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Speak like a creative. 5 tips for giving creative feedback


Brand Insights - Thought Leadership | Paid Program

Robert Giorgio
Group Art Supervisor
The Agency Network at MJH Life Sciences

Robert Giorgio
Group Art Supervisor
The Agency Network at MJH Life Sciences

Imagine a brand manager, speechless, as the question, “What do you think of this creative concept?” hangs in the air.

Brand manager: “Uhhh… I don’t think I like it. But I can’t put my finger on why.”

Creative: “This layout follows Swiss design principles! We created a grid, used bold sans-serif fonts—kerned to perfection, of course—and made it minimalistic.”

Brand manager: “So…can we add more? It looks so, well, blank.”

Creative: “That’s not blank. It’s white space.”

Can you relate? If you ever struggle to translate your thoughts into the right words to evaluate creative work, you’re not alone.

As a brand manager, your feedback is crucial to guide the ad agencies who create your campaigns. If it feels like you and your creative team are speaking two different languages, here are 5 tips you can use to give clear and actionable feedback.

1. Speak from your gut

When evaluating creative work, don’t ignore your gut-reaction. How do you feel when you first see the creative? Excited? Curious? Underwhelmed? Voice it!

You might say, “My initial impression is confused because the idea feels a bit off-brand.” This gives the agency an insight into your emotional response, allowing them to probe further and provide context or explanations.

2. Return to your strategy

Once you’ve expressed your gut feeling, return to your strategy, which is your brand’s North Star. Make sure the work ties back to your specific goals. As creative as the work may be, it must deliver against your objectives outlined in the creative brief.

3. Keep S.C.O.R.E.

I’ve written previously that our agency tests our work against a specific rubric called S.C.O.R.E. We invite you to use that same framework.

  • Sustainable: Is it flexible? Can the idea give birth to an ongoing campaign?
  • Credible: Will the audience believe the brand can achieve the promise we claim?
  • Ownable: Does this campaign stand out from the competitors?
  • Relevant: Does this idea fit within the audience’s expectations?
  • Exciting: Will this thrill the­­­ audience and inspire them to act?

Grounding your feedback in these criteria brings clarity. Few things are less actionable than saying, “I don’t like it” or “This just isn’t working.” Trust me, you don’t want to leave too much to the creative mind to interpret. Creatives need to know what isn’t working and why.

Use this framework to focus your creative team’s energy to revise their work within the context of your goals.

4. Say “what?”

It may sound counter-intuitive, but questions are an essential part of giving feedback. They encourage dialogue, unlock insights, and foster reflection. Don’t hesitate to ask probing questions, such as:

  • “How does this concept align with our campaign objectives?”
  • “How does this color palette connect with our target audience’s preferences, values, and culture?”
  • “Can you help me understand the thought process behind this idea?”

5. Encourage collaboration

To create award-winning work, we must understand each other. Challenge us to know your business. Help us understand how your brand stands out in the marketplace. Creatives would do well to learn your language.

When we’re fluent with the business goals you’re trying to accomplish—and the way you measure them—the more in tune we will be. Then our creative choices will be more aligned to your end goals, ensuring mutual success.

Now that we’re speaking the same language…

You don’t need to be a creative to speak like a creative. By approaching feedback with a clear understanding of your goals, sharing your gut reactions, keeping S.C.O.R.E., and inquiring about the agency’s thought process, you can contribute to the conversation with confidence.