A client’s view on what makes a great Advertising agency

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

It seems that clients are firing ad agencies very quickly these days.  

I’m half way old enough that I’m straddling the fence on whether agencies are as good as the old days. But it seems that there are pitches going on constantly, and yet no one is really wanting to look themselves the mirror and say “Am I part of the problem?”

I’ve been brought in a few times to look at the situation. The first thing I normally tell the Brand Leader is “you have to fire yourself first” and then see if the agency is still bad. The best clients respect the process, the agency and their own judgment. And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative. As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could?  If there are 100 steps in every advertising development stage and you show up OK at each step, how are you possibly thinking you’ll end up with a GREAT ad at the end?  

What makes for a great Advertising Agency?

I come at this from the vantage of a client, having spent 20 years working as a Brand Leader.  I’m not an Ad Agency guy,but I’ve seen some great agencies and some not so good.  Here is my list of what makes a great Agency:

  1. They work for you, not your boss. While your boss pays them and has the final say, the best agencies still know you are the client. Nothing worse than a client service person constantly trying to go above your head. The best way for an agency to earn your trust is to consistently demonstrate that they work for you. That trust will earn them a seat, along side you, at the table of your boss. You will know they have your back and will support your recommendation, not cave at the whim of your boss.    
  2. They understand your goals, your issues and your strategies. They write briefs that are on your brand strategy and deliver work that expresses your brand strategy. Yes, the modern agency struggles to write advertising strategies that align to the Brand’s strategy. Just as though clients are not trained enough in the areas of strategy and planning, I see the same thing on the Agency side. As margins are squeezed, the first casualty is strategic planning. Yet, that might be one of the most important. I’d prefer to have a great strategic planner on the brand than have 5 client services people each show up taking notes at meetings.  
  3. They make work that drives demand and sells more widgets, not work that just win awards. Awards are part of the agency world–helping to motivate creative people and establishing the agency reputation in the market. I once had an agency person say: “we can’t write that strategy because it will make for boring work”. The balance of winning awards and selling more widgets always has to side with selling more widgets. I’m really tired of agencies starting off creative meetings with the “we are so excited” line. You want an agency that comes into a room and says “we have an ad for you that will sell more of your product”.  
  4. They give options. And they don’t always 100% agree. Come on agencies. We are in year 100 of making ads and you haven’t figured out yet that the clients like options. Each option has to deliver the strategy. Nothing worse than agencies who tear apart the brief and deliver options for each part of the brief. (e.g. here’s one for the younger audience, here’s one that does fast really well and here’s one that does long-lasting) That’s not creative options, that’s now strategic options.Marketing Execution 2016.025 We collectively decide on the strategy before the creative process begins, not meander the strategy during the creative process. As clients, options give us comfort. But even more importantly, options treat us with respect that we can still make the right decision.  
  5. Agencies are not territorial. They are transparent allowing you open and free access to their planners and creative people. It’s really the account people here. Good account people allow you to communicate directly with the creative team. Most great creative teams that I have worked with want direct access to the client, rather than have it be filtered through a series of contact reports.  
  6. They adjust and easily take feedback. Agencies serve at the pleasure of the client. Every client is unique and the best agencies adjust to that style. Not only the company but even the individual. I used to sit with my Account leader every quarter and go through how we can each get better. Some clients aren’t even doing annual agency performance reviews.  
  7. They are positive and already motivated to work on your brand. While I do encourage clients to motivate their agencies, it’s much easier to motivate someone who is already motivated.  When I see a 25-year old account person openly complaining, I see that as a problem with the culture of the agency, not a problem for the client to have to figure out. I’m now on the service side as a consultant, and we can never openly complain.  
  8. They teach. When I was a new Brand Manager, my client services person (Leslie Boscheratto) taught me more about advertising than any client should have to learn. In fact, I’m still embarrassed at how little I knew, yet thrilled at how much I learned from that team at Bates back in the mid 90s.  
  9. They act like you are their only client. And you feel important to them, no matter what share your budget is of the overall agency. Why sign you up as a client and then keep reminding you that they have Coke, Budweiser or Dove. When you are with me, treat me as though I’m the most important client in the world.  
  10. Trusted Advisor: They are a trusted advisor who will give you real advice, not just on advertising but on your performance and on the overall brand.  Most senior agency folks have seen plenty of clients come and go. Never be afraid to find a quiet moment with your agency person and ask two simple questions: “what can I do better” and “what do your best clients do that I could learn from”.

You’ll notice the one thing missing from my list is “They Make Great Work”.  That’s a given because that’s the only reason you hire an agency. Yes, some agencies make better work than others. But even those agencies that make great work, also make bad work. And if we were to look at why, it would likely start with the relationship, processes or interactions. So if the client can fix what they are doing wrong and the agency can show up right, then you should be able to make good work together.  

Making great advertising should be simple, but it is very hard to do. 

Here’s a presentation on How to get better Marketing Execution

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

10 things that Advertising must do for your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Advertising must do something in order to warrant the investment you are going to make. Please don’t tell me “drive awareness”. In brand terms, we don’t make any money from awareness–we only begin to make money as we are able to move our consumer through the consideration-search-purchase stage. So, let’s save the word “Awareness” for the lazy brains. It must have an engage and have impact on consumers and influence action, either getting them to think, feel or act differently than before they saw the advertising.

The 10 things that great advertising must do

Here’s a starting point for you when you’re judging creative.

  1. Sets your  brand apart. For brands to survive in the longer term, they must be different, better, cheaper. Or else they will not be around for very long. The story telling of the brand’s promise should help to separate the brand from the clutter of other brands that are stuck in our minds. And that starts with creative that feels different and makes the brand seem different to consumers.
  2. Focuses your brand! Any advertising has to have a focused target, a focused message, a focused strategy against a focused communication idea, a focused media. The whole discipline of marketing is founded on focus, and yet Brand Leaders struggle most in this area. They always want that “just in case” option. My hope is that your focus, drives the advertising. If not, once you try to squeeze all your messages into one ad targeted to everyone, I hope the failure then gets you to focus.
  3. Keep the communication very simple. Communication is not what is said, but what is heard. Too many brand leaders try to shout as many messages as they can in one ad. They engage in their ads as brand managers, not as consumers. When you shout many messages at the consumer, what does the consumer hear? A confusing mess. By throwing multiple messages you are just making the consumer do the work of deciding the most important message, because you couldn’t figure it out. My challenge to you is to stand up on a chair and yell your main message as though you are standing on top of a mountain. That’s how many messages your ad should have
  4. Have a good selling idea. While big ideas break through the clutter, they also help you project a consistent message over time over time and across mediums–paid, earned, social and search–and you’ll see it throughout the entire brand line up of sub brands. Consumers will start to connect to the big idea and they’ll begin to relate your brand with that big idea. And you’ll have a reputation in the marketplace. Look at your ad:  does it have a big idea?
  5. Drive engagement with consumers: Too many brand leaders forget to engage the consumer. They get so fixated on saying their 7 messages that they figure the ability capture attention is just advertising fluff. But everything in advertising has to starts with attention. The consumer sees 7,000 ads a day and will likely only engage in a handful. If you don’t capture their attention, no one will remember the brand name, your main message or any other reason to believe you might have jammed into your ad.
  6. Let the visuals do the talking. With so many ads, you need to have a key visual that can capture the attention, link to your brand and communicate your message. The ‘see-say’ of advertising helps the consumers brain to quickly engage, follow along and remember. As kids, we always love the pictures in the books. We still do.
  7. Sell the solution, not the problem or the product. Consumers use brands to solve problems in their lives. Your brand will be more powerful if it beats down a consumer enemy that torments them every day. Consumers don’t care about what you do, until you care about what they need. No one has ever wanted a quarter-inch drill, they just need a quarter-inch hole to hang paintings and photos of their children.
  8. Matter to those who care the most. I always believe that our target should not be those who do not care, but those who care the most about what we have to offer. You can’t sell carpet cleaning to someone who only has hard wood floors. And you can’t sell a golf ball that goes 50 yards farther to someone who despises golf.
  9. Make ads that connect with consumers based on an insight. Consumer Insights are secrets that we discover and use to our brand’s advantage. Creative Brief 2016.035You have to get in the consumer’s shoes, observe, listen and understand their favorite parts of the day. You have to know their fears, motivations, frustrations and desires. Learn their secrets, that only they know, even if they can’t explain. Learn to use their voice. Build that little secret into your message, using their language, so they’ll know you are talking to them. We call this little secret the consumer insight. When portrayed with the brand’s message, whether on packaging, an advertisement or at the purchase moment, the consumer insight is the first thing that consumers connect with. When consumers see the insight portrayed, we make them think: “That’s exactly how I feel. I thought I was the only one who felt like that.” This is what engages consumers and triggers their motivation and desire to purchase. The consumers think we must be talking to them, even if it looks like we are talking to millions.
  10. Tell the story behind the brand. There should be richness in the story behind your brand’s purpose. There is great opportunity to bring your brand purpose into your story telling. Why did you start this brand? How does your brand help people? What is your brand’s motivation that gets you up in the morning?

The ABC’S of Advertising

Another way to rephrase this list is through the ABC’S: Attention Branding Communication and Stickiness.  

  • Attention: You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising. Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few. If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding: Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best. Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand. It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.
  • Communication: Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness:  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own.  Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer.


Be a Better Client

If how you show up to the agency will produce better advertising work  Then show up right.  

Marketing Execution 2016.017

Agencies should be treated like trusted partners, not suppliers. Engage them early asking for advice, not just telling them what to do and when. If you tell an agency what to do, there will only be one answer “YES”. But if you ask them what to do, there are three answers:  yes, no or maybe. Seek their advice beyond advertising.   Build a relationship directly with the creative teams. Be more than “just another client”.

Getting great advertising is a balance of freedom and control. Most Marketers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative. It should be the reverse, you should control the strategy and give freedom on creative.  Don’t go into a creative meeting with a pre-conceived notion as to what the ad should look like. Creative people are “in the box” problem solvers. What they don’t want a) blank canvas b) unclear problem and c) your solutions to the problem.  Let them be in the box and find the solution for you. That’s what motivates them the most.

Marketing Execution 2016.025


To see the Beloved Brands workshop training presentation on getting Marketing Execution click no the link below: 

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

How to Express your Brand’s Big IDEA through Great Advertising

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

In an earlier article we big-idea-1talked about creating your Brand’s Big Idea and using it to drive every inch of your organization. The Big Idea should drive every activity and every function.  To read more on how to come up with the Big Idea and how to leverage it throughout, click on:  How your Brand’s Big Idea should drive every part of your Organization

Once you have your Big Idea, you should then use it to frame the 5 different connectors needed to set up a very strong bond between your brand and your consumers.


Brands are able to generate love for their brand when the consumer does connect with the brand. I wish everyone would stop debating what makes a great brand and realize that all five connectors matter: promise, strategy, story, innovation and experience. The first connector is the Brand Promise, which connects when the brand’s main Benefit matches up to the needs of consumers.  Once knowing that promise, everything else feeds off that Promise.  For Volvo the promise is Safety, for Apple it is Simplicity and FedEx it might be Reliability.  It’s important to align your Strategy and Brand Story pick the best ways to communicate the promise, and then aligning your Innovation and the Experience so that you deliver to the promise.  

Slide1Beloved brands can tell the brand story through great advertising in paid media, through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media.  Beloved Brands use each of these media choices to connect with consumers and have a bit of magic to their work.  That story telling should come from the Brand’s Advertising.  

Once you have your Brand’s Big Idea, it should inspire you to seek out a Creative Idea, from which everything should come from.  The best brands use a Master Brand anthemic spot to help tell the overall story of the Brand.  But even more so, the Creative Idea should help with any specific product spots around the Innovation you’re bringing to the market.  


Taking that a step further, you can use it to begin crafting your media plan, by launching with the Anthemic Spot, and layering in your specific product messages.  As you look to continue to stay connected with your consumer, you should keep coming back to regular intervals of the Anthem spot.  Too many brands, who are failing, try to do both at the same time. They try to create a lofty “Brand Spot” with their agency and just as they start to like it, they ask “can we jam in some news about our new faster widget” message in the middle, or maybe even do a 5 second tag with it.   

Put another way, a good piece of communication can only move one body part at a time:  the head, the heart or the feet. Challenge yourself:  do you want to target the HEAD so you can get consumers to think differently about you, the HEART to try to connect emotionally or the FEET where you try to drive action.  


If you think you can create an Ad that does all three, you are the worlds greatest advertising in history.  And if you can’t you should then focus on one at time.  That’s where the Anthem will help reposition the brand (head) or connect emotionally (heart) and the Innovation spots should drive action (feet).  The choice on where to focus should come from your brand’s strategy.  At Beloved Brands, we use the Brand Love Curve to help determine where your Brand currently sits with consumers.  If you’re at the Indifferent stage, you need to drive Trial (feet) or change their minds to see you differently. As you move along the curve, it becomes a balance of mind and heart, but driving towards Beloved, you need to connect emotionally.   (The Heart) of consumers.  


As you look at the Creative Advertising the best ads attract ATTENTION, tell the BRAND story, COMMUNICATE the main benefit of the brand and STICK over time.  Leveraging the BIG IDEA and matching up a CREATIVE IDEA, you should make sure it’s the CREATIVE IDEA that does the hard work to a) Earn the consumers’ ATTENTION  b) Draw and hold attention on the BRAND c) tells the brand story in a way that COMMUNICATES the benefit and s)  STICKS with the consumer and builds consistency of  brand experience over time.  It’s the ABC’s of Good Advertising.



Once you align everything to the Brand’s BIG IDEA, you’ll create a strong bond with your consumers.  That bond becomes a source of power for your brand, whether that power is with the very consumers who love your brand, versus retailers, suppliers, competitors, influencers, employees or even versus the media.  


Once you’re able to generate power for your brand, you can then turn that into profit, whether driving price, cost control, market share or increasing the market size.

My hope is this will help you align your Advertising to the Brand’s Big Idea and manage it so whether you are looking to develop new Creative or Media Plans.  Remember, you can only move one body part at a time.  That choice should come from your strategy.  

Use your Brand’s Big Idea to Align the Advertising into the Market



Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

*Brand DNA first seen at Level5 Strategy Group

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How to give feedback on Advertising copy

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

In a previous article, I wrote about How to Judge Advertising, trying to help Brand Leaders separate the Good ads from the Bad. Click here to read: Judging Advertising Copy This is a follow-up article to help outline how a Brand Leader should deliver the feedback, which is almost as important as the judging of the Advertising itself.

I come at this discussion from the client side. I’ve never worked at an agency in my life.  But I have 20 years of CPG experience and have been in the shoes of the Brand Leader at every level. I feel comfortable to say that most Clients don’t know how to give effective feedback to an Agency. I’ve seen 10 people show up where they all talk and no decisions are made. I’ve seen 10 show up and no one says a word, all looking miserable.  They say nothing and then email their feedback 5 days later. I’ve seen Brand Leaders writing copy and tag lines, moving photos around, adding demos and even suggesting what songs to add to make the spots great. With modern social media campaigns, it’s becoming a mess of what people do on their own social media accounts. The lack of fundamentals in giving feedback that links back to the strategy is getting worse, not better.   

A great Brand Leader should have more questions than answers. They should be able to uncover problems better than they figure out solutions. And they should respect the expertise of those they hire to tell the story of their brand.    

When seeing new Advertising Copy, a Brand Leader can really only do three things: 1) Approve the Ad 2) Reject the Ad or 3) Give direction on how to make the Ad better. Even if you like an Ad, it’s rare that you will approve it outright. Slide1I know Creative Teams wish we did, but it’s just not a reality. Yes, the client feedback can help great ads get even better. If you dislike an Ad, I say you have to kill it. There’s no value in making an Ad you don’t like–even if it tests well. I know not everyone will buy this. But if you don’t love it, you won’t fight for its life, you won’t live and breathe the spot and you won’t put your heart and soul into it. So why bother approving it.  

If you don’t love the work you do, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?  If you are satisfied with OK, my only regret is that I’m not competing with you.  

Advertising is really “In the Box” thinking

The best Advertising people are problem solvers, not blue sky “out of the box” dreamers. They are “in the box” thinkers who are motivated by the challenge of the problem, more than the execution of some simple solution. Big creative ideas can come from a tightly defined problem.Checklist-icon

Getting Great Advertising is a Balance between Freedom and Control.  Most Brand Leaders allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative.  It seems odd because it should be the reverse. Brand Leaders should control the Strategy and give up a bit of freedom on the Execution.  

A Good Creative Brief Should Be Brief, Not Long! There should be one objective, one target, one main benefit and two main reasons to believe (RTB’s).  Agencies that want a long list of RTB’s want to take the strategic control away from you, so that they can provide options at the Creative Meeting. Yes, it would be easier for the Agency to make Ads with that option, but you’d be letting the creative dictate your strategy rather than your strategy dictating your ad.  Creative Teams don’t want endless streams of data. They don’t want so many options built into a brief, that they don’t know where to start. Giving information “just in case” is confusing for them. They need focus in order to deliver great work for you. The smaller the brief, the bigger the ideas.

Brand Leaders should never let their Agency present “strategic” options at a Creative Meeting. The Creative Meeting should only have creative solutions that answer the strategic problem. That’s part of the whole flaw in why writing a really thick brief is a bad thing. More on writing a Creative Brief at: How To Write a Creative Brief

Now, here’s the odd part to feedback

How you treat your agency is crucial. When you TELL an Agency exactly what to do, there is only one answer: YES. But when you ASK them what to do, you might hear: YES, NO or MAYBE. It also allows the agency to do what it does best, which is solving problems.  Not taking notes. Brand Leaders should judge the advertising and then challenge the agency by always talking in terms of problems that they can solve.  


I realize that not everyone will get this. The dance I am about to teach you will help separate the great Brand Leaders from the bad. I’m going to give it a shot. If you buy into the premise above that creative people are “in the box” thinkers, who are motivated by solving problems then don’t use your feedback to give them the answers that will actually de-motivate them. Instead, give your comments in a way that creates a new problem for them to solve. Since the brief put them “in a box”, now the feedback should really be creating a “new box” for them to figure out. Just don’t give them the answers. 

If you frame it in the form of a problem, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that the solution they come up with is way better than the one in your head right now. They don’t want your solutions. Instead of writing copy for them, say “I’m not sure the middle or the script is completely reflecting the insight”. The Creative Team finds it de-motivating to be asked for their expertise (solving problems) and then not utilized (given the answer)

Stop writing copy. I’ve never met a Brand Leader that was good at writing copy or figuring out the art direction. Great Brand Leaders are great at figuring out the strategic problems.  Stick to that. Let others you hire to figure out the solutions, actually figure out the solutions.  

Feedback at the Creative Meeting

The Creative Meeting is not Easy. You’ve got to balance, the head, the heart and the gut against the good of the brand. Take your time and sort it through asking the following questions:

  1. Do you love what it can do for your brand? If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? A great ad has to have everyone’s heart and soul put into it.  If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end.  If you love it, you will fight for it.  (The Heart) 
  2. Is it on strategy?  Is the Advertisement an expression of what you have been writing in your strategy documents? Is it doing what we hoped it would do? I love the ABCS technique (outlined below) because it helps me to frame things in my mind, so I can evaluate it past how I feel. I think you need something to ground yourself. (The Head) If there is something in your gut says it’s off, it likely is. (The Gut)
  3. Is it long-term Idea? Is a big enough idea that fits with the brand, does the hard work you want to do for the brand and can last 5 years. Think about leaving a legacy—which forces you to think of campaign-ability. (The Brand) Look at the Creative Brief and if the ad is not on strategy, then it has to be rejected. Advertising is an expression of strategy. If it’s not on strategy, it has no value.  


As for the feedback, too many people sit there taking notes and never engaging with the agency.   Sadly, great jokes fall to the silence of the room creating the tension of a 11th grade Physics exam. There should be 3 types of feedback:

  1. In the Middle of the Meeting, Talk Out Your First Impressions: During the presentation, it’s great to be engaged enough to say “I like that” or ask a question. People forget this type of feedback. You are allowed to talk. A free-flowing meeting helps ease any tension in the room, and allows you to use your instincts a little more. Don’t be afraid of voicing your first impressions, it doesn’t lock you in. You can like something and still reject it because it’s off strategy.  
  2. End of Meeting “Big Picture” Direction: Once all the work is presented, focus your comments on what‘s working and challenge the team to find ways to make it better. Focus more on the Scripts that you like first, and then move to the ones you don’t like.   Stay big picture–find that balance of instincts and strategy. Avoid getting too wrapped into the details just yet.  
  3. The Day After Give Detailed Direction: Take 24 hours to digest all the little details with fresh eyes and maybe more discussion. Make sure it delivers the depths of brief–highlight any gaps you’re seeing in relation to the Creative Brief. Does it fit the target, is the tone right, and are we sure it’s communicating the reason to believe?  You might have further details (copy points, placement, colours) to the next day. The key is to let the agency know about the day after direction, so they can expect it.  
Who Speaks: Everyone or just one person?

I’m a big fan of huddling as a Brand team and then giving one piece of feedback. The agency walks away with consolidated thoughts rather than a mess of comments they have to clean up. Having the Agency walk away with one message is more important than everyone on the Brand team getting a chance to voice their opinions.  

From a client vantage, I’ve worked with both “taking the break” and “giving feedback live”.  My preference is the break. It enables you to take your time and give clear aligned direction.  Even with many years of experience, and being a fairly intuitive marketer with a love for advertising–I still have a hard time giving feedback 30 seconds after seeing the last script. While it’s good to get your instincts out, I guess my big question is “what’s the rush?”  We want to get to the best advertising, right? We took months to figure out the insight, weeks to figure out the brief and gave the creative team a few weeks to write the scripts.  So why do we want to decide on the best Ad within moments after seeing the Scripts? 

Here’s the “Old School” process:
  1. A senior person on the Agency side starts off the meeting by saying “we are so excited”.  One of the Creative guys says something really positive about the brand they saw on shelf in the 3 weeks they were working on the spot.  
  2. The Account Team re-reads the brief at the start of the meeting. Then the agency does a 5 minute set up of each board, explaining the technique/process (e.g. this is funny spot).  Set ups can taint or bias the client’s view of a spot.
  3. Agency presents 3-5 scripts, and says which one is their favourite or recommendation.  It’s potentially a de-motivator if you ask for their favourite and then you just dismiss it anyway.  Why bother?
  4. Client Feedback is given 15 seconds after the last script is presented, with the most junior person going first, all the way up to the senior person in the room. This feels very 1950s humiliation and de-motivating to the junior people on the Brand team. The account team takes notes, tries to figure out from the various comments what the final direction is. The Brand Manager caves to the most senior person in the room. Lots of polite passive-agressive behavior, but not sure of where to go next.    
New School Process for Giving Feedback:  

Take a 15-30 minute client huddle with just the Brand team in the room, so that they can align on the direction and then give the agency one piece of feedback. Get rid of that polite passive-agressive behavior and have a great debate behind closed doors.  

It can help the overall process because:

  1. The Agency gets one piece of consolidated feedback. They know exactly what they are going to do next. The huddle allows the client to get their story straight. The break also helps to slow down process so the client can think things through.
  2. It Gives Ownership to the Brand Manager, who should do all the speaking on behalf of the team, not the most senior person in the room that over-rules them. When I was in the senior marketing role, I’d let the Brand Manager do all the talking and at the end, I would just say “great job everyone and I’m looking forward to the next round”.  
  3. The break allows the Client Team to have a very open discussion, freely hearing out everyone’s thoughts, giving junior people easier input. Have good rich debates to make sure you’re on strategy. It allows the senior leader to coach the Brand Manager rather than publicly over-rule. The Brand Manager hears everyone out and then consolidates it to one message.
Bit of Crazy Talk for You

It’s also time to get rid of the “reading of the Brief” and get rid of the 5 minute agency “set up” of each ad. I know half of you will think this is crazy and likely none of you will do it. Brand Leaders should be in the shoes of the consumer as they see the Advertising ideas. Unless you are going to buy an ad right beside your ad, that explains your ad, then get rid of the set ups. Instead, bring the brief, put it face down and only turn it over once you’ve seen all the work. Plus, you should have your brief memorized. It’s not that hard. You only have one brief. Remember, your brief is fairly short!!!

 How you treat your agency can make or break the advertising you get for your brand. So treat them right. 


To see a training presentation on Getting Better Advertising: 

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

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