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Everyone’s a critic: How to effectively evaluate creative concepts

Everyone’s a critic: How to effectively evaluate creative concepts

Slack and Company | January 18, 2018

It’s here!

After weeks of back-and-forth emails and planning calls, it’s finally here.

Today’s the day you get to look at some new creative.

It’s a well-established fact that the best creative concepts emit a radiant, heavenly glow.

And you know what? You should be excited. Whether you’re looking at mock-ups for evolving your enterprise website or weighing in on big ideas for an entirely new IMC campaign, creative concepts are your first peek into what your brand’s future could hold.

Just remember: After all is said and done—and the creatives have entrusted you with their three unique, precious, newborn ideas, which someone on your team will inevitably want to mash together into one unrecognizable mess—you’ll ultimately have to make a decision on what happens next. Good thing getting all the different people on your team on the same page is so easy!


Fortunately, we’re happy to report that there is a way to inject some objectivity into this seemingly subjective scenario. So, before you go into that meeting with your agency and their sparkling creative presentation, prep your team with these five questions to keep your meeting, your engagement—and your agency relationship—as productive as possible.

Click here to download. Print it out, bring it with you—never let it out of your sight.

© 2018 Slack and Company

1. Is it on strategy?

Creative concepts—no matter how cutting-edge, thought-provoking, inspiring or just generally awesome—only exist to support a specific, understood, strategic purpose.

The real secret to satisfying this question while you’re sifting through some creative excellence lies in the creative brief—that guiding document used by your agency to deliver what you see before you. If you did your homework, you solicited input from your team on the brief long before the agency started concepting. If not, you just might find yourself in for a very long, frustrating and ultimately fruitless review meeting.

Now you’re ready to review. Start off by asking your team: Do the concepts you’re looking at adequately support both the project and your overall business objective?

Make sure you’ve got concrete answers for this question. Write them out if you have to. There’s a reason this question takes the top spot. If your creative doesn’t satisfy this first criterion, then nothing else it does right will matter.

2. Is it relevant to your audience?

It might seem like this question is mostly about knowing who your audience is, but that’s just one part of it. Answering this question depends on:

  • Knowing your audience’s demographics: industry, title, size, geography, etc.
  • Knowing how you should speak to your audience: if you are here to solve their problems, explain a benefit you can provide, etc.

What does your audience think about you? What do you want them to think about you? How well do you think this concept will do in getting that audience from A to B? “More often than not,” says Ron Klingensmith, Slack’s Chief Creative Officer, “creative that misses the mark is a product of poor messaging.”

If you’re stuck on this one, we recommend checking out our “No Excuses” Message Grid from a little while back; check that out here.

3. Is it compelling?

People with a solid understanding of their audience might say they’ll “know if something’s compelling when they see it.” Though tempting—who can you trust to have their fingers on your audience’s pulse if not your own SMEs?—there’s a way to evaluate how compelling an idea is without relying on gut instinct.

Besides adhering to questions one and two, creative concepts that attract, engage and inspire will have these three characteristics in common:

  • Clarity—The concept needs to be direct and focused. Especially in B2B. Don’t waste time getting to the good stuff. Your audience is time-starved and too busy to figure out what an overly clever headline is trying to communicate. They want to be able to quickly connect the dots on how they can benefit from your product and from working with you.

  • Empathy—The concept must form a connection with your audience, and the strongest connections are formed through understanding. Make them feel that you really “get” them, what matters to them, their challenges, their experiences.

  • Authenticity—The concept should feel real. It should feel genuine and in alignment with your brand principles. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and look at each concept again. If it feels forced or loaded with jargon or marketing buzzwords, you can bet your audience will never form that emotional connection with your brand. Remember, honesty is (still) the best policy.

4. Is it different and ownable?

Give your creative concepts a second look. Do they look or sound … familiar? Specifically, are they similar to anything your competitors have done?

Do a competitive audit (or have your agency do one).

That’s it.

Actually, no. That’s not it. Make sure the audit is done before the creative. (This should actually be first on the list.)

Seriously. The absolute last thing you want is to go through the entire creative concepting and development process, only to stumble upon a competitive conflict a week before launch (check out this article about what happens when campaigns rhyme).

Knowing what’s already in the market will save you hours of lost time, not to mention stress headaches.

5. Does it have legs?

Creative assets that can be used in different scenarios can be enormous assets to your content marketing efforts, but this question is really about creative concepts for overarching campaigns.

As you’re reviewing a creative concept, consider how well the underlying idea can be applied in other parts of campaign. Is the idea big enough? Is it strategic? Is it scalable? You want an idea that works across your audience’s entire buy cycle, and for all audiences or verticals. The message it contains should be relatable at every part of your sales funnel.

And delivering a consistent message and tone across the full buy cycle isn’t just a fun academic exercise. Campaigns that succeed here will experience higher engagement and more conversions. Feel free to check out our latest article to learn more about that in greater detail.

Remember: Creative concepting is important, but it’s also supposed to be fun! It’s how we give our brands their voices and personalities, and how we connect with our customers.

Are you currently hunting for your next big idea? Drop us a line. We’d love to help out.

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