The next time you attend a creative presentation remember this: research shows that 99.9% of copywriters suffer from acute paranoia. Art directors on the other hand, tend towards schizophrenia. As for the digital guys well, let’s just say you’ve been warned. They’re all mentally fragile and who can blame them? They live in a world of uncertainty. Everything they do is subjective and second-guessing is a necessity of life. Unlike most professions, there are no well-defined guidelines by which to avoid the minefields.

For a creative, advertising is a business based on gut reaction. For them it’s a case of does this idea “feel” right as opposed to can I prove it’s right? A good creative knows something is right through instinct not research. But for every time a creative mutters the immortal words, “I don’t know why it’s right, I just know that it is” the client can always reply, “Well I don’t know why it’s wrong but I will soon because Millward Brown is going to tell me”.

Look, this isn’t one of those poor-misunderstood- creative-pieces. It’s just a simple guide to making the most of you agency’s creative department. After all, you’re paying serious cash to have them work on your business so you may as well get every last cent’s worth of value out of the relationship.

The first tip – and I know it sounds cringe worthy – is to get the creatives to respect you, or at least like you. It may be Psychology 101 but the fact remains people work better for people they like. I don’t know if good clients know this or not but creatives don’t like disappointing them. They’ll work longer and harder for a client they respect and who they believe respects them in return. They’ll also be less pissed off if the work is knocked back because they’ll know there’s probably a valid reason other than the chairman’s wife didn’t like it. Conversely, arseholes masquerading as CMOs get the crap they deserve. Ruling by fear is about useful with creatives as lips are on a chicken. If there’s a brilliant way to stifle creativity in any endeavour, it’s the introduction of fear.

Tip number two: If your agency only likes presenting one campaign per brief, fair enough. That’s good; they obviously believe in it or, alternatively, they’re bloody lazy. The problem is, creatives often spend weeks unearthing their idea but expect their clients to understand the depth of their thinking in a nanosecond. So rather than asking for a secondary campaign (and most likely inferior) to be shown, ask if the creatives will bring along their scribbles and rough thinking that helped get them to their final destination. Often they’ve covered a huge amount of thinking and already know which paths are fruitful and which are dead ends. I don’t know a creative who wouldn’t be happy to run through their thought process if it meant getting something worthwhile over the line.

If you really want to get more from your creative department, do what they do and trust your gut a bit more. I’m not suggesting you abandon your entire process for judging work and start buying everything they throw your way. I’m just saying don’t discount your initial reaction to a piece of work. There’s not a creative born who hasn’t experienced the delighted look of a client as they revealed their idea, only to see that expression fade forever as the client commenced a forensic dissection of the work before finally explaining why, unfortunately, the idea, though very clever, simply won’t work. After all, your target market will only ever give your work a fleeting second and if it doesn’t delight them everything leading up to that time has been for nought. Finally, whatever you do, please don’t start your critique with, I really like this but….

Because as we all know, everything before the but is bullshit.

DavidWestgate2 cropDavid Westgate is the principal at Westgate + Friends and a Legends & Leaders mentor in the Creative module.

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