The BrainBangers’ Ball™.

With technology making it possible to work from virtually anywhere, and with e-mail and voicemail taking the place of many conversations around the office, we feel it's important to create opportunities for all associates to come together on a regular basis. The weekly BrainBangers' Ball (BBB) serves two purposes. It gets us all together every Thursday for lunch to create much-needed face-time, and it allows for more feedback on our work during the critical stages of development.

At The BBB, team leaders, art directors, PR, direct, promotions and interactive specialists – anyone needing feedback on a project – all have a chance to tell the entire agency what their objective is, who the intended audience is, and then present their ideas in various stages of development. It might have to do with a broadcast or print ad, a PR campaign, a Web page or interactive contest, a promotion, or a direct response offer.

During The BBB – which has a tendency to be wild and wacky – the agency operates as a large, diversified focus group, and a brainstorming group. This results in simultaneous research and creation.

We devote 45 minutes to anywhere from two to six projects, with the entire agency focusing on the task. We call this having "more brains on our clients' business." This ethnically diverse, built-in focus group ranges in age from 22 to 65, represents both genders and is capable of generating a lot of feedback in a short time.

A member of the team presenting the work acts as a scribe to capture the feedback on a large projection screen. That way all associates can see that their ideas were recorded as they intended them. The teams are asked to consider all the input – without any obligation to use any of it. It's up to the self-directed teams to accept or reject the information they receive. This lessens the risk of decision by committee, which can compromise an idea or execution.

The BBB is an excellent tool for ranking preferences for concepts, brainstorming new product names, building lists of alliance partners and gathering additional ideas and opinions on virtually any type of work in progress.

When asking the group to critique, we suggest associates ask, "What could make this communication clearer?" Or, "If you were our target, would this inspire you to want to know more or to take action?"

Over time, the BBB has challenged us creatively, to nurture and develop the talents of less experienced associates and to enhance the work. The value of the BBB far exceeds the agency's investment of time and money in it. In terms of benefit to our clients, it is some of the best unbilled (free) advice they'll ever receive.

Clients have been so taken by the concept that they occasionally attend our Thursday BBB. We enjoy the interaction with them in that setting. And they love seeing virtually every brain in the agency focused on their projects.

In one memorable BBB, the Teradyne team was narrowing down the choices for a logo we designed for a new product line. The client and the art director favored one execution. When it came up on the screen, someone said, "It looks like a horse's ass going over a fence." After that comment, that's all anyone could see when they saw that logo.

It's fortunate that one of our associates saw it before it was produced. Because Teradyne's competitors would have had a field day with that one!

If something is chauvinistic, condescending or off-color, someone will point it out. Often, better ideas come forth from the group than those being presented. Many ideas enhance the work and, even if that doesn't happen, the team gets confirmation that they're on the right track.

All in all, our BrainBangers' Ball is a worthwhile event. It's great for generating ideas. It provides "disaster check" research on the fly. It facilitates integration of the campaigns. The associates get to know each other's personalities and talents. And it's fun!

The BrainBangers' Ball serves as a focus group, a brainstorming session, and gets us together for food and face time.