Perfect, Except for the Headline, Copy and Visual

When I present concepts and executions to my clients, the goal is to have met their objectives so perfectly that they approve the work with no changes. I’d say that happens maybe 20% of the time, which I think is doing pretty good.

Honestly, expecting perfection all the time is simply unrealistic.

Back when I was a wee lad, I remember presenting concepts to my boss Scott, and with a few simple tweaks, he made them so much better. I said, “Dang, I don’t know why I didn’t see those myself.”

He said, “One, because I have more experience. And two, because you’re not me. You’ll never see things exactly the way I see them.”

And that’s the thing. No two people see everything exactly the same way, and you never know what word or phrase or image will strike someone differently.

So we make revisions. You remember me talking about trying to find a compromise. If a client doesn’t like something and comes back with a suggestion that I don’t think works, I try to figure out what it is they’re trying to accomplish. And I can almost always suggest an alternative that we both like.

It’s all part of the process.

Some clients value my opinion more than others. Some realize our skill sets are different, and they rely on me to do what I do. Others prefer a more hands-on approach and view concept and execution as more of a team effort. Either way is fine with me. I’m not arrogant enough to think that a client can’t make something better. And honestly, they often do. They know their product and their audience better than I do. They live it every day, and understand nuances that I don’t.

The key to good revisions, of course, is good direction. If a client says, “Come up with more headlines”, it helps to know what’s wrong with the first batch. Are they incorrect? Are they not funny enough? Too funny? Boring? Is there another benefit I should be promoting?

I realize that sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on why you don’t like something. “Come up with more headlines” at least tells me they’re not wrong direction-wise, so if that’s all you got, I’ll take it. “These suck” is sort of the same as “Come up with more headlines”, but with more feeling.

There’s a positive version of “these suck” that we’ve all heard at one time or another. I’m not sure the client even realizes what they’re saying. It usually starts with “These are great!” Then it continues with, “We like everything but the headline. And the copy. And the visual.”

Sometimes they’ll treat the concepts like a Chinese menu. “We’d like to use the headline from this concept and the copy from this other concept and the visual from this other one.”

Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. On those occasions, I go back to figuring out what they’re trying to accomplish and why what I presented doesn’t work for them. I can usually throw it all into the Big Blender O’ Copywriting and create something cohesive out of all the different pieces. But sometimes, the different thoughts are coming from different directions, and they just don’t go together.

That’s what we call a Frankenstein ad. You can still see the stitch marks.

And even when I advise the client that it’s not really working, sometimes they still choose to do it the way they want.

That’s their prerogative (yes, that’s spelled correctly). It’s their money. All I can do is advise them. I just try to make it clear why I think it’s a mistake, and why the advertising shouldn’t be blamed when it doesn’t pull.

And then, of course, you have clients who start trying to tell you what’s wrong and just can’t stop. You end up with this gem. This was probably my favorite critique of my copy ever.

Hey, at least they liked the caption.

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