Making friends with our competitors makes life more interesting I often feel like the Roman God Janus, considered pretty cool for facing two ways. At Avocado, we’ve been courting clients with marketing needs for a quarter of a century, and some have stayed with us for nearly all of that time. But lately, our decade-long development of an amazing system called Visual Approval has seen us talking to so-called competitors who have the same issues as us in managing huge volumes of creative activity. We all compete on a level playing field, with design and creative excellence being the market differentiator. Clients match themselves and their needs to favoured agencies and that’s as it should be. But managing the creative and production process, at every stage from concept to implementation offers huge rewards in cost savings and control for both client and agency. Or get it wrong and it’s a disaster waiting to happen, profit margins get slaughtered, clients and agencies fall out and it all goes horribly wrong. You have to get it right, or regret it at your leisure when the work gets taken away. Visualapproval.com (VA) is our baby but the gestation period has probably been closer to nine years than nine months. But it’s been worth it. Our new-born is a thriving bouncing bundle of controlled joy that makes our lives, and that of our clients so much easier and productive. This software-based system manages the complex process of creative development, with agency and clients working seamlessly together through one virtual hub. Amendments are made and checked, approvals are logged and tracked, progress can be rapid and costs reduced. Yes, our clients choose us for our creative abilities and distinctive design but they also see the value of managing the process between us and them, as well as between their key staff. If it works for our client relationships, it will work for anyone’s. Our friends at the fantastic agency Dinosaur have installed VA and they love it, as do their clients. And yes, they really are our friends. Manchester is an amazing creative community where companies who might consider themselves rivals in other parts of the country, mix like old mates at industry events and share their successes and their problems. With the creation of Media City:UK in Salford and the resulting increase in sector activity, the community is getting even bigger. So, it was particularly pleasing to pick up our innovation award for VA at the recent big business bash at The Lowry. Secretary of State Hazel Blears, a local girl, was spot on when she spoke about the amazing strength of city businesses. None of us need to think sub-regionally when our work is recognised as world class. Our global clients love us for our brand-building skills and our to-die-for designs. But they also see Visual Approval as the galvanising glue that holds every part of the process together. Just ask PZ Cussons, currently setting up VA in ten or more countries. A world class solution for a global brand leader. The rapid advances of digital technology have changed the nature of much of life. This is undoubtedly true in the world of creative communications. The options for addressing a target audience have expanded well beyond the traditional channels of TV and print into incredible and exciting multi platform campaigns. Today’s possibilities would have seemed beyond reach just a few years ago, and we would be wise to anticipate similar dramatic advances in years to come. Anticipating the increasing demand to manage and control the creative process which remains at the core of all of this activity, however complex, gives Visual Approval its long term credibility. It’s an innovation with built-in sustainability. Invented in Manchester. With true global resonance.