Give constructive feedback.

posted December 11, 2017

Here’s Some Feedback: Be Constructive

Amy Anderson

For creatives in the advertising industry, feedback is the name of the game. It’s a given — you know you’re going to get feedback from both your teammates and your clients, probably on a daily basis. You can’t choose to “ignore your haters” or say “take it or leave it.” In advertising, if you can’t handle feedback, you can’t handle your job.

That being said, it’s time to talk about the kind of feedback we receive. Why? Well, just take a look at comments that creatives get on the regular:

  • Doesn’t make sense.
  • Little weird.
  • Make it pop.
  • I guess I don’t like blue.
  • This doesn’t feel right.
  • Try this line instead…
  • Shift the focus, but don’t start over.
  • Just fix it in post-production.
  • I don’t like this concept.
  • ?

And what do we do with this feedback? Well, we rack our brains trying to figure out what it means, for one. We chase down account executives, pass along questions and consequently waste quite a bit of precious, quality work time. So, how can we fix this problem? It’s simple: give direct, doable feedback. If a concept has already been approved, it’s too late to decide you don’t like it. If a video has already been filmed, you can’t request a family of penguins in the background. And if your feedback is simply “little weird,” there’s only one thing a creative can do: guess.     

When you give feedback, it should be two things: clear and actionable. As Dagger Associate Creative Director Mandy Cochran says, “Give me a problem, not a solution.” Because just as you might expect, guessing doesn’t lead to intentional results. Only clear, actionable feedback can.

So, what does clear, actionable feedback look like?

  • Let’s add these specific product features.
  • Can you ensure this follows the voice and tone guide?
  • Here’s how I’d like to re-prioritize the hierarchy of content here.
  • Is there anywhere we could add our tertiary brand colors?
  • From here on out, use this approved wording from compliance.
  • To avoid language translation issues, let’s choose a more direct headline.
  • Infuse a more playful, light-hearted tone for this audience.
  • At this timecode, can you shorten the on-screen text?
  • I really like these examples. Can you reflect this aesthetic?
  • Let’s swap out the header image for this provided asset.

Detailed, direct feedback saves time, rounds of edits and, quite honestly, sanity. When you provide creatives with vague, subjective feedback, you never know what you’ll get. Why? Because they don’t know what the heck you’re asking for. But when you provide well-defined, actionable feedback, you know what you’ll get: exactly what you asked for.

Next time you give feedback, ask yourself a few questions. First, is this clear? If you aren’t sure, it probably isn’t. The more details the merrier, so don’t be afraid to share that additional context. Second, is it doable? Keep in mind that sometimes, it actually is too late. Once a concept has been locked in, your window of opportunity to big-picture brainstorm is closed (until next time, that is). Third, is all your feedback aligned? If your team is sending mixed messages, the only thing that’s certain is impending confusion.

So go forth and share constructive feedback. I guarantee you’ll like what you see.