Oh yes, I’ve seen marketing initiatives dissolve into tedious, gut-wrenching, time-sucking exercises for all involved.

There are all kinds of factors that might send a new project down that rocky path. But I’ve spent decades watching company behavior from an agency perspective. And if for some reason I were forcibly compelled to pick some indicators of sweat-free marketing, here are some of the things I would blurt out.

Give me a little committee.

The smaller the client’s marketing-approval committee, I’ve noticed, the easier it is to wrangle everyone onto the same page. And the easier it is to keep a fine idea from getting tragically mangled before it goes out the door.

Sometimes, though, the client insists on on asking all 17 people in the office for input on the marketing creative, generously soliciting their buy-in. What could possibly go wrong?

Half of those people will take a copy home to see what their spouse thinks, why not, and dutifully convey that supplementary input the next day. Naturally, hardly anyone agrees with each other, and several have already come up with a “better idea.” As the Creative Director, those days I just try to be thankful that I’m not shoveling hot tar for minimum wage.

I can’t make you happy unless I know what makes you happy.

One person, say, the marketing director, offers the agency input for the project. Another person, say the company president, can’t be troubled to attend the input meeting, but of course will pass final judgment on the end result.

That works fine if those two people see eye-to-eye on every aspect of every consideration. But how likely is that? The agency may do a stellar job of attending to the marketing person’s stated needs. Yet the boss really may have had something else in mind that she apparently expected everyone else to guess at.

But since nobody wants to start over, the creative work is modified and twisted and re-rigged until it the president’s considerations are taken into account. Only problem is, if you stand back and look at it with the fresh eyes of a potential customer, well, it doesn’t really work anymore. In fact, it may not even make sense. But nobody wants to start over, so it goes out that way. So sad.

Don’t solve problems for me. Please.

Of course, there are always changes to the initial creative execution before the final approval bell rings. Even creative folks have to be flexible; prima donnas burn out fast in marketing.

Sometimes, though, the client decides to play designer or writer (how hard could it be?) and starts moving elements or words around. This will always, always throw off something else, which in turn creates a cascade of highly unnecessary difficulties within the (previously) carefully balanced message and design. The result is not pretty.

I just ask one thing. Tell me what the issue or problem or concern is, and I’ll solve it–and this is the important part–without unintentionally creating more problems. That’s what you’re paying me for. For example, would you tell the electricians that you want a switch to control the overhead light–or would you tell them what to connect the yellow wire to?

Of course, those of you on the client side probably have your own set of pet peeves about agency creative people.

I’ll be watching for your blog posts.

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