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Short deadlines. Sometimes less is more.

Creative industries are notoriously high-pressure environments, with agency life no exception. The classic claim that tight turnarounds are the enemy of creativity is a popular one, but are looming deadlines and fast turnarounds always to the detriment of the work and team?

Well, that depends. It’s clear to us here at Whippet that there are different kinds of fast.

Fighting fear

The first kind is negative. It fuels a way of working that decreases job satisfaction. More often than not, it comes down to fear. Fear of not having enough time to meet expectations and fear of not getting results. With fear in the driver’s seat there’s always an inclination towards recycling, sticking with “safe” options and churning out work deathly similar to what came before it.

A deadline is a beautiful thing

Then there’s that other kind of fast; the kind fostered in a creative environment where ideas are free flowing, with little emphasis on who came up with them.

The goal of a level playing field is not one person hitting a home run and basking in the glory. It’s assembling the right team, within which everyone is free to tap into his or her instincts. The team can then ping pong through the creative development process with a workshop mentality, making the work better, faster.

This is one of the ways a smaller agency has an advantage. Without a hierarchy of multiple layers, we know each other well – our quirks, strengths and weaknesses. The most junior person regularly interacts with the founder. We trust that colleagues will get the job done because we’ve seen them do it before first-hand. Not mandatory, but a helpful reassurance when under pressure.

Working within a tight timeframe demands focus and undivided attention; it can actually align stakeholders externally as well. Clients appreciate the feeling of momentum and third parties know the project won’t bleed across into their next project.

Decisions are made quickly, and despite popular opinion, the sheer lack of time can lead to more ingenuity. We can all point to examples where creativity seemed to be sparked by extreme time pressure. If traditionally a project could take six months, when you’re actually given just two, figuring out how results in innovative ideas from the outset, not just reduced production times.

The way in which ideas are quickly generated and pulled through into execution is a proven process, fine-tuned over many years. It’s a framework everyone knows how to work within; again, much easier in a small agency where everyone is exposed to the work.

New team members learn the process by taking part in it and are encouraged by the knowledge that mistakes are okay until they are well versed. When you create an environment in which your processes are in sync with a democratic ideas culture, deadlines are merely a date by which we need to hit send.

We took this approach on a recent project for national bedding retailer, Snooze. From successful pitch through to completed assets, we had six weeks. We assigned a senior, streamlined team and delivered a new brand platform and campaign across TV, radio, outdoor, social and digital channels. It was exceedingly fast, and the work was decidedly polished.

With the dust settling, we had a minute to reflect and were reminded of a few things. Firstly, on a pragmatic level, projects tend to fill the time they are allotted. But more importantly, an agency’s biggest capital is its people. People are often more capable than they think, and when trusted will step forward and do their best work.


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