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CMO Guide to High-Quality Creative Feedback

CMO Guide to High-Quality Creative Feedback

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered how to evaluate creative and how to structure creative review sessions that are productive and inspiring. But how do you actually deliver creative feedback that leads to better work and better relationships? In this post, we’ll share the Mercer Island Group approach to delivering high-quality feedback, and several other pointers that will help you become the agency’s best client.

Let’s start with a simple, easy-to-use, and highly effective model for delivering feedback.

MIG’s High-Quality Feedback Model

The ability to deliver effective feedback is a primary skill if you want to succeed that delivers a number of important benefits – in working with creative teams or in almost any other situation. High-quality feedback:

  • Helps others to hear your input without defensiveness
  • Reinforces the other person’s positive behavior, or changes their inappropriate
  • Strengthens an authentic, respectful relationship between you and the other person

In essence, we’re trying to use feedback to create a win/win outcome.

“Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions… Win/Win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.”

Steven Covey

What we’re looking for here is a way for a marketing team to help a creative team get to work that can/will be approved to go to market – and of course, will work once it is in market. When a marketing team provides clear expectations for the work and high-quality feedback on the work, the creative team’s effort improves.

Marketing teams can use a variety of techniques and tools to give creative feedback. Many teams tend to use the same tools over and over, even when using something different would be more effective.

As marketers who are committed to getting the best from their creative partners, we recommend using descriptive feedback, an effective tool for improving the work in a manner that elicits the best that a creative team has to offer. Feedback is short, sweet, and to the point. It is a concise way to redirect work you want to change or reinforce. The model below is a one-way communication, not an in-depth dialogue. It can be used to initiate a longer and more productive discussion.

Some things to remember when you’re giving feedback:

  • Speak with honesty, integrity, and good intent.
  • Talk directly. Don’t sugarcoat.

Your comments should be:

  • Based on fact, not impression
  • Descriptive, not evaluative (no labels or judging)
  • Specific, not general
  • Given in 30 seconds or less

Yes – 30 seconds or less for a comment. How do you do that? Use the Mercer Island Group 3-step model to forming a complete feedback thought.

That’s it – three easy-to-remember steps that are clear, direct, and get to the point.

Here’s how that may come to life:

“When I saw the end frame of the first execution, I thought the call to action lacked specificity; I wonder if there is a way to spell out the call to action more directly?”

Try this yourself – and not just for creative feedback. This works for any feedback you need to provide in the workplace.

Now, with that guiding framework in mind, let’s cover several other practical suggestions that will help you be the agency’s ideal client.

Ask Questions

Don’t forget to make sure you understand the work and the agency’s recommendation before you provide feedback. Ask questions to make sure you understand the thinking behind the work. If the creative is not clear to you, just imagine the impact on your target audience!

Be Appreciative

Developing creative that works is hard and often stressful work. The creative team is doing that work – possibly at night or on weekends – for your benefit. Be gracious. Appreciate their hard work. And tell them how much you value their efforts.

Explain Your Concern; Let the Creatives Solve It

Don’t try to do the agency’s job for them. They are good at developing creative materials that drive the business – you likely are not. Their solution to a challenge will undoubtedly be far better than any prescription you can provide.

Be Sensitive and Honest

Creative work can be deeply personal. Like anyone, a creative team will feel better about well-received work than work that seems to miss the mark. Yet you need to deliver the feedback that helps the process move forward. Here’s how:

  • Appreciate your agency team and their efforts
  • Use the MIG 3 Step High-Quality Feedback model to deliver direct feedback
  • And express your confidence in the team and enthusiasm for the next round of work

Respond Like Your Target Audience Might

Your personal opinion doesn’t really matter if you’re not in the target audience. Good marketers know their target audiences inside and out; they know their wants and needs and what’ happening in their lives and along their customer journey. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see the work through their eyes.  Respond as you best can from that framework.

Take Your Time & Have a Consolidated Message

Also – be sure you’re really ready before delivering any feedback. If there are multiple client team members in the room, it may make sense to take a break and consolidate the client feedback into a single point of view.

Challenge Yourself

Before delivering any feedback, ask yourself: “If I make this comment, and it is effectively accommodated by the agency, will it result in a meaningful improvement in the advertising’s effectiveness?” If the answer is no, then bite your tongue. Keep it to yourself.

An Effective Approach to Creative Evaluation

The ability to deliver clear feedback isn’t important if the feedback itself is not helpful. We recommend Mercer Island Group’s SOLVE framework for evaluating creative as described here.

Run a Tight Meeting

There is so much that needs to happen in a successful creative review session! Have a plan and use it. The Mercer Island Group approach to getting creative review meetings right is here.

Getting Started

The ability to give fantastic, inspirational, and direct creative feedback is an incredibly important skill that can take years to refine. The results can be spectacular!

How do you do that? Our best advice is to start now:

  • Use the MIG High-Quality Feedback model. . Practice it. Use it in meetings. Find ways to authentically and genuinely make it your own.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be appreciative.
  • Explain your concern but let the creatives solve for it.
  • Be sensitive AND honest.
  • Respond as your target audience might.
  • Be ready! Take your time and consolidate feedback
  • Challenge yourself (will the comment make a substantive impact on the work?) before delivering any feedback.

And let us know if you have questions. Creative feedback is both science and art, and you and your agency will benefit from your growth as both a creative feedback scientist and artist.

Robin Boehler is a co-founder of Mercer Island Group. Robin has managed hundreds of agency searches and relationships for businesses of all sizes and types, like Ahold Delhaize, Starbucks, American Century Investments, PEMCO Insurance, PetSmart, Seabourn, Avis Budget Group, Sargento, Ulta Beauty, and dozens of other blue-chip firms. She also has consulted with a wide array of agencies including Digitas, Periscope, DaviesMoore, W&K, GS&P, Havas, Cactus, DNA, and many others. Robin’s unique ability to work with teams and help improve organizational productivity is the direct result of an eclectic background including her degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University. Robin is a frequent speaker, having presented and keynoted at events sponsored by the BMA, the 4As, AMI, and others.