The Path Not Taken

One of the delegates from the recent The Fundamentals of Branding course illustrates how their three key learnings from the course could’ve helped improve a previous client's campaign.

Based at an integrated creative agency, I worked on the Account Management team for a well-known UK brand of a global FMCG giant. Despite leading the UK market, my clients were facing a challenge with one of the newer products in their range and this represented a significant sales opportunity for the Christmas period.

The brief, quite simply, was to raise product awareness over the Christmas period through a multi-channel campaign, with a particular focus on social.

The path not taken

It was an exciting project with a fantastic end-result. Nevertheless, reflecting on the experience through the lens of this Fundamentals of Branding workshop I can identify three key areas where I may have improved the process by tackling things differently. I will outline each of these below, specifying what I did at the time and what happened as a result – then contrasting this with what I could have done differently and how that might have helped.

1. Encourage dialogue with clients about how advertising works

A key challenge for any campaign in this industry is ensuring that all parties, from client to partner agencies, are on the same page with regards to how communication works. With so many theories out there, it’s easy to see how they may not be – but, equally, this crucial requirement can be easily overlooked.

In our case, the brief evolved from a single-platform Facebook campaign, to a broader campaign spanning various channels. With our creative originally devised bespoke to Facebook, we faced a real challenge extrapolating this across other channels in a way that that was best suited to each platform, whilst remaining true to the core idea – and in a way that both client and creative were happy with.  

I tackled these issues as they arose, encouraging the clients to consider how different consumer mind-sets call for different styles of communication – for example, engaging entertainment on social, versus a more direct promotional message for banners. However, by this stage, the clients already had a picture in mind of how the creative would look on other platforms. I found that this focussed their attention towards executional detail, rather than strategic thinking around the role of a channel – which resulted in conflicting feedback, several rounds of creative development and delays to project delivery.

Looking back, I would have liked to tackle these higher-level conversations earlier in the planning process – making this a two-way dialogue about how advertising works in different contexts. Specifically, I see two key areas that would have been particularly helpful:

  1. Exploring the different theories and how each may come into play at different stages of the overall consumer experience
  1. Reframing our thinking from focussing on what we want to communicate, to considering what consumers will actually take from that communication

Ideally, I would have liked a working session where this could be freely discussed rather than raising the concept at a time when it could be construed as retrospective justification for creative recommendations. By laying the groundwork early, both agency and client would have been coming at the problem from the same perspective and I believe the clients would have felt more involved and their opinions more valued. In turn, they may have felt more aligned to our recommendations further down the line and this would have helped the project run more smoothly.

2. Working as one team

A further challenge arising from the change in brief was a fragmented team structure. We had two creative teams and two client teams, each working across different parts of the brief, at different times – making it difficult to ensure everything would come together as one holistic campaign. Not only did each creative team have its own take on things but divergent feedback from clients risked taking certain strands of the campaign in different directions to one another. I found this an inefficient way of working and tricky to keep everyone aligned by myself.

In retrospect, I realise that internal processes on both sides were contributing to these silos. A better solution would be to work as one team, applying Victoria Buchanan’s advice, where the agency would lead this change by example. Specifically, I’d ensure that we worked in a more joined-up way, where creative teams worked side-by-side with ongoing visibility of the broader creative. I would facilitate this with joint briefings and reviews wherever possible and make sure that one Planner and CD had view of all work, in addition to the one Account Manager. I could then more easily encourage this way of working with the client, sharing work with both client teams together and requesting consolidated feedback. I believe this would create a sense of joint responsibility across the wider team for the project as a whole, allowing me to manage alignment proactively rather than reactively.

3. Interpreting feedback more effectively

A final hurdle we faced with this campaign was having to start from scratch on creative, just as we were expecting sign-off for production. Up until this point I’d managed several rounds of feedback through various tweaks to execution – but our client eventually decided it was the idea that was the issue.

One approach I found particularly useful from the IPA Fundamentals course was to look at any given piece of communication in terms of its strategic, creative and executional elements. Looking back, I would have applied this framework in thinking about our client feedback which, I believe, would have helped me better identify the issues as being fundamental to the creative route itself. In turn, I would have better anticipated the need for a change in creative and proactively managed this at an earlier point in the process, allowing us to better deliver on project deadlines. In addition, it would have minimised frustration from both the client and creative teams and facilitated the working relationship. Finally, it would have reduced creative development time, positively impacting agency profitability.


The key to success in my role is building strong relationships with internal teams and clients alike and proactively managing issues before they arise. Following the course, I feel confident that I could approach these challenges more purposefully and effectively going forwards – and I look forward to applying these learnings to forthcoming projects.

N.B. Certain details of the project have been removed for publication.

This article is one of the essays submitted by a delegate who took one of the IPA’s courses and qualifications last year. Our CPD Courses and Qualifications equip you with the skills to add value to your agency and clients and advance your career.

They will also provide you with a badge of professionalism. Each delegate who successfully completes a post-course assignment receives stars towards becoming an Accredited MIPA 


Last updated 21 January 2022