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Evaluating Purpose-Driven Creative Work

Highlighting top tips to move a creative campaign from concept through production

The creative process is a magical thing. What starts with a simple document (the “Brief”), winds its way to a public-facing campaign that changes hearts and minds by tapping into deep human truths and emotions. It’s compelling, invigorating, wildly challenging — and for many of us, it’s how we found ourselves in this business. The process of refining ideas and concepts — including many opportunities for feedback — is one of the keys to creating amazing marketing campaigns. Mastering the art of great feedback can make the difference between an award-winning concept and one that bears the telltale signs of “creative by committee.” Symptoms include no clear point of view, too much information, disjointed visual themes, or my least favorite — an audience left asking “So what?”


Here are a few guidelines the C+C creative and account teams use as we move creative campaign concepts through both our internal and client review processes. Whether you’re an account director, creative lead, or a client, keeping these tips in mind will help produce better work — and allow your team to have more fun while you do it!

Center the audience

Top Tip: Always approach the work with the audience’s point of view in mind. Always. Ask yourself, “What problem are we solving for them? What do they need to hear, see, and learn given their unique barriers and motivations?” (Hint: this will be difficult if your brief is not grounded in excellent audience research and insights.

Ask who is included, and who isn’t

Can the audience see themselves in the work? Does it reflect their culture, lifestyle, and community? The best way to ensure this happens is to have members of your priority audiences involved in creating the work. There’s a quote that originated from disability activist spaces that I love: “Nothing about us, without us.” This mindset absolutely applies to creative development as well.

Start and end with kindness

Creative ideas are deeply personal, and creative teams often infuse their lived experiences and history into their work. Honor and respect the emotional and mental energy that people have devoted to campaigns and give people time to process and rest. Remember this context when pointing out what is or isn’t working with a particular concept or approach, and always, always

Don’t gatekeep

Good ideas can come from unexpected places.  Allow junior staff to participate in the process. Ask around the office to see if folks have experience with the issue or program you’re promoting. Listen to people, be curious, and create opportunity — allow for surprises.

Avoid being overly prescriptive

Trust your team to use their expertise to address issues with the work. Focus on the objective (the “what and why”) and let the team handle the “how.” For example, providing feedback such as “this layout is feeling a bit dark and somber, can we explore ways to brighten it up?” is more effective than being specific “try brighter colors in the design, how about a nice magenta font?”

Don’t force it

If it’s not working, say so. Your honesty will free up your team to focus on refining what IS working, rather than trying to salvage ideas that are too far off the mark.

Be clear about limitations

Keep budget and time in mind. Let your creative team know of any budget or timeline constraints before they start the concept development process. Trust me, nobody wants to be in a situation where you’ve presented a concept to a client that is impossible to produce within their budget. An easy way to do this is to include your production experts in the review process, having them flag any issues BEFORE budget or timeline impacts arise.

Stay in your lane

“My nephew is studying communications at school, and I showed this to him. He thinks we should make a viral TikTok with cats. Cats are hot on TikTok right now.” Do not be this person.

Trust your gut

If something doesn’t feel right, say something. All teams benefit from hearing concerns so they can work to address them. In my experience, avoiding difficult conversations has never worked out for anyone, ever. Trust each other to do what is best for the work.

Be bold!

The creative process is all about finding ideas that can move an audience and achieve goals. Bold, innovative ideas can feel scary at first, but if they are strategic and fit the budget, they are worth exploring. Allow yourself to ask “what if?” There’s a place for “safe” ideas, but your awards shelf is rarely one of them.