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  • Writer's pictureTom Lewis

Creative by committee? I think not.

Before our agency takes on a new client we ask lots of questions, mainly to make sure we are a good fit. We also want to make sure that our agency can actually achieve the client’s objectives, given the circumstances, budget limitations and overall scope of work involved. During this process, one of the most important questions we ask is, “Who will be the decision-maker?” Who has the final say when it comes to the creative we present? We ask this question because creative work should never go through an approval process that involves a committee. It would be like trying to paint the Mona Lisa with five people giving you differing opinions on how to paint the smile…

Creative work is very subjective, so differing opinions come with the territory, but these opinions become problematic when no one is appointed as the final decision-maker. If a team of people is shown a print ad for example, and everyone on the team gives their two cents, you can only imagine what the final ad would look like… The better approach would be to appoint the person with the most experience in marketing to have the final say. They can ask for opinions from their team, but the ultimate decision should be singular and for very good reason.

The goal of creative work is to make a personal connection with the target audience you’re trying to reach. It’s not about what pleases you, per se, it’s really about determining what has the best chance of making your demographic take action, and that’s a hard distinction to make. It’s difficult for most people to put themselves in the shoes of someone else and determine what will motivate them – that takes a considerable amount of thought based on research and experience.

Years ago, when I was just starting my career in Atlanta, GA, I read the book “Ogilvy On Advertising,” which is still considered the quintessential book written about advertising, by one of the original “Mad Men,” David Ogilvy. My biggest takeaway from the book was a story that David told about attending a new business meeting, where his agency was up for consideration. On the day of his interview, he entered a room with a large table with twelve individuals sitting across a table from him. They told him that they would ask him various questions and give him 2 minutes to respond. When the time was up they would ring a bell. Ogilvy said that was fine, but that he had one question before they started. He said, “If my agency is selected who will be the decision-maker when we present creative?” The committee looked around at each other and said, “All of us.” Mr. Ogilvy immediately stood up and said, “Gentleman you may ring the bell!”

This story made a lasting impression on me because there is a lot of truth in his statement. Ogilvy did some of the most memorable advertising work ever created and one of the reasons he was able to do it was by working with clients that understood this concept and allowed his agency to do their best work.

If you’re ever in this type of situation, always remember to ring the bell.

Tom Lewis, Partner | Creative Director

With over 25 years of professional advertising and design experience, Tom has spent much of his career working with a variety of companies throughout the southeast. His client list includes Lenoir UNC Health Care, Maola Milk, Hutchens Law Firm, Wayne Community College, Craven County Tourism, Nash County Tourism Guardian Repellent, Equifax, Georgia Pacific, Primerica, Weyerhaeuser, The Atlanta Hawks, Randstad Staffing and The Shizzle Jerk Marinade.

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