These days most businesses cannot survive without employing some of the creative talents of web designers, photographers, video production companies, musicians, et al. In this multi media, data streaming world you’ve got to put yourself out there to be heard above the noise. But how does your chosen agency come up with all those ideas? How do they choose what to show you? Undoubtedly they do their research and then develop the idea.

What is Research and Development? The definition is:

“Research and Development (in industry): work directed towards the innovation, introduction, and improvement of products and processes.”

I know that industries you’d traditionally associate with having a “Research and Development” department are industrial/mechanical/electronic. That makes perfect sense right, for a physical product.

However, the applied research and development of a creative idea is just as critical to achieving amazing outcomes… in every sector of business. Even in the creative world R&D is about obtaining knowledge and it is certainly fundamental to the innovation and improvement of processes. As such, an appropriate budget should always be allocated for this phase of the project.

Matheson and Matheson identified nine factors in their book The Smart Organization: Creating Value Through Strategic R&D in which best practices can be found for R&D departments.

  1. The decision basis
  2. Technology strategy
  3. Portfolio management
  4. Project strategy
  5. Proper organisation and process
  6. Relationship with internal customers
  7. Relationship with external customers
  8. R&D culture and values
  9. Improving decision quality

These all seem fairly obvious for large companies with a physical product. Let’s look at the importance of this process from a different perspective: If you wanted to build a house would you give a builder a pile of bricks, a few windows and a door and tell him to do his best? No Way! You’d choose an architect…discuss your needs…the architect will draw up plans…the builder will follow the plans…the house will be built.


Here are 3 reasons why the applied R&D phase of creative projects should not be overlooked.

  1. The more ideas your creative team generate, the better they are.

Creating lots of ideas takes time. Believe me when I tell you that most creative’s will have had those light bulb moments (often in the middle of the night) and they spend a huge amount of their own time thinking about how to turn their amazing idea into a reality for your project. This means that when it comes to the desk and getting these ideas into something concrete they are properly funded and feel valued.

  1. Applied R&D allows for a more focused understanding of audience and objectives

There’s no point in saying you’d like a video that shows off all of your establishment in all of it’s splendour and not thinking about why or who it’s for. A great creative will have the ability to get inside the mind of your target audience, to become them and feel what they feel, to know what makes them tick – and how to get them to tick-tock.

  1. This creates a smoother workflow, better project budgeting, and better results.

One of the best things about having a proper R&D budget is that it allows for the most meticulous planning of any project. It creates breathing space for extra client meetings, allows sourcing time to painstakingly find and select the very best elements (actors/locations/colour palettes etc) and it means that the entire project runs on time and on budget with top end results. What’s not to love?


How to get creative with the R&D for your project:

  • Bring all your ideas to the table. Let the agency see exactly what it is that makes you tick. They’ll work all the more in tune with you if you let them in.
  • Be prepared for a second meeting. Digesting the initial ideas takes time. You’ve got to allow those creative juices time to flow.
  • You must discuss budget at the first. Always a touchy subject, I know, but you’ll get proper results if you are confident and up front about what your budget is.
  • Be prepared to throw away the box. Presenting your business in a fresh way is every entrepreneur’s dream. If you come across a team of creatives’ who want to make you stand out – run with it.
  • That said; don’t be afraid to change the direction or say no. This R&D phase is critical is establishing what you do want but also making it very clear what you don’t want!
  • Remember – once the planning is over and the project begins you will have fewer chances (if any – depending on the company/project) to make changes. With a properly planned R&D phase you won’t have to make changes.


Be wary of any creative agency that gives you a comprehensive pitch for free. To do that much work for an 80% chance of zero return is not a sensible business model. Free pitching will most certainly not generate the best ideas, and that’s probably the idea they’ll end up using. Existing clients are essentially footing the bill for the agency to do all these “free” pitches. Would you want to be one of their clients?

So, take control of your situation by finding the right agency for you, being honest and open with them about who you are and what you want and value the R&D phase of the project – because that way it won’t come back to bite you in the rear later.


If you’re interested to know more about creative pitching read this


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