The 10 essential steps of the Creative Advertising process the Brand Leader must lead

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

When it comes to advertising, one of the biggest struggles that Brand Leaders have is when the project gets out of hand. While there are ten essential steps, the Brand Leader must keep their head in the game at all times. One slip and they run the risk of losing control of the final execution. These steps are not written from the vantage of the agency, but rather that of the client.

Creative Advertising Process

  1. Strategy Pre-Work: The brand positioning and brand plan homework make it easier to write a great creative brief. Go deep on finding the consumer insights and consumer enemy, understand the brand positioning, the big idea and then lay out a brand concept. From the brand plan, write a tightly focused brand communications plan. Only once you have done all this homework done, should you take a pen to the creative brief.
  2. Focused Creative Brief: Sit with your agency and turn your homework into a creative brief. Debate every point. Keep it focused. Think of the brief like creating a strategic box the ad must play within. The brief must have one objective, a tightly defined target market with rich consumer insights, one crystal clear desired consumer response of whether you want consumers to see, think, feel or do and then one main message that you know will motivate the consumer target will respond positively.
  3. Creative Expectations: Just after signing off on the brief, you should request an informal meeting with the creative team to help convey your vision, passion, strategy and needs to the team. This is your first chance to inspire the team and begin the push for great work. It always surprises me that the first time the marketer meets their creative team is at the first creative meeting, which is two-three weeks after the creative team started to work on your brand. That is crazy. It seems like an old-school way for the account team to control both the client and creative team, keeping them at arm’s length. I believe the best advertising comes from a highly personal relationship with your creative team.
  4. Tissue Session: When you have a completely new campaign or working on high-risk campaign, you should ask to hold an informal tissue session before the creative meeting. At the tissue session, the creative team normally presents ten roughed out advertising ideas, usually with hand drawn visuals, with a simple headline and description of a story. This is a good chance to get your hands dirty, understand where the team wants to go, either encouraging them to keep exploring further on some ideas or talk about how some ideas might not fit. Think of this meeting as your chance to see behind the creative curtain. Do not abuse this privilege by adding your ideas to the mix. Focus on big ideas and use the meeting to inspire and push for better.
  5. Creative Meeting: How you show up at the first creative meeting is crucial to the entire project. I have seen the relationship fizzle on the spot. Think of it like a first date. Be on your best behavior. Stay positive and focus on big picture decisions. Give direction and make decisions. However, do not use this time to add your own solutions. Stop thinking that your job is to fix the work you see. Do not get too wrapped up in small details, as there remains plenty of time to keep working on details. Use your feedback to inspire the team.Creative Advertising Process
  6. Feedback Memo: Work it out with the agency ahead of time that you will give a feedback memo 48 hours after the creative meeting. This gives you the chance to gather your thoughts, balancing your creative instincts with your strategic thinking. The memo should clarify details you did not have a chance to talk about in the creative meeting. Where you are stuck, frame it as a problem, but avoid giving your specific solutions. Use the memo as a chance to create a new box for the creative team, an evolution from the creative brief.
  7. Advertising Testing: The use of ad testing can depend on timing, budget or degree of risk. Where you have a new major campaign, you should potentially test 3 ideas you feel have the best chance to express your brand positioning, communicate the main benefit, break through the clutter and motivate consumers to purchase. You can use qualitative focus group feedback that will help confirm your instincts, or quantitative testing to replicate and predict how it may do in the market. However, I am a big believer that you should only use ad testing to confirm your pick, never to make your decision.  
  8. Gain Approval: It is essential to keep your boss aware at every stage. Use your first meeting with your boss to state your vision for the project. Through each update meeting, keep your boss aligned to your vision, explaining every move you make with respect to that vision. However, you will still need to sell in the ad. Be ready to fight any resisters to make the ad happen. With every great ad I ever made, there were many resistors. However, with every potential bad ad on the table, I seemed to be the only resistor trying not to make it. Own your vision and make it happen.
  9. Production: The production process can be a very complex element of the project. Remember, you have zero expertise in any production area. Do not even pretend you do. Your main role is to deliver as close to the original script that was approved, while managing the tone to ensure it fits with the brand. During the shoot, try to get more options than you need, just in case it looks different in the final edit room.
  10. Post Production: As you move to the post-production stage, you become even less of an expert. Many clients decide to stay close to their account person. I believe you should talk directly with every expert (editors) you work with. The personal approach will enable you to get the most out of each of the experts. Your greatness happens through their greatness.

As a brand leader, my bias is to be creatively led, with media trailing. Yes, it’s fine to have a lead media choice in mind. However, as for secondary media choices, I hate forcing a given media choice on the creative team, only to find out it does not work. I would rather have a range of media options and see which one works best. At the start of the process, you have a few media thoughts of where it could go. As you  see the creative, you narrow down the range to what media choices seem to work best with the creative. And once you have the creative in hand, you can then make the final media decisions. 

Creative Advertising Process


As brand leaders, it takes a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all. 


Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to get better at Marketing Execution, looking at both the creative and media.


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant


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