How To Be A Better Client At The Creative Advertising Meeting

Credit by Beloved Brand.


The best brand leader plays a most crucial role in the creative advertising process. While they are not designed to be experts, they need to know enough to make advertising decisions, but never enough to do the work.



With the increasing speed of advertising, brand leaders have taken one step in and often find themselves embedded in the creative development. If you are now doing the work, then who is critiquing and who is deciding if the work is good enough and if it fits your strategy? Even using “internal agencies” creates a blind spot. Brand leaders need to step back and let the creativity unfold.


There is a leadership advantage in being the least knowledgeable person in the room. While it may sound strange at first, when you are a layer removed from the specialist who does the work, it allows you to think, question, challenge and make decisions on choosing the right advertising. Focus on the strategy, but stay clear-minded enough to judge if the advertising is good enough or reject if it is not.


It takes a unique leadership skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all. As we engage experts, the respect we show can either inspire greatness or crush their creative spirit. From my experience, the best advertising people I have worked with would prefer to be pushed rather than held back. The last thing they want is to be asked for their expertise and then told exactly what to do.


If you knew that being a better advertising client would result in better work, would you do it?


Being good at advertising is something you can learn. I will show you how to judge and how to make decisions to choose the best advertising for your brand. You need advertising with enough branded breakthrough to stand out from the market clutter, so your brand connects with consumers. It must have a motivating message to move consumers along their purchase journey, whether you want them to see, think, feel, do, or influence.



How to handle yourself at the creative meeting


When you are in your next creative advertising meeting, you should think fast with your instincts, while trying to represent your consumer. View the advertising through the eyes of your consumer. Try to see the work how they would see it. I would not even let my agency do a set-up to the ads. I said, “Just show me the work as though I see it on TV.” I felt any setup or explanation clouded my judgment and impacted my ability to use my instincts. As you are sitting in that decision-making hot seat at a creative meeting, here are some challenging questions to ask yourself:


What does your gut instinct say?


The reality of a marketing job is you might be coming into the creative meeting from a 3-hour forecasting meeting or deep-dive financial review, or you just got back from working in the lab with scientists on a new ingredient.



It is not easy to change speeds as you head into a creative meeting. Relax, find your creative energy, let it soak in and find those instincts. I created a “gut instincts checklist” to help prompt you for when you need your instincts.


Is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?Is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand involvement?Does the creative idea set up the communication of the main consumer benefit?Is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?


Do you love it?


If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta okay” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. Ask if you would you be proud of this as your legacy.


Is the advertising on strategy?


Slow down, and find some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers on what you wrote in your strategy documents. Go back through the brief to make sure the advertising will deliver the desired response, and the strategic objective statement you wrote in the brand communications plan. One caution is not to use the extra time to over-think the advertising and talk yourself out of a good ad that works.


How big is the creative idea?


Is the creative idea big enough to last 5-10 years? Will the idea work across various mediums (paid, earned, social) across all distribution and the entire product line? Think of being so proud of leaving a legacy for your successor to help think about the longer term. Making advertising decisions


At the decision point, you have three choices:


  • Approve

  • Reject

  • Change



From my experience, brand leaders rarely approve creative ideas outright. There also seems a reluctance or fear to reject outright.


So marketers mistakenly assume their role is to change the ads. I see too many come to the creative meeting with a pen and paper and start to write feverishly all the recommended changes they have for each ad. The problem is if we marketers are not talented enough to come up with the ad in the first place, why do we think we are talented enough to change the ad? You are a generalist, surrounded by experts. Use your experts.


Use your feedback to challenge and create a new problem for your agency to figure out the solution.


Next time you go into a creative meeting, stop giving the creative team your solutions, and give them a new problem you are seeing and then let the creative team figure out the solutions. If the creative brief is the original “box” for the creative team to figure out the ideal solution, then use your feedback at the creative meeting to create a “new box” for the creative team figure out a new solution.



Challenge yourself to get better at advertising


  1. If you realized that how you show up as a client was the most significant factor in getting better advertising, do you think you would show up differently? If so, then show up right.

  2. Are you one of your agency’s favorite clients? Bring a positive spirit that inspires everyone to want to work on your brand and never treat them like they have to work on your business.

  3. Do you stay focused on one target, one strategy, one benefit behind one brand idea? Avoid the “just in case list” where you add “one more thing.” The best advertising is like a bullhorn in a crowd. The worst advertising is like a cluttered bulletin board where you can’t read anything.

  4. When building a creative brief or providing feedback, do you resist the temptation to provide your own creative ideas or recommend changes? When you are dealing with an expert, give them your problems, not your solutions.

  5. Are you the type of brand leader who is willing to fight anyone in the way of great work? Even your boss? When you do, you will start to see everyone on the team fight for you.

  6. Do you resist temptation in approving advertising that is “just OK” and “feels safe”? What signal do you think it sends everyone involved? You have to LOVE your advertising, and you should never settle for OK.

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