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What are the secrets to assessing a creative presentation when your agency shows you the work?  It is no secret.  It is just a discipline to learn.

I just got back from the presentation of a new ad.  The client did very well.  He knew how to evaluate the presented material and his questions and challenges motivated us.

Here are some tips on how to steer your way through the copy evaluation maze and get the most from your agency:

  1. Review the approved copy strategy before looking at the creative.  Make sure your mind is in the right frame to know what to look for in the creative.   I used to be accused of making the reading of the strategy a ritual, like saying grace before a meal.  But it sure helps as a point of reference for all things to follow.
  2. Is the idea presented on strategy? If it is not on strategy – STOP HERE.  Go to jail, directly to jail and do not pass go.  Send them back and ask for another presentation date.
  3. Consider your overall opinion about the concept presented. Empathize with the target and give yourself a general first impression on what you see and feel.
  4. Think about the selling idea being used. Is it a great articulation of the strategy?  Is it clear?  Is it compelling?  Competitive?  Distinctive?
  5. Think about the executional technique employed. Is the core idea one that can be pooled out to subsequent executions on the same strategy?  Has the agency considered the trajectory of the idea, where it goes from this initial piece of creative?  Does the executional technique build from the strategy and reinforce it?  Does it work off of the selling idea being used?
  6. Look at the particulars of the execution being presented. Do you think this particular execution will resonate with the target?  Make sure you look at it from the point of view of the target, not your own point of view.  Think about whether the idea will last for a long time; remember gags wear out fast.
  7. Are there any details that bug you? You may not like people with red hair, but really, does it matter to the target market you are addressing with the communication?  If it doesn’t, then let the agency cast people with red hair.  I had a client tell me we couldn’t run a commercial in Quebec because very few people there had red hair.  Not news, I replied, there are not very many people anywhere with red hair so the commercial will stand out.  It ran and it worked.  But sometimes there are taste issues that do matter. Be ready to discuss them, but be ready to accept the experts’ recommendation.
  8. Now give your thoughts to the agency. After you have thought all this through in your head, tell your agency what you think.  Start by saying whether you like it or not, in general.  And then tell them why by addressing each of the items listed here in priority from the top down.  Start big and work your way to the little things.

This little paradigm is a great process to follow to get better advertising and to have your agency feel they are getting a fair assessment of their work.

The most common mistake clients make is starting with comments from the bottom of the list and forgetting about the overall ideas.

If you think you have to have circles instead of stars, ask yourself “Why?” and whether that will make the ad better… or just change it.  If it won’t make it better, bite your lip and let your agency take some ownership of their work.

You can pay a lot of money to make something different without making it better.

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