Once your creative agency have finished presenting their ‘Big Creative Idea’ (which is where the general layout, tone of voice, headline, strapline, logo, style of imagery etc. for the campaign is conveyed – but not the executional detail) and you and your colleagues in the client team have effectively appraised the work presented (see my previous post for more tips on that), then how exactly should you go about feeding that back to your agency?

First of all, I would advise that you resist the urge to give immediate, highly directional feedback to the agency. It is better to make sure that you spend sufficient time reflecting on what you have seen and heard rather than jumping in with your initial gut reaction. At the same time though, do try to react in a noticeable, encouraging way whilst the agency is presenting, mindful of all the work the agency has done in preparing the presentation.

One approach to giving feedback is ‘the huddle’ – where the client team compare notes in private after the agency presentation, coming to a consensus before calling the agency back in. The agency are then debriefed by one member of the client team, and this is followed up the next day with a written response. Whilst this approach has the advantage of speed, it brings the disadvantage of encouraging ‘group-think’. Insufficient time is available to ensure all team members are able to give the work their full consideration and to formulate their own individual opinions.

A better approach is for team members to spend time on their own after the presentation going through their notes and clarifying their individual thoughts, before meeting up again the next day to agree on a joint response. This is important as it allows team members to engage their subconscious minds and process the information overnight.

Once the team have agreed on a joint response, the feedback should be given in writing and should be:

  • Constructive: enabling the agency to ‘buy-in’ to the thinking behind the feedback, and motivating them to want to make the idea even better where necessary.
  • Focused: Describing any issues, rather than trying to prescribe solutions.
  • Detailed: so that the agency knows exactly where any problems lie – from both the perspective of the brand and that of the consumer.
  • Objective rather than subjective: referring back to the creative brief, brand guidelines and to previous conversations where necessary. Must avoid an unsubstantiated ‘we don’t like it’ response.
  • Complete: all necessary internal client stakeholders have been consulted (ie those who have the power to block the creative from progressing, for example senior management and the team who holds the campaign budget).
  • Focused on ‘the big picture’. At the big creative idea stage, the focus must be firmly on the bigger issues concerned with dramatising the proposition, issues such as positioning, tone and personality – not on the executional detail.

A useful structure for clarifying your thoughts when feeding back to the agency is based on the following lines:

  • What inspires us about the idea
  • What works for us about this idea

If it is felt that the idea is not quite there yet, then you should go on to explain:

  • What we feel is missing from this idea

You should always emphasise that your aim is to encourage the agency to improve the idea if you feel they haven’t quite cracked the brief yet. Don’t just reject the creative idea out of hand (unless it is completely off-brief!), which would only serve to confuse and demotivate them. As above, the aim is to encourage the agency to buy into the reasoning behind your comments so that they are motivated to go back and build on your constructive feedback.

Now we have dissected the various aspects of the agency’s ‘big creative idea’ presentation, in my upcoming post I will start to look at the next stage of the process: the agency’s ‘creative execution’ presentation.

If you’re interested in exploring this area in more detail (together with relevant examples), you might like my recent book ‘Successful Marketing Communications’.  If you have any thoughts or comments, do drop me a line below.

Written by Rob H

I’m a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years’ experience working in digital and offline marketing communications across the financial services, leisure, education and technology sectors – most recently working for a large financial services organisation, managing the acquisition marketing communications team. I gained an MSc in Strategic Marketing from Cranfield Business School in 2005 and the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing in 2012. In 2012 I became the part-time course tutor at the Cambridge Marketing College for the CIM diploma in ‘Principles of Mobile Marketing’ – also authoring the accompanying Mobile Marketing study materials for the college. In March 2017 I published ‘Successful Marketing Communications‘ (available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks), which has become recommended reading for delegates at the IDM (Institute of Direct Marketing). When I’m not knee-deeping in reading/ writing the latest marketing communications articles I enjoy outdoor swimming and anything involving snow – with my goal for next year being to combine the two…

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