How to evaluate creative work

(Excerpt from Stanley’s new book: The Client’s Bible)
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Giving feedback

Do not rewrite copy or redesign layouts. Do not prescribe solutions. Identify problems or errors and let the agency come back to you with solutions. Do not diagnose your own disease and prescribe a cure. Tell the doctor where it hurts and get a professional recommendation for an appropriate remedy. This approach will not only produce better advertising, it will produce a healthier and more successful relationship with your agency.

How to proceed

Start every discussion explaining what you LIKE about the work. Don’t start off looking for problems.

Now provide the creative team with an objective analysis based on the marketing objectives. Is it on target? Does it communicate the appropriate marketing messages? If so, do not be quick to reject the creative executions just because they are not what you expected. They may be better than you expected. Be open to new ways of communicating—what you have done before or what your competitors are doing may not be the best thing you can do.

If the creative work does NOT communicate the appropriate marketing messages, talk about the marketing situation, the competition, the purpose of the marketing vehicle, the specific strategic objectives of the piece, the competitive advantages of the product or service, the needs and perceptions of the audience, and other relevant issues. Then give the agency enough time to revise the work intelligently—usually one or two weeks.

When they present the revised work, start the discussion by reviewing the previous version and revisiting your comments and concerns. That will establish the target the new work is supposed to be shooting for. Again, describe what’s right with it and then carefully evaluate how well it achieves the marketing objectives. If it’s on target but still makes you a little uncomfortable, that may be a signal that it’s strong enough to be wildly effective in the marketplace.

If the work is still off-target or somehow inappropriate, repeat the discussion of the marketing situation, the competition, the purpose of the marketing vehicle, the specific strategic objectives of the piece, the competitive advantages of the product or service, the needs and perceptions of the audience, and other relevant issues. Give the Agency another week or so to revise the work. If it’s still off-target or unacceptable a second time, it may be a signal that it’s time to look for another Agency.

2 thoughts on “How to evaluate creative work”

  1. There is a common misconception that creative writing involves only imaginary feats and fictions. That is not the case, however. Every written work, from a piece of news to an article on politics; from a movie column to a story to a biography; from one liner to a word, creativity lies everywhere.

    1. In advertising, “creative” typically refers to the specific work that copywriters, art directors, and video producers do to communicate a marketing message to an intended audience. It is not the same as “creativity.” It can be argued that creativity is an essential characteristic of human beings and is manifested broadly across all of the things that we do. When we say “let’s see the creative” in advertising, it means, “show me the ad/tv spot/video that you produced to advertise my product.” To go broader than that, you need to get into aesthetics and the history of art.

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