5 ways to go beyond “pretty”
The goal of agency creative is to inspire an audience to action. In advertising and marketing, this is done to create an emotional connection to a brand or product and invoke some sort of purchase behavior—to move the audience, as they say.
However, because creative teams use art and copy to solve problems, we are often subject to suggestions to “prettify” or “wordsmith” or “color” an otherwise bland communication—all subjective perspectives requiring very little thought. As a creative director, I find this immensely frustrating because great work must exceed its aesthetic appeal.
Creative work—in an agency setting—is the confluence of visual design, messaging, and business goals, leading to customer action. It’s meant to sell a product, introduce a brand’s principles, or change a viewer’s mind about a company. Great work is filled with objective, defensible decisions to drive this goal.
Here are five criteria to help avoid the subjective feedback we’re prey to:
1. Does the work follow the brief?
First and foremost, the brief is the blueprint for the work. If written thoughtfully and properly, it is the guide for producing effective communications. It should clearly articulate the business problem(s) and goals of the client so the final product is judged as accurate and effective. If the starting point of the work is well defined, then the end product will reflect it.
2. Does the work SOLVE the client’s business problem?
Knowing the problem is one thing, but great work should point to a solution. Ask these questions:
- Will the audience be moved to the proper action?
- Does the work elicit a response?
- As a viewer, do I understand what’s required of me?
Clear communication will eliminate subjectivity. Any brief that doesn’t clearly articulate its purpose should be challenged BEFORE the work heads down the wrong path.
3. Does the work conform to usability standards?
Regardless of how attractive or pithy it is, the work has to be accessible. Especially in the digital era, with wide adoption across multiple audiences, usability is paramount. While there may be some clever campaign violating usability to emphasize a point, it’s more likely a poorly designed experience as a result of inattention.
4. Is the work “on brand”?
Instead of merely conforming to the brief, creative work also has to be identifiable. No matter how clever, stirring, or attractive it appears, if it’s not recognizable as the client’s, it may fall short. This isn’t to say that every bit of work needs to be slathered in slogans, jargon, or logos. But a Nike ad should never be confused with an Adidas ad—each brand’s unique positioning should come through distinctly.
5. Is it something the agency can be proud of?
This is the most malleable of criteria, because not all agencies are created equal. A small direct marketing agency may be excited that all the ads it produces convert at a higher rate than those of its competitors, while remaining potentially dull in comparison to other market work. Perhaps you’re a larger design firm that may rest upon peer recognition and awards. Or perhaps it’s a branding agency that does lots of television for nonprofits, and you know that a tear equals a donation. Whatever the criteria for success, your creative work should support and elevate that position.
Here at WebMechanix, our work is deeply data driven and digital centric. For us, a great piece of work is attractive, but still effective—functional, but still engaging. Examine what your agency defines as success, and make things that champion the highest standards.