George Costanza on … Giving Feedback

George Costanza on … Giving Feedback

UPDATED: May 2, 2017

There’s a question that I get asked, over and over, usually by Account Executives and other strategy folks. They’re nice people, and they want to be accommodating AND they want to make sure they are getting the most out of their creative partners. So they ask, quite nicely (and rightly) “What’s the best way to give creative feedback?”

There are several important keys to delivering your feedback in a way that is mutually beneficial. But first, let’s take a look at this …

Have you ever been in a meeting with a client or your account team that went anything like this?

So, what IS the best way to give feedback to your creative team – be it an in-house team or an agency team?

Well, first of all, don’t do as George does. Of course you’d never be as blunt as to say “You Stink!”. You’re a modern, evolved person. of course. But, still, reflect for a minute. You might not have said You Stink but there’s a distonct possibility that’s how it was heard. And if that’s how it’s heard, it’s pretty unlikely a good dialogue will ensue.

Everyone has opinions about design and copy. We all care deeply. We all speak the language, and we all have at least some experience in marketing. But the people who design it and write it for a living … well they do it for a living. So, no matter what you have to say, please start with the assumption that the work you are reviewing is the result of careful thought and expert consideration on behalf of the people who created it. That doesn’t mean you have to love it, or even like it, but it will help you to keep your comments grounded and not wildly subjective (hopefully). And you won’t be, again in the words of George, just bebopping and scatting all over it.

Of course it’s the creative team’s responsibility to present their work in a way that conveys the thoughtful consideration they have given the project. If they don’t, that’s a separate problem and one that will be addressed in a future post (probably with some interesting insight from our freind George.)

Here are 5 ways to keep your creative feedback grounded (and your creative team receptive.)

1. Know your brand standards.
Imagine giving a comment like “I hate this color. Change this color” and then being told that the color you hate is, in fact, one of the colors in your brand’s approved palette. (I’ve seen it happen.) Remember, the brand standards are there to provide guidance, like Adam’s Smith’s concept of the Invisible Hand. So it’s NOT helpful to say “I hate yellow.” But it IS definitely helpful remind the team “Yellow is not in our brand standards.”

2. Tie it back to the brief. Always.
If you’ve done a good job in writing your creative brief — with solid consumer insight, a clear and understandable Problem Statement and an on-target claim and Focus of Sale — then you’ll find all the ammunition you need to give your feedback right there. It’s NOT ok to say “That image’s not working for me.” It IS ok to say “You know, I don’t think that image will connect with the target audience described in the brief.”

3. Remember the most important communication strategy. (It’s listening, by the way.)Before you offer your feedback, make sure to ask a few questions to make sure you have a good understanding of the team’s creative strategy. Ask probing questions, and really listen to the answers. Before you ask “why didn;t you do it this way?” find out why they did it the way they did.

4. Remember, every creative person takes it at least a little personally. (Even if they tell you they don’t.)
I’ve been a copywriter, a creative director and a group creative director and I’ve never once met a creative person who didn’t feel that they were putting some of their heart and soul (probably a lot, actually) into their work. Not saying you shouldn’t be honest. Just reminding you to consider the POV of your your audience. Just sayin.’

5. Make sure you’re open to new ideas.
You know your brand, your customer, and your industry better than anyone. You live, breathe and sleep your business. That’s a given. Just don’t let your deep focus keep you from seeing the big picture. Just because an idea is different — or you see an approach you didn’t expect — doesn’t mean it won’t work. That’s exactly the reason it might.

Case Studies

Bringing Together 2 Iconic Brands

Bringing Together 2 Iconic Brands

When Capital One acquired ING Direct (INGD), the opportunity was great … and so was the obligation. ING Direct was not a typical business, nor was it a typical brand. The brand’s success was the result of intentionally differentiating itself as much as possible from the way other financial institutions presented themselves. And, as relatively…+

AdWatch: Apple, Maya Angelou and The Human Family

AdWatch: Apple, Maya Angelou and The Human Family

What do you say when you are a global brand? What do you say when your products are practically ubiquitous … shorthand for an entire class of technology? What do you’ve when your champions and critics have said nearly everything that could be said? You let a poet speak. You let a poet speak not…+

More from the Blog

Looking for a Winning Strategy? Try the Constanza Method.

Looking for a Winning Strategy? Try the Constanza Method.

You, me, and everyone we know have gotten to where we are today by leaning on a few tried and true techniques … approaches … strategies. Call them your go-to moves. Or your core competencies (if you are in that kind of TPS-Report-kind-of-organization.) Our brains are hard-wired to repeat what has been successful in the…+

Why the best Creative Directors are Pedestrian Thinkers.

Why the best Creative Directors are Pedestrian Thinkers.

Everyone in advertising and marketing has a tough job … constantly asked to do more with less, and engage consumers who just really don’t want to be bothered. But Creative Director is a uniquely challenging role because it demands two types of thinking that don’t generally go well together. To be successful, a Creative Director…+

How to Choose the Right Ad Agency

How to choose the right ad agency.

According to Agency Spotter, there are over 120,000 companies and entities that choose to define themselves as advertising agencies in the U.S. alone. Worldwide the number is over half a billion. That’s quite a universe. How can you possibly choose the right one? Or, maybe more importantly, avoid choosing the wrong one? There are several…+