Why Creatives Need to Be Able to Explain Their Ideas

Why Creatives Need to Be Able to Explain Their Ideas

We’ve written often about the need to present convincing arguments for why your single, best creative solution is absolutely the one the client should select for their latest program or project. Offering convincing arguments has long been a struggle for creative types—we are often far better at the intuitive leap that leads to a Big Idea than we are at explaining what led to that leap. Delving into our own thought processes seems to go against the grain for many creative people, as if dissecting how we arrived at an idea somehow detracts from the creative mystique. But if we can’t present strong rationales for how we got from the creative brief to the proposed solution, why should the client trust us to be right?

Ideas Are Cheap

Derek L. Walker of brown & browner advertising, Columbia, SC, unspooled a Twitter thread (@dereklwalker) about concepting—what it is and why it is so difficult to explain to clients. It is not brainstorming, but it is creative development. And unlike brainstorming, it is about refining ideas, reshaping them, playing with them, testing alternatives, tweaking and pinching and stretching ideas… until you arrive at the one that makes you say, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s what we need.”

Concepting is really that part of the ad and creative business that clients can’t do for themselves. The creative concept is what clients are really paying for. It’s the process of developing a Big Idea that will make a brand or product stand out, attract attention, or spur people to consider and buy.

But as Derek Walker suggests, ad people’s major failing is a weakness in the ability to explain how we arrived at the concept we are recommending the client expend substantial money on to put into action.

Ideas are cheap. Your idea is only as good as your ability to explain it to the client. If you can’t persuasively explain your ideas, they will die on the table.

Improving at Creative Persuasion

How do we improve our ability to explain—and persuade clients to trust in—our creative process and ideas?

  1. Ask creative people to explain how they arrived at their ideas. This compels them to dig into their own thought processes… and can lead to a better understanding of how they develop ideas and what approaches or tools produce the strongest concepts. (triggers, intuitive leaps, account planning insights, etc.)
  2. Use an internal creative meeting, led by the CD, to critique the design or concept. Ask lots of questions and note the answers, which can be used to build the persuasive argument you will share with the client. How did they arrive at the idea or concept? What data/research supports the concept? How does it fit the brief? Why is it a good fit for the target audience? How can it be executed to create an integrated campaign that will fulfill client objectives?
  3. Once creative people know how their own process works, they can potentially share that approach with co-workers, and train/mentor other creative people.
  4. This increases the ability to give an idea context that is relevant to and increases the understanding of the client.
  5. Detailing the steps from creative brief to research, to insight, to creative idea, to execution, also adds credibility and builds trust between agency and client.
  6. Revealing the process and rationale for the idea helps clients see the creative process as a methodology, not some magical moment of inspiration; i.e., they see that time and effort goes into the process—they begin to see the process as having value.

When clients understand more about the creative process, their perception of the value of that process increases. That means your agency’s perceived value also increases. And that translates into an improved potential for increasing profits. When you are perceived as “worth it,” you can set your prices accordingly.

Train your creative team to be better at explaining their thought processes, and you’ll greatly improve your defense of good ideas, and the client’s understanding of how each idea you offer fulfills the creative brief. The more transparent your creative process, the greater the trust your client will feel able to place in that process. And the more they will trust the ideas to solve their specific problems.

See also:

Ideas to Sell, Who Will Buy…?


Believe It or Not, Great Creative Must Be Sold Hard!

How Do You Sell an Ad to a Client?


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