Evaluating creative – from a distance

Clear, effective and unbiased evaluation of your agency’s creative product is an essential duty that must be performed by every client – particularly now.

But all too often, we see and hear clients who are unable to articulate their feedback properly. Some clients appear to prefer a game of charades with their agencies, rather than taking the bull by the horns and clearly articulating well considered, constructive feedback.


Is it a morbid fear of upsetting potentially fragile creative egos? Are some clients – even internal agency account management – so muddle-headed, they don’t know how to articulate feedback? Are junior or intermediate clients worried about second-guessing what their bosses might think? Or would some clients just ‘prefer’ something different – but are too shy to say so?

Whatever the reasons, poor, disjointed, indirect or vague feedback can seriously impede the success of both clients and agencies.  Poor feedback can result in:

  • Lengthy delays in finding a creative solution that’s going to hit the mark
  • Cost overruns caused by multiple creative go-arounds
  • Watered-down or ineffective creative solutions
  • Creative products that bear no resemblance to the original brief
  • Over-thought creative that’s overshadowed by detail
  • Dissatisfied and very unhappy clients
  • Demotivated and frustrated creative teams

None of that paints a pretty picture or bodes well for the longevity of the client / agency relationship. So to help get you thinking, here are some useful thought starters to help set the stage for stronger, more inspirational creative evaluation:

1. It begins with the brief

A well written brief should contain everything needed for an agency to create solutions that’ll meet your objectives.  Poorly crafted briefings will only extend the process and frustrate both you and your agencies.  Clients and agencies should know and understand the brief as well as the back of their hands and use it as the foundation for the work.

2. Be objective

While the creative may not be to your ‘taste’ per-se, the key to evaluation is to be objective and put yourself in the position of your consumer.  Ask yourself how you think they would react – and what would they do after seeing the communication?

3. Be clear

Being clear may require you to take a minute to write down and organize your thoughts – and that’s ok (really).  Any agency would rather have considered feedback than a jumble of ‘I don’t like it’ or ‘it wasn’t what I was expecting’ or (worst of all) ‘I don’t know but I’ll know it when I see it…

4. Be honest

This seems to be one of the hardest things to do in front of peers and in larger groups when the agency is present – but it’s essential.  If something’s on your mind that’s constructive in trying to articulate a stronger solution – say it!

5. See the big picture

Ask yourself whether the creative is on-brief, on brand and would meaningfully motivate your consumer.  Don’t let small details cloud your view of the bigger picture.  Small details can easily be addressed once the broader creative solution has been successfully articulated.

6. Let the agency do their job

Agencies are generally pretty good at bringing their ideas to life, so it’s helpful to provide direction, but not be overly prescriptive with your feedback.  Trust the process. Trust the brief. And allow a little magic into the work you’re getting produced.

If any of this has brought some clarity of thought to your next creative evaluation, then all well and good.  If it’s stirred up a few questions and got you thinking about how your teams would benefit from brushing up their evaluation skills, then ask how we can help.


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: Ram Balmur

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