Assessing creative ideas? Remember, it’s not about you

We all have personal preference when it comes to art and creativity. Sometimes something just grabs us, and sometimes it doesn’t. But when you’re judging creative for advertising, there’s no room for subjectivity.
Executives at conference table holding score cards, portrait

Many moons ago, I was part of an agency team presenting creative work to a client. It was a direct mail pack, presented on boards like we used to in the dark ages.

It was good work too, and bang on brief (in my humble opinion).

But as more of the work was revealed, it became clear that something wasn’t right. Instead of a smiley client, we had a frowny client.

A pouty client.

A client with completely the opposite facial expression to what we were expecting to see.

So, when the time came to ask for feedback, we were expecting the worst.

“It’s not really doing it for me, this”, said the client.

“Why’s that?” we asked, expecting to find out that we’d misinterpreted the brief somehow.

The client though for a second then said “It’s too yellow. I just don’t like yellow”.

We didn’t know what to say.

The client didn’t like the pack because it there was a lot of ‘yellow’ in it.

Now, you may also not be a fan of ‘yellow’.

But if you work for the AA, then maybe you should be accepting that ‘yellow’ is likely to feature quite strongly.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, now, should it?

It’s like working for Ferrari and insisting all the cars should be green.

You are, of course, entitled to an opinion. Your opinion is bound to be influenced by your preferences, by your personal likes and dislikes, which may have come about through many years of cultural experiences.

But personal preference has no place in judging whether or not an idea will work.

“I don’t like it” is nowhere near a good enough rationale.

Good marketing professionals know that good judgement is all about having empathy. It’s the single most important trait that a marketer can have.

The key to successful advertising lies not in satisfying personal tastes, but in understanding the target audience’s psyche.

Imagine for a moment you’re assessing a vibrant, street art-inspired ad for ‘urban’ hi-top trainers. The chances are, if you’re reading this, then that ad isn’t meant for you. Whether you ‘like it’ or not is irrelevant.

Brands thrive when they truly ‘get’ their audience.

Good decision-making blends an understanding of demographics, psychographics, cultural trends, and your own brand positioning. It’s about taking a step back from our personal biases and asking: “Will this resonate with my audience?”

No-one cares whether it appeals to you.

And brands thrive too, when they consistently deliver a clear and recognisable identity.

If your audience expects to see ‘yellow’ then you’d better be prepared to bloody well live with it, or go work for someone else.