Defending Creative vs Just Plain Arguing

On a daily basis I am asked to look at creative work and judge it.  Sometimes it’s about a certain color over a background.  Sometimes it’s about whether the typeface is cutting through to get the messaging across.  Other times it’s not just about a specific question, but an overall direction. 


I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by some terrific Art Directors and Copywriters in my life and value their judgments.  But there has been more than one occasion where a creative's dedication to the work and drive has clouded their vision into how their individual cog fits into the entire wheel.  That’s where I come in to make sure that their particular piece of collateral works with the delivery as a whole.


I believe that it’s important to care for the work and to make sure that you defend passionately what you believe to be the right direction.  But often times defending creative turns into just plain arguing.  Here is my attempt to break this down with some glaring omissions I hope you help point out:


1.     Never make it personal.  If you don’t get your way, try not to make it about ‘this guy never likes my ideas’ or ‘this guy thinks I suck’ or whatever.

2.     Don’t blame your writer/art director/strategist/client or team.  This one is obvious but it happens so often that it has to be stated. 

3.     Never think you understand the client.  The client doesn’t understand themselves from time to time.  That’s why you are there.   It’s best to create work you think is the best and on brand.  Period.  Many great campaigns were born this way and I have found that the #1 way to lose a client is to do exactly as they ask.

4.     Stick to the facts.  This move was done to be on brand and this part here was on strategy.  Good layout with strong art and copy that is thoughtful will always be better than saying – ‘I think this is cool’ or ‘we ran out of time’.

5.     I know you didn’t have enough time.

6.     Come up with more ideas.  These are not your babies – they are your work.  The finest creatives I have ever worked with and admire are idea making machines.

7.     Don’t make it weird. 

8.     Take a chance on something you think is awesome.  If it’s a quality CD or ECD they will reflect positively on you going out on a limb.  If you have a crappy CD or ECD you can learn tons from that too.


What do you think?  I know I missed some things in the list above but I think it’s a pretty good primer for defending creative work without arguing.  When creative passions are raw and exposed, it’s only natural to feel attached to the work but after all -- we are professionals.  Right?

Nir Bashan is an executive creative director with over 16 years of advertising, entertainment and business development experience.  He writes on topics covering advertising, media, creative solutions and workforce management.