A freelance copywriter friend asked me to look at some ad concepts she and her art director had done. The posters were visually arresting. Headlines were short and witty. And the concepts held together as a campaign.

But something was wrong. I just didn’t feel like buying the service they were selling, and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would. Then I remembered something an experienced adman told me when I was a student copywriter: “If there’s a flaw in the brief, it’ll show up in the advertising.” And I thought there was a problem with my friend’s brief.

Listen to your copywriter’s concerns

I’ve come across situations like the one above quite a few times in advertising and direct marketing. Sometimes everyone just keeps quiet, and no one mentions there’s a problem with the brief. At other times, someone raises the alarm and persuades the agency management and/or client that the brief or proposition needs to be changed. And sometimes when alerted, those people won’t budge. In which case you just have to bite the bullet and do your best.

Do your creatives believe in your proposition?

Don’t you think it’s crazy to let your copywriters and art directors proceed with a proposition they don’t believe in? If their brief is flawed, someone will eventually notice it in their creative work. What if the problem isn’t spotted until the concepts reach your client? Or even worse, it’s noticed only when the ads are produced and running? Whether your client thinks the problem is with the creative work or the brief itself – either way your agency looks stupid.

How to avoid embarrassment

Here’s how you can help stop strategically flawed creative work from ever seeing the light of day. Everyone who has a stake in a brief should be allowed – even encouraged – to question it. I know that this is particularly difficult for freelancers to do. They often feel it’s not for them to question briefs, because so many of the jobs they get are urgent, or an agency’s final attempt at saving an account. Nevertheless, they must make their concerns known.

If you spot a flaw and/or the proposition doesn’t work for you, speak up. The proposition should have been researched. If it hasn’t been researched, make sure that it is.

Do the above and you’ll prevent a lot of red faces – and a lot of time and money being wasted. You may even be thanked for it.

Get some free advice

Are you uncertain about your selling proposition? Would you like an experienced freelance copywriter’s opinion – free of charge and in complete confidence? Email me or call +44 (0) 7754 537 428

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