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How to give creative feedback

Working with a creative agency is a great way to elevate your marketing and establish your brand. But providing feedback on creative ideas can be tricky.
Alex Moran

Alex Moran

3 minute read
June 7, 2022
Working with a creative agency is a great way to elevate your marketing and establish your brand. But providing feedback on creative ideas can be tricky.
How to give creative feedback Image

Have you ever been in this situation? You’ve commissioned a creative agency to devise a new campaign, develop your brand identity or design your annual report. You receive the initial ideas and… they’re not quite right. Or, even better, they’ve given you three options, but you love them all – how can you possibly choose?

Reaching a concept or product that you're happy with can be a rewarding process - and the key to success is providing effective feedback.

Firstly, what do we mean by ‘bad’ feedback? Well we don’t mean criticism - critical feedback is helpful when delivered right. Ineffective feedback is feedback that can’t be actioned; a creative dead-end.

This goes for positive feedback too…

If the creative can’t learn from your feedback, they’re left guessing what you do and don’t think is working and why, which can lead to an arduous process of trial and error. 

If you’re working with a creative agency, or you’re looking to use one in the future, here’s how you can give great creative feedback – and make the most out of your partnership. 


Ask why

If the creative options you’re faced with seem a little off-piste, or perhaps they aren’t what you were expecting, it helps to interrogate how the designer reached this point. Don’t be afraid to ask for a conversation to discuss your feedback in detail. Asking ‘why’ can open up a conversation about the interpretation of the brief and offer a different perspective. 

Instead of ‘I’m not sure about this colour – we don’t usually use pink’, you could say ‘We don’t usually use pink, is there a reason we’ve used it as a key colour?’. 

By asking why, the designer can justify their rationale or examine their choices more closely. 


Explain yourself

Sometimes you just know something isn’t right. That’s why a creative agency will always give you the opportunity to feedback; you know your business, organisation or charity best. That knowledge is invaluable. The key to transforming that knowledge into great feedback is by sharing it.  

Remember, poor feedback is a dead end. If you can explain your reasoning, your creative team can learn from it; and set the foundations for a more effective, long-term, collaborative relationship. 

For example, instead of ‘Can we use a different word?’, explain why it won’t work. Such as, ‘The senior team aren’t keen on this type of colloquial language, can we make it sound more professional?’ 

This helps the copywriter better understand your tone of voice and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. They can also apply this learning to the rest of the copy, leading to an improved piece of work overall. 


Remember who it’s for

Our response to creative can be subjective, and sometimes personal opinion can get in the way of effective feedback. When reviewing any creative, keep in mind who the audience is. It might not be your cup of tea, but if you’re not the intended audience, does it need to be? Make sure your feedback is based on your knowledge of the target audience and the brief to avoid making audience assumptions.

This is not to say that you have to keep your fingers crossed that your creative agency have nailed it when it comes to speaking to your target audience. Investing in some audience testing can be worth its weight in gold for getting authentic, constructive feedback on your campaign creative.


Go back to the brief

If in doubt, always refer back to the brief. Is the messaging reflective of the objectives in the brief? Are we talking to the audiences identified in the brief? Does the creative work for the channels mentioned in the brief? You get the idea. For you and the design team, the brief is gospel – it’s your roadmap to achieving your goals, so it helps to refer back to it if you can.

By doing this, you might find that your creative agency have answered the brief, just not in the way you were expecting. Or you might find that they have misinterpreted something completely, and you can use your feedback to clarify this.

Avoid feedback like this: ‘This just looks very boring to me.’

And embrace feedback like this: ‘Do you think the colours used here answer the brief’s requirement to feel ‘playful’?’

And finally - this goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway - critical doesn’t have to be unkind. Keep your feedback impersonal and constructive to get the most out of your creative partnership.

Great feedback leads to great things – who knows what your next campaign is capable of?