The Secret to Giving Effective Creative Feedback

One of the most difficult challenges for account service professionals in the agency world is how to deliver effective creative feedback.  Or, put another way, how can an account service person give feedback that the creatives will actually listen to?

Today I’m going to give you the keys to the kingdom.  I’m going to let you in on the secret of how to force the creatives to listen to you.  It’s taken me over 16 years to figure this out but I’m going to give it to you for free. 

The key for account people to give creative feedback that can’t be ignored is…

Don’t.  That’s not your job.

(I’m sorry.  I know that’s not the answer you were hoping for.)

Here’s the thing.  As an account service professional your job is to make sure that the creative concepts that you present to the client are on strategy.  That’s it.  It is not your job to decide if you personally like the work.  It is not your job to provide feedback on the creative concept or execution.

That’s what creative directors do and they do it much better than you ever could.

The absolute worst thing that you can do as an account service professional is to presume what the client will think and then fight for concept changes based on those presumptions.  That’s an insult to both the client and the creatives.

Be strategic.  Assess whether the work truly pays off the brief.  Judge whether the work is appropriate for the brand’s voice.  Determine whether the work fulfills the assignment.  But don’t give “creative” feedback.

The truth is that the most innovative creative work can be a little unsettling.  The best work is often original and different.  It could make people nervous.  It might make the client nervous.  The prospect of a nervous client definitely makes account people nervous.  That’s okay.  If the work is on strategy and on brand then a little nervousness might be a good sign.

Over time, if you successfully establish yourself as a strategic thinker that respects boundaries, your creative team might actually solicit your opinion on the work.  If that’s the case then by all means offer it respectfully and thoughtfully.

But then again, they might never ask for your opinion on creative.  That’s okay, too.

Junior account people: always strive to be brilliant strategists rather than crappy creative directors.  Don’t worry – in about 16 years you’ll thank me.


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