Raise your hand 🙋🏻 if you’ve ever found yourself in this situation: you put together images and copy that experience and data tells you is likely going to resonate with the target audience, and meets the ask. You send it off to the client for their review and approval. You expect the usual feedback — tweak this phrase, use image B instead of image A, make the logo bigger, and the like. Instead, the client replies with copy and/or images that are not only completely different, but off target. When you ask the client for clarification, the reason comes down to, “because it’s what I like.”

It’s a classic case of the client liking what they like, and that’s what they want to see. To them, that’s all that matters. But as marketers who are experts at engaging audiences online, we know that a lot more matters. Like strategy. And we’re here to firmly state that “because it’s what I like,” is not a sound strategy.

If you find yourself giving or receiving off target feedback, use the below approaches to achieve a resolution that will (hopefully) make all parties happy without compromising the performance of the creative.

Leverage a Creative Brief

Good creative output requires good creative input, and good input should come by way of the creative brief. The keyword here is “good,” as we’ve all seen and probably had to adhere to subpar briefs at some point in our respective careers.

In an ideal world, the marketer leads the creation of the creative brief, and the client has the opportunity to review and edit it. Once it’s approved, the creative brief becomes the litmus test that the creative is judged against, putting feedback more squarely into objective territory versus subjective, which invites personal preference and off target feedback.

Run Multiple Ads

A/B testing and machine learning can give both parties what they want. Let’s say you’re tasked with creating social ads and feel strongly that image C best aligns with the target audience, whereas the client likes image D because their niece is in it. Put both versions out, either as a traditional A/B test or a responsive ad, and let the data determine the “winner” based on which one performs better.

Be Demonstrative

Marketing works when it’s demonstrative, and what the client prefers often falls short of this element. The brands that win, and build loyal audiences, are the ones that show, rather than tell. It’s the hotel brand that instead of saying, “Come stay here because we’re great” illustrates they’re a great place to stay by talking about their, “Waterfront views, historic tours, and elegant on-premise dining.” It’s the manufacturer that may want to simply say “we have solutions for you,” but would be better served highlighting common problems and how their products resolve them.

Also, personal inclinations impose perspective onto the audience. The overarching goal of marketing is for the audience to see themselves engaging with the product or service, so they are then driven to actually do so. But the audience can’t do that if the client is solely talking about or showcasing themselves, because it crowds out the audience’s vision.

Our job, and our due diligence processes, often puts us in a position of telling brands or partners things they aren’t expecting to or don’t want to hear. But we wouldn’t be honest or transparent if we were simply a “Yes” agency that didn’t course correct self-focused marketing tendencies when faced with them. Instead, we strive to be a “Yes, and….” agency, delivering positive outcomes that take online behavior and our clients’ goals into account.