Advertising scandals are like having food in your teeth. Pretty obvious that something is wrong to anyone except the person who is too close to the issue to notice. I think anyone that came across the TV ad that could clearly be considered an insensitive appropriation of a social movement, poor use of copywriting in a racially charged world, or…. finds themselves wondering “what were they thinking? Did they even ask anyone to review it?”.
The odds of this happening will continue to rise however, as brands are pumping out more content and communications than ever to keep pace with the real-time world. This is welcome news to the research vendors who market ad testing products, as well as the agencies who are highlighting the benefits of tapping into external agencies and knowledge in a “leave it to the experts” type of mantra.
But, both agencies and in-house creative departments are vulnerable to operating in their own bubble. Account teams at agencies are meant to provide ironclad, on-demand partners who are dedicated to the mastery of their clients’ businesses. However, shrinking budgets has led to reduced staff counts at agencies leading to account teams forming their own silos, unable to tap into the creative power sitting right beside them in their own office.
The feedback and review process is usually a linear chain of command, and free open collaboration with colleagues outside of your account is exception, not the rule. We’ve heard countless times that the minor consequences of this manifest in “creative ruts” where copywriters and their art directors produce “safe” work knowing that it will either pass the ad testing process and client approval. In worst case scenarios, it leads to unintended cultural insensitivities, concepts that don’t carry through the production process and work that consumers don’t find relevant.
Typically there are 2 review processes within agencies. The first, a more informal session with a creative director during the early concept development stages. The feedback here is part motivational (“good job on the copy”), and one part directional (“you’ll need to work on the casting and character development a bit before it goes to client”).
The second meeting is more formal with the full pitch effect in front of the executive creative director, account team and strategist. This meeting is meant more to ensure the ideas are on brief, will not result in an angry client and for last minute tweaks.
Note that neither of these meetings is really about risk mitigation in terms of public blowback. The first is about the quality of the idea, and the second more about how ready it is to be shared with client.
The main purpose is to predict effectiveness. Consumer testing is a predictive and efficient method of benchmarking your campaign against others. And though this can provide much needed insight on whether your campaign is ideal to launch or not, this won’t provide inspired, creative feedback or support through idea generation and creatives could still be stuck in “creative ruts” after countless rounds of consumer tests.
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