Last-minute, aren’t you done yet? By Zia’s Waseem Yakdi

There has been extreme pressure on the ad agencies to deliver creativity at the last minute, writes Zia creative network's CEO Waseem Yakdi.

UAE brands heavily rely on their qualified advertising agencies for all their marketing needs leaving their marketing managers in a position where they consider ‘the agency’ as Aladdin’s Genie, who can do wonders in no time.

Agencies are used to getting last minute briefs. The urgent requests to start the campaign ‘immediately’ is not surprising. The pitch brief with the stringent deadline is not uncommon. And on top of that, expecting a creative flow of ideas is something that always has been a top priority.

Every now and then, we get a call of the client sounding apologetical who calmly tries to explain the brief, only divulging at the end that the campaign is a little urgent (obviously, in a tone of empathy, they try to trap you by saying: we know that you’re the best and only you can do it).

Ask any advertising professional, what is the key to making a brand a successful one, and you’ll most likely get an answer that echoes the mantra of David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy & Mather: “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

I completely agree with Mr. David, it’s creativity that champions any marketing campaign, but the unremitting demands of the brands to deliver creativity at the last minute thwarts the core objective: leaving a lasting impact on the audience.

Be it a high-budgeted commercial or a social media campaign, the agencies are expected to achieve long-term goals in a short time. The marketers must be warned of the dangers of creative effectiveness posed by short-termism. We shouldn’t be ignorant of the fact that campaigns delivered in a short time will inevitably underperform in the long run, but the question remains the same: what propels this urgency?

Laid-back management

This is one of the biggest challenges confronting advertising agencies. Late approvals from the management contribute to trickling down the pressure on the agency, which in turn squeezes its creative team to meet unrealistic deadlines. Creative professionals often acquiesce to last-minute demands that seem to come out of nowhere.

It is ideal for the brand’s communications team to throw the unrealistically tight deadlines on the agency and expect magical results. And unable to meet their high expectations in quick time would result in stern phrases like this is something that you’re paid for.

There is a lack of serious involvement from the top guys since the beginning. A robust solution to this problem is to be pragmatic and establish checkpoints that involve decision-makers early in the process before decisions become last-minute.

Never-ending appetite for content

The voracious appetite of brands to expect more in less time has generated oodles of pressure on the agencies. This is perfectly illustrated by PepsiCo CMO Brad Jakeman, who said at the 2017 Cannes Lions Festival, “Instead of five pieces of content a year, a brand like Pepsi needs about 5,000 pieces of content a year. Instead of taking six months to develop an ad, we have six hours or six days.”

With time, we’re witnessing a constant proliferation of content required by the brands. This exploding tsunami of content simply cannot be efficiently produced by humans in a restricted time frame.

As brands discover the benefits of dynamically changing campaigns, the demand for countless alterations outstrips not just what can be provided by external agencies, but indeed what can realistically be achieved by humans.

Takeaway for marketers

Hung out on a limb, agencies are attempting to manoeuvre themselves closer to the trunk of a brand despite the pressure to deliver last-minute. The post-covid situation has crippled the agencies even further as the brands are pressing agencies to alter their costs to intertwine both sides’ success or failure.

Developing a campaign for maximum ROI and optimising it for effective performance is not an instant process. Or, to put it another way, last-minute campaigns can prove to be an unnecessary waste of budget.

It’s high time when the brands start incorporating creative capabilities into their typically technical organizations, which will help them realize that an agency needs time to become creative and deliver according to the expected standards.