What’s the best recipe for great creative work? Most would agree that it is not a case of the more, the merrier when it comes to input. Everyone has an opinion and the more people you try and please, the more confusing the work can become.
Which brings us to research. However much the research companies tell us that they have refined their processes, focus groups are still a long way from reflecting the way people consume advertising in real life. The fact that this contrived environment provides a captive audience for the work negates the importance of cut-through and gives dull and safer campaigns an advantage it wouldn’t normally have.
There’s also the potential problem of dominant personalities within a research group leading weaker individuals in directions they wouldn’t otherwise have headed. A smart group host can help diffuse the impact of this but in the last round of research I was involved in, one of the participants had apparently spent his £30 fee in the pub beforehand and it was almost impossible to decouple his rants from the views of the others. Personally, I subscribe to the school of thought that says research the strategy, not the creative work, as this can add real value to the output without compromising it.
So if it’s not a good idea inviting a cast of thousands to review creative work, is it better to have no interference at all? Not necessarily. However creatively insightful an individual might be, everyone’s judgements are coloured by their own unique set of circumstances and life experiences. What might be the funniest piece of work in the universe to one individual might not mean anything to someone who’s never watched The Inbetweeners. Creative Directors, presuming they’re producing work as well as analysing it, can greatly benefit from the help of their own ‘Creative Director’ – someone in the agency to give them an objective opinion they can trust.
At HPS, we always look to empower everyone from top to bottom and we welcome the opinions of all those involved in a project when it’s time to review creative work. That’s because, no matter who you are, you can always come up with the killer suggestion that makes good work great. But being open to a variety of opinions is not the same as acting on them. Ultimately, the big decisions are made jointly by the Creative Director and the Account Director. When it comes to crunch time, less really is more.