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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.