“I’ll know it when I see it.”

First, If you’ve ever said “I’ll know it when I see it” to the writers and designers billed by the hour to create your ads, what you are really saying is: “I would like to spend a lot of money.”

Or, if your creatives are in-house indentured servants who must be willing to work more hours for the same pay, what you are really saying is, “I would like to waste a lot of your evening and weekend time creating things I will not approve.”

Don’t be surprised if they set your desk on fire over the weekend, as they actually did to one of my former bosses.

When you say “I’ll know it when I see it,” you are playing a very expensive game of Battleship: “G-7?” “Miss!” “B-2?” “Miss!” And so on. Until telepathy is a reality, the Battleship game will always be more miss than hit.

The most talented and motivated creatives refuse to play this game. They quit and go where their creative time and talents are valued, not wasted. And…they can be very creative about how they convince other creatives to avoid working on your business.

The less talented and less motivated creatives also quit. They just quit while on your payroll. They cease trying and wait for you to tell them what to do. It is the creative equivalent of a slow leak. Pssshhfttt. Your marketing communications slowly become less inspired, less attention-getting, and ultimately less effective.

One local ad agency I know maintains a secret office wall with a large plaque that says, “In Memorial.” When a great creative idea is killed by a client, they actually gather for a burial ceremony and place the great ad on the wall
with its birth and death dates. The wall is a
veritable museum of breathtakingly powerful communications. You cannot help but think those clients wasted some outstanding marketing opportunities.

Giving useful creative direction and feedback is rarely taught in business and engineering schools, which is one reason so much advertising sucks. Here are some tips from the seminar I teach at the UW Graduate School of Business for Executive Education:

The purpose of a creative review is to find the gem of an idea and polish it. Don’t waste time carving the bad parts out of the bad ideas. Find the good ideas, help the creative team make them better, and discover useful principles to guide future creation. You can be a creative reviewer, or a creative, but not both. It’s neither fair nor objective.

Before you create an ad, create a message strategy. Use the strategy to achieve consensus on a target audience, main point, and reason to care. Use the strategy to evaluate the ads.

Ask the creative team to state their idea in one sentence before they present. Control your emotions and expectations. Leave your worries outside the room. Get out of your head and into your heart. React overall, not to details. Say nothing the first time around. Ask to see the work a second time.

Then ask the creative team which idea is their favorite and why. That way, they kill their own work, so you don’t have to. State your favorite idea, and why. Show your delight. As with surgery, try to make the fewest possible interventions. State what needs to be improved and let the creative team figure out how. Don’t dictate words or pictures. Agree on next steps. Thank the creatives for their hard work.

Do this and your creative team will be more likely to set out great ideas, and less likely to set your desk on fire.

No in-house creative team? Here’s a tip to help you, too: How long should a brochure be?
Brochures can come in many formats and lengths. Generally, they are printed in four-page increments, so your choices are four pages, eight pages, 12 pages, and so on.

The most common brochures are a single 8.5- by-11-inch or 8.5-by-14-inch sheet of paper printed on two sides and folded into three or four panels.

In general, the length of your words should be determined by the number of compelling new selling arguments. Don’t repeat yourself within a brochure. It also should be determined by your intent: If your customers are not expecting to receive your brochure and it is intended to interrupt their attention, make the brochure shorter; if customers request more information, you can make the brochure longer.