How to judge creative ideas and why it’s so important - Factor 3

How to judge creative ideas and why it’s so important

We’re a proud IPA member-agency because it represents real value for us and our clients in terms of the excellent resources and services that we can tap into as part of our membership.

I’ve blogged before about their fantastic ‘best practice guides’ and so I thought I’d turn the spotlight on another of them – ‘Judging Creative Ideas’ – having recently conducted a particularly successful training session with one of my client’s marketing teams, using its content.

The guide covers the importance of being a good judge of creative work – quite simply because good work is more effective in marketing terms than bad work – and how to collaborate with your agency to nurture the work to fulfil its maximum potential. Ultimately, you – the marketer – wins; it’s not just about being nice to your agency.

‘Judging Creative Ideas’ seeks to answer questions like:

  • How do you know when you have a good idea on your hands?
  • How can you help turn a good idea into a great one?
  • At what point in the process do you need to be most involved? Or to back off?

It’s also packed with some cracking, provocative quotes from the industry’s most successful pioneers, whose track records prove they certainly know what they’re talking about. Here’s one from Bruce Haines, Group Chief Executive of Leo Burnett:

“Every time you assess a new idea, what you’re really doing is trying to manage change. You can either cope with change or force the pace of it.”

And another from Honda marketing chief, Simon Thompson:

“I’ve never met anyone who was fired for being mediocre but I have met people fired for taking a risk. By dint of that, if your object in life is to remain employed rather than to make a difference, then mediocre is a good decision.”

Together they make an interesting point, because we would assert that many of our strongest, most challenging creative ideas have never seen the light of day, presumably because they’re just outside the comfort zone of the respective marketers – our clients – that they have been presented to.

The guide also quotes Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman and Creative Director of OgilvyOne worldwide and Chairman of the IPA Creative Forum, who neatly captures the concept seen all too often where a creative execution, courtesy of amend after tiny amend, dies a death of a thousand cuts: ‘The Halal method of creative approval’!

The main focus of the guide is its ‘ten pieces to the jigsaw of judging creative ideas’, summarised as follows:

  1. Be knowledgeable in advance:
    To assess ideas you need to be able to place them in a broader context and compare them against ideas you have seen elsewhere and considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
  2. Come to the meeting with a smile:
    Join the creative presentation hoping to enjoy yourself and ready to be inspired. When people are having fun, they listen and contribute.
  3. Back to the brief:
    Reminding yourself of your brief is essential. It provides you with a framework against which to evaluate the idea. Make sure the agency does this too before they present.
  4. Empathise:
    Try to empathise with the people bringing the ideas to you. Creative people are different. It matters less to them that a job is done on time and within budget than that it is done really well.
  5. Clarify:
    If the idea is not simple and single-minded, then perhaps the brief was not simple and single-minded either. Is it on brief? What exactly is the idea? What sort of an idea is it? What sort of an execution is it? How is the idea going to work?
  6. Question yourself:
    Your first reaction to the work will almost certainly be subjective. Establish what influences may be at work on your opinion before you start to concentrate on it objectively.
  7. Question the idea:
    The clients who know how to use open questions are those who end up with great work, because they encourage ideas to develop? Start with Who? What? Why? Where? How? When? They involve and stimulate.
  8. Reflection:
    Listen to the agency, make notes, then go away and think. Reflection is when you ask the HOW questions. How can we take the idea on? How can we adapt it? How can we make it better?
  9. Refinement and the role of research:
    These are the WHY questions. The first is, Why change anything? The less you do to a new and challenging idea, the more you might learn about it in research.
  10. Relax:
    You’ve done everything you can to help the idea survive and flourish. There is every reason to believe the idea will be a success.

All in all, it’s a great read and will only take you ten minutes to flick through, so click through here and download it. And if you like it, pick up the other free IPA best practice guides too:


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