The 10 major moments in the Advertising process where Brand Leaders need to be at their best

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

There is still great advertising out there, but there seems to be an increasing amount of bad advertising out there.

There has been a lot of change on the agency side with the shift to digital media exposing weakness in the traditional agencies and the propping up of “experts” who know the media but not necessarily the consumer or the brand strategy. There has also been change on the client side, as Brand Leaders have been forced to step in and do more, but with less experience or training. The growth of internal creative departments puts even more pressure on the them. Clearly, there is a growing frustration among Brand Leaders who need better work to help drive better results. When it comes to advertising, the role of the Brand Leader is to consistently get good advertising on the air, and consistently keep bad advertising off the air. But my challenge to Brand Leaders: if you knew that showing up better would produce better work, do you think you could show up better.

Act like a Leader at every stage

No matter the complexity of any given project, Brand Leaders need to be strong at every stage of the advertising process going from the briefing stage to the creative presentations and from to the decision-making to the execution. Here are the 10 major moments where Brand Leaders need to be at their best.


  1. Strategy Pre-Work: Before you even get to the Creative Brief, you should be doing your homework to determine strategic answers to these questions:
    • Who is in the consumer target? (Who is the most motivated to buy what you do?)
    • What is the benefit we are selling? (What is your main benefit?)
    • Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up what you say)
    • What’s the long-range feeling the brand evokes (What is the Big Idea for the brand?)
    • What do we want the brand communications to do for the brand?  (Strategic Choices)
    • What do want people to think, feel or do?  (Desired Response)
  2. Writing a focused Creative Brief: I recommend that you let your agency take your homework on the six questions and create a Brief from there.  Start with the desired consumer behavior, and then figure out what to say. Your brief should be focused with one tight objective, one target, one big idea, one benefit. I believe that creative advertising people are not “out of the box” thinkers, but rather “in-the-box” problem solvers, so the brief’s role is to create a box with a problem that needs solving. 
  3. Hold a Creative Expectations meeting: Right after the briefing, you should meet the creative team BEFORE they go away for a couple of weeks to write ads. This is your chance to create a first impression on your vision and the passion you have. Allow them to ask any questions about the brief, while taking the opportunity to make a few key points on what you’re looking for. As the leader, you should use this meeting to inspire and focus the creative team.
  4. Tissue Session: Use this type of meeting to see potential ideas before they are fully flushed out into scripts or final visuals. It’s ideal when you don’t have a campaign or if you think it’s a tough creative challenge. At the meeting, be open to new ways of looking at your brand and make sure you focus on Big Ideas, while as a Leader you can use this meeting to push for better work. Be fully passionate at this stage which will inspire the creative team to reach for even better work.
  5. Creative Meeting: The creative meeting is the make or break meeting to getting to great work or settling for OK. As the Leader you have to be positive, focus only on big picture, give direction, make decisions. Avoid solutions and don’t get caught up in the details. You have to be listening rather than telling. I’m seeing too many Brand Leaders coming to the meeting with pen and paper and writing down every change they want to see. That’s not leadership. No pen, no paper, just listening and providing your instincts. This is where you use your fast thinking.Slide07
  6. Feedback Memo: I recommend clients follow-up the creative meeting with a memo 24 hours later. This is where you’d put in the details and possibly challenge the team but without giving specific solutions. If the creative brief is a box” for the creative team to solve, then this memo represents a new “box” which might refine the creative brief a little bit based on what you’re now seeing. This is where you use your slow thinking to determine if it’s on strategy and has long term potential. But don’t use this slower thinking to re-think your instincts.Slide08
  7. Ad Testing: The biggest flaw of ad testing is that Brand Leaders allow the test to make the decision. I’d recommend that you pick your favorite ahead of the test and just use it to confirm your pick, not make your decision. In other words, if your chosen ad passes, you go with it. You can use the test results to make any adjustments.
  8. Gain Approval: As the Brand Leader, almost half of your job is to sell in the ad to your own management team. Every great ad I’ve ever worked on had resisters or at least challengers. Be ready to fight for your work, in order to make it happen. Many times, people above you have their own biases and want to add to your work. Those additions can sometimes make the work worse, not better. I’ve always tried to give my boss “something small” in order to get it through, but never anything big enough to change the work. One secret I learned over the years is that on difficult “sell in’s” I would take the lead account person who is normally better than Brand Leaders at selling in work. Also, if it’s bigger challenge, then take the Creative Director as well. 
  9. Production: As you go into production, the pre-pro meeting and the shoot are where you have to be on your A-game. I’ve always taken a casual approach to both, giving the experts enough room. I viewed my role as simple: manage the tone of the work to ensure it fits the brand and always get more than you need. The joke of “we can fix it in post” means you need as many options in post so the editors and creative team can work with it. The worst thing you can ever hear in post is “if we knew you wanted that, we should have shot it that way”.
  10. Post Production: I encourage clients to talk directly with and leverage every expert in the room. Try to break the ice early on with the editors so they are involved in the conversation. Don’t be one of those clients that sits on the couch and only goes through the account team. Never leave the room till you are 100% satisfied with the ad you expect and the ad you want to put on the air. 

The idea behaviors that help Brand Leaders deserve great advertising on their brand: 

  • Start and end everything you do, with the consumer in mind.
  • Start with the desired consumer behavior, and then figure out what to say.
  • Your brief is focused with one tight objective, one target, one big idea, one benefit.
  • You control the strategy, yet give the agency freedom on creative.
  • You inspire greatness from creative team, yet are unafraid to challenge for better.
  • You take creative risks to stand out, not to fit in.
  • You see big ideas that leave a legacy, not just make an ad to make the year.
  • You are willing to fight for great work, even with your boss, never settle for OK.

The best clients inspire, challenge, enable, rarely settle and fight for great advertising.

To read more about how get better advertising, follow this powerpoint presentation on our Beloved Brands slideshare site:

We make Brands better.

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We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 39112015x gmr bio.001

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