Ex: Greystone OBGYN. For years the focus was on the Doctor and Midwife line up, logo, locations, headline and more. I was able to get them to consider doing one billboard that was more conceptual; using one image (stork) allowed the visual to be very large. Even though their logo remained the same size it stood out more against a two-word tagline that also served as double entendre.

    3.  “Does your content make sense to everyone, not just your target audience?”

    When I have worked with a client that has a very specific product or service (think industrial motor repair), I have had to ask, “How do you feel is the best way to get your product across on a billboard?” and they normally reply that their “target audience” will understand. In the past, I used to let that go and rely on the client to know best about business and who they’re selling it too. If you have a billboard next to the most trafficked highway in your state, millions of consumers are your “target audience.” Bottom line, I remind clients that everyone is their audience with OOH.

    What are the best ways for the sales person to take that info and pass it to the outdoor designer?

    It’s important for the AE to talk to the client about what they really are trying to achieve by buying outdoor advertising. What do they want the public to know or do from viewing their ad? What would they want to take away from an ad for it to be memorable; the visual, the businesses name or the product? If the AE is filling out the brief and there’s a lot of information, then the AE should to stop and discuss with the client that the content is becoming too wordy for a billboard and start asking them what they’re willing to cut down too before forwarding a creative brief to the designer.

    I believe having the client and designer work directly is the most effective way to expedite the creative process which in turn will leave less room for error or risk missing a posting date. The Account Executive can be included on the conference call to answer questions and/or gain insight on how the designer frames their questions to design an OOH advertisement, and then use that knowledge moving forward when communicating with clients.

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    One Comment

    1. Great review of creative challenges with smaller companies.