The Ultimate Cheat Sheet: Avoiding Last Minute Ad Production Changes

In our conversations with studio managers, we found two common problems they face tend to occur on either end of the advertising production workflow. An unclear brief (from the beginning of the process) and last-minute changes (at the end of the process) can both seriously impact the efficiency of the studio. Let’s look at what we can do to minimize confusion from an uncertain brief, and deal with the disruption of last minute changes. 

Clear communications = clear brief

A brief serves as the foundation of a project. Ideally, it should be firm, fixed and concise, so everyone knows what is going on, and production can proceed apace. But if it’s constantly shifting with new additions and subtractions, the uncertainty and changes can mean a lot of wasted time and effort in the studio.

While it’s very well to think of unclear or shifting briefs as a problem that needs to be solved, perhaps it’s more useful to think about it as a symptom of communications failure. So the real priority might lie in solving the underlying issues with communications.

Raise your hand

It’s always faster and easier to resolve any issues early in the process. The later the changes come, the more time is wasted.

So if you are encountering any uncertainties or questions about the project during the briefing stage, you should face up to them and be proactively raising these issues (be it with the client or with the account manager) as early as possible.

Build internal rapport

If the account managers/project leads are the ones who are delivering the brief, it can be easy to see them as just another stakeholder, or a point of pressure. But building a rapport with accounts and project management teams can be hugely beneficial.

Make an effort to explain your workflow processes to the account managers or leads, and try to understand the way they work. If the account managers understand the types of information you need to ensure efficient work, they can work with clients to clarify those details even before the brief is built.

What causes last-minute changes?

Sometimes, despite all the efforts to clarify things in the brief, last minute changes can still occur. We spoke with Darryl Anderson, Studio and Design Manager, about how studios can deal with them.

According to Darryl, last minute changes usually come from the client side.

“Usually it’s because someone higher up the chain on the client side, who hasn’t had a chance to review the work yet, has come in and put in their two cents,” Darryl told us.

“And of course, legal won’t look at anything until it’s done, so their reviews might create another set of last-minute changes.”

Dealing with last minute changes

There are no real optimal methods to deal with last minute changes – but if you have established an ordered process to react to these changes, and have the systems in place to be able to flexibly rearrange the work in the studio, you can reduce the impact that it has on your studio’s operations.

“The only real option is to bump the job to the front of the queue,” says Darryl. “The assigned artworker will need to be very detailed about what they’re doing.”

“And if you are right on deadline you might have to call up the publisher and ask for more time. If the change is really late and you’ve already sent the file, you’ll have to be extra careful about version control and key numbering so you don’t get the wrong ad being printed.”

The key here is to have a robust project and workflow management system in place so you know what resources you have at your disposal, and which tasks you can safely push back without causing a domino effect on your ability to meet deadlines.

Avoiding last-minute changes

According to Darryl, having a good relationship with the client can go a long way in preventing last minute changes. Having systems in place that give clients responsibility and visibility into the project can also help.

“If you can find a way to work collaboratively, you might be able to avoid last-minute changes since you catch all the changes before it gets too late into the process,” he said.

“Some systems allow you to template stuff up for the client to tweak until they have something they are content with.”

Consolidated feedback

Another way is to educate client in the art of delivering consolidated feedback. This aims to unify the decisions coming from the client by having one person taking responsibility and leadership of the process from the client/agency side.

This single point of contact would be responsible for collating feedback from all the key decision makers, including senior management, their legal department, etc, as early in the process as possible.

If there are conflicting pieces of feedback and change requests from different stakeholders within the client company, this representative should work to resolve and clarify this internally, so the production studio is not undertaking work based on conflicting and confusing feedback.

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Georgie CharlishBlog