Seven months ago, Flywheel’s marketing team held a project kickoff to relaunch our Agency Partners Program, a program that ensures agencies around the world are set up for long-term success. What started as a discussion quickly snowballed into a cross-departmental, multi-phase effort to bring a fresh, innovative, and delightful program to our customers with an end goal to help them make more money while doing their best work.
As we dove into the research and re-development phase of the program, it became clear that a large piece of the relaunch would involve completely re-imagining the entire creative direction (and producing new deliverables) across every single channel that the program would be promoted on. What does this mean, exactly? That our five-person creative team was about to get a whole lot of work done!
Once goals were put in place, new messaging was established, and the laundry list of creative needs were flushed out, the creative team sat down, got to work, and dreamt up a relatable, approachable, personable, and professional concept (that included custom-made flags and handmade wooden steps). This led to a campaign shoot that now serves as the foundational visual storytelling and advertising creative for the Agency Partners Program!
To kick off the production, the creative team brought all ideas to the table and worked through a number of different concepts, while also reviewing old creative, finding new sources of inspiration, and folding in the key concepts and messages of the rebranded program.
One of the early decisions we made was which type of personas to include in the shoot. We wanted two people in the shoot, designating each person with a key persona involved in the program: a Flywheel agency expert and the member of the agency (a Flywheel customer, in this case).
In addition, the key messaging we honed in on was the growth agencies could see from the reselling model and benefits from being part of the program, as well as the partnership Flywheel provides while supporting our agency customers (and all customers, for that matter)!
With growth and partnership in mind, we worked through word association to land on the flag and steps as the symbols used in the shoot. The flag is a symbol and image you can stand behind and be proud of. It represents teamwork, collaboration, and a milestone of growth. We want to “wave the flag” for our agencies’ wins and growth and in turn, we want our agencies to love and be proud of their partnership with Flywheel. The steps are synonymous with growth, increase in clients, and keeping your business moving forward with incredible support from a quality hosting provider.
For large creative, branding, and launch (or relaunch) efforts on the marketing team, photography is either the piece that helps drive the rest of the creative production and output, or is the icing on the cake at the end of a project. Can you guess which one it was for the Agency Partners launch? Spoiler alert: It came at the beginning of the production process and helped set the scene for the entire campaign!
Preparation for a shoot this large doesn’t come together overnight – nor was it a solo effort. The Agency Partners shoot was the longest pre-production I have personally worked on at Flywheel to-date, but it was easily the best team effort I have experienced for a shoot yet! The core campaign shoot production efforts (meaning: post-brainstorm, review, and approval processes) landed on:
- Myself, Flywheel’s in-house photographer, leading the overall logistics, planning, and photo production
- Nicholas, Flywheel’s art director, leading set design and creative direction
- Bryan, Flywheel’s graphic designer, helping with design needs in pre-production and set assistant day-of
We worked as a small but mighty crew to make the shoot happen, with tons of brainstorm power and review efforts from the rest of the team. It truly was a collaborative effort!
Did you know Flywheel employees serve as the talent (aka models) for 99% of shoots at Flywheel? Yep, you read that right! We go through great efforts to be as intentional as possible when we select talent, with even trying to go the extra mile to include members of the team in which the program/product/etc. will be implemented by. So, the two people we chose for this campaign shoot were two account managers on our sales team (aka the people who work with our Agency Partners every single day)!
None of us are trained stylists, so what do we lean on when it comes down to decision-making on styling? Don’t try too hard and just keep it natural. That’s exactly what we did with this shoot.
For Nicole, the agency persona, we wanted her to evoke the comfortable yet confident creative that just walked out of a meeting. After deliberation on color-coordination, we decided for Nicole to wear yellow as her contrasting color. Yellow complements the navy well and typically exudes happiness and energy!
For Alex, the Flywheel agency expert, we wanted him to dress in the normal, casual street clothes he could actually be seen in while taking calls on the Flywheel sales floor. For a little further acknowledgement of who was who, we made sure to have Alex wear the Flywheel script-lettered baseball tee. You know, so there’s a little branding placement but it’s not obnoxious! After all, Flywheel’s internal swag and tee shirt game is strong, and there is never a day where someone isn’t wearing a Flywheel tee in the office!
Props & set
Nicholas and Bryan spent a lot of time focusing on the two key props, and symbols, of the shoot: the flag and the steps.
Once we decided that steps were the symbol for growth, we got a quote for the production, used our imagination spacing out the height and width in the corner of the office near our desks, and even went and acted out the scene in our minds (like the sketch) to decide how big to make the steps. We wanted them to feel natural for Nicole but also photograph well (ex: allow for comfortable spacing between Alex and Nicole, stay clean to allow for less Photoshop work in post, etc.) Was there a moment where we were getting funny looks from our co-workers as we acted the scene out on the real stairs near their desks? You bet!
The flag design and production was co-owned by Bryan and Nicholas, who both pulled inspiration, researched vendors, gathered quotes, and ultimately managed the communication with Oxford Pennant to place an order for the “AP” flags seen in the campaign! We ordered three different sizes, to then decide which would feel best in relation to the overall height and width of the set as a whole.
There were several factors that made production a bit tricky, and therefore necessary to live by the shot list, or a list of specific imagery we wanted to get done before we wrapped the shoot:
- The shoot location was offsite from Flywheel’s office
- Our two models (two Flywheel account managers!) had a limited schedule since we shot this during work hours
- The design and overall creative deliverables to launch the campaign hinged on the turnaround of this photoshoot
Because of this, I worked closely with Nicholas to make sure we were nailing the shots we imagined and needed, and managing time well from beginning to end. Before we knew it, an hour and a half had passed and we had 1,200 photos to choose from!
After backing my cards up to two places, culling in Photo Mechanic, and editing in Lightroom, Nicholas reviewed my top 30-50 images from the shoot. From there, the creative team would collaborate on narrowing these images down further to our top five picks for our landing page hero image and our top 15 picks for ads and social media options.
It’s important to note that deciding on which photos to use is an extremely difficult process, especially when your talent is as incredible as Nicole and Alex. Their energy, willingness to embrace the goals of the shoot, and overall attitude made picking tough, but in the best way possible! Just another reason why it’s so important to think through the models you choose if you do end up picking in-house talent.
As the marketing team prepared for launch, the whole company rallied around the new strategy, brand, and overall goal of the program to bring our customers a truly delightful experience as they discover the program and get on the fast-track to long-term success for their agency. The refreshed creative may have taken six months from early brainstorms to seeing it live on the landing page, but the revamp of the Agency Partners Program was truly a team effort – and we had a blast doing it!
Takeaways & lessons learned
Now that it’s all said and done, here are just a few takeaways I’ve gathered from creating and collaborating on this huge project (and a few tips if you’re thinking about launching your own campaign in-house!):
- Teamwork makes the, ‘er, dream work? Yep, it may be a cliché, but it really does. The marketing team as a whole rallied around the creative concept of the shoot, the creative team put all the pieces together, and no part of the shoot felt too heavy. Delegation and sharing ownership over different elements of production made for a smooth and fun experience on set.
- Prep, prep, and prep some more. Preparation was key for this shoot, there’s no doubt about it. The production timeline only spanned four total hours, but the preparation was easily in the 20-30 hour range, from creative brainstorming to the final coat of paint on the steps.
- Clear communication and clear goals. By understanding our goals early and communicating them to our models, they were able to come into the shoot feeling like they were true stakeholders and participants in the outcome of the shoot.
- Music is a must. It sets the mood and energy for the set, and ultimately allowed us to not take ourselves too seriously (yes, dance moves were included in the making of this campaign).
- Make time to play. Shot lists are guardrails and allow for clear communication of the must-haves, but it’s important to remember that capturing other imagery and options around that list can be where the magic happens.
And that’s a wrap! From creative direction to post-production, that is what it takes to launch a full creative campaign here at Flywheel.