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Assessing Creative

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Magnifying glass focusing on man thinking of creative ideas.

“I think this is good creative….”

So, you’ve given your agency a creative task, and now, they are presenting the fruits of their labour. What do you think? They’re all looking at you, waiting for the directional thumbs; up…. or down. Do you wait until someone else gives an opinion? It isn’t always easy to judge creative from the perspective of the audience for which it is targeted. Sometimes, it’s clear that a client is going mostly by ‘feel’. The reality is, we’re not all creatively wired so we may need to employ other tools to make a meaningful assessment. It’s perhaps one of the more challenging things for which a client has responsibility.

While your objective opinion is a key part of the assessment, it’s important to be able to support your position with tangible factors that will help you articulate your impressions to your agency. “I just don’t like it” is unlikely to help the agency give you what you need.

First, go back to the creative brief. It was your starting point and is the most critical part of the process. It should reflect your agreement to the direction the creative team will take. The agency should refer back to the brief while presenting. If the creative isn’t working for you, but it’s clearly reflective of the brief, perhaps more focus needs to be applied to the briefing process. If it’s inconsistent with the brief, you’ve got a strong rationale for it not getting the job done, and tangible direction to provide to the agency for revision.

We have a tool we’ve used previously with clients that can be a great aid in the assessment of creative. We didn’t create it, but we’ve used it to help clients understand better how to articulate their impressions. It’s called FORCE and it’s an acronym that helps you to assess whether or not the creative you are seeing is:


These words guide questions you can ask yourself while viewing or assessing creative.

  • Is it Focused, or single-minded? Does it strongly and clearly communicate the SMIT, or single most important thing about your brand? Is it true to the brief?
  • Is it Ownable? Is it a unique notion in your market, or is there a risk of confusion with other brand messages and visuals? Does it have the strength to be associated with your brand for the long term?
  • Is it Relevant? Does it speak to the core need identified for your audience? Does it reflect the current marketplace and challenges?
  • Is it Campaignable? Is it an idea that can be leveraged consistently across all channels? Can it be used with visual consistency to build brand equity?
  • Is it Evocative? Good creative should appeal to your emotions, whether that’s making you smile, causing empathy, or making you sad; it should evoke a feeling.

A simple tool like this may help you understand why a concept just isn’t working for you, and more importantly, to articulate your reasoning to the agency. It reduces the level of objectivity for your review and enables you to zero in on actionable feedback.

Above all, remember that your agency is your partner and they have a stake in the game. They want you to succeed, and working collaboratively with them toward that goal will always win out in the end.

“Whenever you see a truly great idea, you can bet that behind it was a trusting relationship between client and agency.”
Bruce Haines, Group Chief Executive, Leo Burnett

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