How to Frustrate Creatives

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Quote: “Defin­ing your audi­ence will tell you their habits and cus­toms. You’ll know what cur­ren­cy to use to com­mu­ni­cate with them.” ‑David Fowler

Creatives can be Your Biggest Resource

Good cre­atives are like a car. They can take you where you’re going. But you have to know how to chart the course. And this is where most com­pa­nies fail.

Creatives are Easy to Mismanage

If cre­atives are like cars, you need to know where you’re going. But you also need to be able to chart the course. If your cre­atives are con­fused about your audi­ence, the prod­uct or the audience’s rea­sons for buy­ing, the cre­ative exe­cu­tions will be a mile wide and an inch deep (it’ll look like your competition’s ads).

Oth­er things that affect man­ag­ing cre­atives (let me know if you’d like to see pod­casts address­ing these):

  • Hir­ing (offer to talk about that in the future).
  • Cul­ture.
  • Work­flow.

Creatives Need Process and Leadership

It’s a weird myth that cre­atives don’t need process–that they’re all over the place and crazy and undis­ci­plined. In fact, I’ve even heard peo­ple use the fact that some­one is dis­or­ga­nized and crazy as evi­dence that someone’s cre­ative, and avoid the obvi­ous oth­er options, like maybe they’re just incom­pe­tent.

The truth is cre­atives need process. And the begin­ning of the process is goal set­ting. Yes, you can actu­al­ly set a goal for cre­atives, and hold them account­able. The prob­lem is, it also holds you account­able to direct them, since you can’t just tell them their work is wrong; you have to tell them why.

If cre­atives are like cars, strate­gists are like a GPS. Strate­gists use the cam­paign objec­tive to build a brief for cre­atives. The brief defines:

  • One rea­son to buy that your audi­ence cares about.
  • One audi­ence mem­ber you’re talk­ing to.
  • A prod­uct descrip­tion that focus­es only on that buy­ing rea­son.

How peo­ple screw up the brief:

  • Hav­ing dou­ble-vision. Two audi­ences, two objec­tives or more than one rea­son to buy.
  • Con­fus­ing infor­ma­tion. There’s such a thing as too much detail, which is repet­i­tive, rephrased or just dou­ble-mind­ed (see point #1).
  • Not nego­ti­at­ing the brief. I’ve nev­er seen a per­fect brief. The best briefs inspire cre­atives. How you do that is make sure they’ve been able to argue with the brief and then feel sat­is­fied that they’ve received clar­i­fy­ing answers. You don’t want cre­atives walk­ing away with a nag­ging feel­ing that there’s some­thing they don’t under­stand. This is why lead­ing cre­ative work by bul­ly­ing nev­er works.

Strate­gists are:

  • Log­i­cal so they can antic­i­pate objec­tions dur­ing research, argue the point with a cre­ative (to get to clar­i­ty; not to be “right”) and find clar­i­ty.
  • Skep­ti­cal, not neg­a­tive, hav­ing enough life expe­ri­ence to be able to see things that look fishy and then research them.
  • Under­stand the cre­ative process, so they can prop­er­ly sup­port the cre­ative work.


If you’ve enjoyed this out­line, and you want to learn more about stand­ing up a brand in your own orga­ni­za­tion using brand and con­tent strat­e­gy and the brand hack­ing method, which means keep­ing it sim­ple and iter­at­ing quick­ly, then let’s talk.

Bio: I’m Chris Stadler, and I’ve been watch­ing, work­ing, study­ing and con­sult­ing for brands since 2004. I will show you how to right-size your promis­es so that they’re promis­es you can keep. Because it’s not the expen­sive brand­ing agen­cies that make great brands; they’re just the dec­o­ra­tors. It’s your lead­er­ship and integri­ty that make it all work. But it takes process.