January 30th, 2018   |   Chris Preston

What if we made 2018 the year of great work? Less talk. More do.

Less consumer skip-and-block. More customer engage-and-smile.

Call me self-interested. Jaded. Biased. But having been party to marketing ideas that have completely changed brand trajectories, built companies, driven traffic and won national and international awards – and sometimes (more often if truth be told) failed to move the needle – I have some advice for those in position to judge the work about what can make all the difference.

I’m not talking about judging award shows, that’s a whole different thing, but about the daily barrage of judgments and the resulting decisions the average CMO, Marketing Manager, Creative Director or Account Director will be required to make of new campaign ideas this year. Because make no mistake, your judgment is the difference between great and good, good and average, average and OMG. If an idea has the potential to be 100% great, think of each decision you make as a 5%’er. One bad decision takes you from a 90% A to an 85% B. Two or three bad decisions and your work is an average student struggling to pass community college.

So, here is my modern decision criteria in all its optimistic glory:

  • Look for what is right about each idea first. Make no criticisms at all in your first rounds of consideration. As your mom said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And no sneaky comparative statements masquerading as compliments for idea two when compared to idea one. When you first look for what’s right with the ideas and executions you identify for your creative partners what to prioritize, what you value, and in my experience dramatically increase the odds of success. Criticism is what we’re all trained to do, and it’s easy. Unfortunately, it builds on itself. The first person starts critiquing and everybody else finds something to criticize and pretty soon you have no ideas on the table that are criticism free and ALL the work dies. Even the great ideas can be incurably tainted by something as simple as “I don’t like the blue background” or “The headline is too small”.
  • Rule 2 is a direct result of rule 1. Find the idea you want to talk about the most. Which idea generates the most discussion? The most passion? The most what-ifs and tangents? How could it apply to your internal communication? Empower your employees or improve morale? Could it work in even more media touch points? How could it spark sharing? Look for all the reasons to say “yes” with each idea. When you’re done, by definition this will be the idea that has the most right with it, since by following rule 1 that is all you’ll be talking about.
  • Which idea gives your audience the most credit? People are smart. They have instincts for marketing BS and love brands that respect them, get them, and get that they get it. The idea that gives them credit for the brains and discernment and sense of humor they’ve been honing through media exposure since they were old enough to hold their heads up, is probably the best idea. As ad legend Luke Sullivan suggested years ago, make your audience come 40% of the way to you. If you only give them 60% and they complete the idea in their own minds, it’s much more memorable.

That’s it. After, and only after, you’ve agreed upon the best idea and what’s great about it, should you start tweaking and noodling. I’m making the bold assumption that the ideas you are judging are on strategy and that the strategy has been approved before work began. (That happens less often than you’d think at some agencies.)

It’s 2018, let’s make it the year of the best work of our careers.

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