Nailing It

Five Ways to Get the Best Work from Your Agency's Creative Team

It’s here. The day has finally come when your agency’s creative team is going to present concepts for your next big campaign. You can barely contain your excitement. You hold your breath as each concept is shared. And when it’s over… meh. You’re thinking, “That’s it?” It all seems… you’re not quite sure… off the mark? Not very exciting? Too exciting?

If you’re feeling underwhelmed by the creative work, there’s a good chance your agency’s creative team is disappointed, too. Because all of us who create for a living want you to be thrilled, no, let’s make that absolutely giddy, about the concepts we’re sharing with you.

It’s a given that we want to do work that’s strategic, differentiating, and gets results. But it makes our little creative hearts beat faster if we know we’ve made yours beat a little faster too.

So how do you prevent a letdown when that all-important unveiling of concepts comes? According to Bill Bernbach, one of the fathers of advertising, “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”

In other words, there’s no magic formula that will produce amazing creative work. But there are steps you can take to help your creative team come up with solutions that’ll make everyone’s pulse race (without bringing on a heart attack).

1. It All Starts with the Creative Brief.

The creative brief is the mother of all documents in the creative process. It serves as the blueprint that will guide the creative team, and it’s the yardstick you’ll measure the work against. So it’s important for the creative brief to be, well, creative. And brief. It should contain a unique, ownable message that’s so insightful that your only response to it should be, “a-ha!” Make sure the brief isn’t weighed down with facts that aren’t critical to the main objective. And speaking of the main objective, that should be clear and focused. If you remember nothing else about creative briefs, remember that inspired work comes from an inspired team, and both come from an inspired brief. Start with a great brief and great things will happen.

2. Great Creative Work Isn’t Built by Committee.

It’s a rare organization that doesn’t require layers of approval when bringing a campaign to life. However, typically not everyone involved in the approval process has the same level of marketing savvy. Try to designate one person the decision-maker – preferably the one who has the most marketing knowledge and is closest to the project. That person can weigh all of the feedback and determine what’s important to change and what isn’t. Otherwise, incorporating every person’s feedback results in a watered-down concept that loses its effectiveness in a misguided attempt to please an internal audience. Don’t let internal politics make you ignore your real audience – the external one who’s ideally going to buy your product or service.

3. Give Honest Feedback.

Speaking of feedback, don’t worry about hurting your creative team’s feelings by being forthright. Using the creative brief as your guide, clearly explain what you think is and isn’t working, and why. But keep personal preference out of the discussion. It shouldn’t matter if you like trees or not. (True story: I once listened to a guy in a focus group trash a concept because the visual featured a tree. He had fallen out of a tree when he was a kid, and therefore hated trees. And therefore, he hated this concept.) There’s also a good chance you’re not the target audience for your campaign, so try to put yourself in their shoes and think about how they would react to a concept.

4. Use Your Creative Team’s Expertise.

Once you give that candid feedback, let your creative team do the heavy lifting. I know how to use a hammer to do basic things, but I’d never attempt to build a house – I’d seek out a pro. So as tempted as you might be to try to write copy or create a design, remember that everyone on your team has vast experience as a copywriter, designer and overall strategically creative thinker. Offer input, but sit back, relax, and let them do the work. And try to give them a reasonable amount of time to do it.

5. Partner Up.

Include your creative team whenever possible, not only when discussing creative concepts, but when discussing your organization or the industry it’s in with your account team. We might not have been business majors, but we want to know and understand your business, and the more we do, the better our work for you will be.


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