Avoiding the Dreaded Creative Feedback Delay (CFD)

Guest Blogpost by Deborah Holstein, VP Marketing at Hightail

It’s a common problem, much discussed by designers, creative directors and account executives over mojitos at happy hour. Given the urgency to continuously deliver breakthrough creative for the never-ending content campaigns, why are marketers and their senior stakeholders often so late with their feedback? What causes this Creative Feedback Delay (CFD) even when everyone has a detailed timeline right in front of their noses?


4 Ways to Get Faster Feedback

Providing feedback is time consuming and fraught with stress and anxiety, so it’s easy to procrastinate and delay. Here are the 4 ways to get faster feedback.

1. Include Visual Inspiration in the Creative Brief

The “goodness” of a round one review has everything to do with the quality and completeness of the marketer’s brief. If you’re like me, the exciting anticipation of seeing round one is tinged with the anxiety that one peek at it will show that my brief was completely ineffective. I try to hold onto the pipe dream that round one will be “spot on” for as long as I can because I don’t really want that cold splash of the reality. And if round one isn’t spot on, it means I will need to invest significantly more time on my feedback than I had budgeted in my already tight schedule (more on that below).

It’s true, 100% of bad creative came from half-assed briefs and the most effective briefs are built in active collaboration and discussion with the extended creative team. Many times, in order to effectively communicate the ask, briefs must go beyond the simple written format to include additional visual “inspiration” like photos, images and screenshots. Visual inspiration as part of the brief goes a long way toward getting everyone on the same page at the outset, priming the way for a “perfect” round one.

2. Decide on Authoring Tools/Software Upfront

Omnichannel campaigns and high velocity content programs mean marketers are regularly reviewing a wide range of asset types: images, videos, gifs, flash, emails, landing pages, print and outdoor just to name a few. An extended design team comprising both internal team members and freelancers will use any number of different authoring tools to create the assets thus requiring that I have the specific software needed to open and review each different type.

It happens with infuriating frequency that I’m unable to open a file I’ve been asked to review because I don’t have the right software. This roadblock leaves me frustrated and stressed because the time I had allotted for review and feedback is now frittered away with emails back and forth trying to get me something I can actually see to review.

3. Make it Easy for Reviewers to Share Their Feedback

To be effective, feedback needs to be thoughtful, specific, constructive and ultimately actionable. It also must be documented. This documentation is necessary for effective communication among disparate teams and for “CYA” purposes if needed for any reason down the line.

Documenting feedback about visual creative is especially time consuming because I first need to describe “where” before I can get to the meat of the feedback. Providing this context just for a straightforward feedback like, “please brighten the background” is frustrating because I’m spending far more time on describing where vs saying what.

Video feedback is its own circle of hell. First, start the video, stopping it at just the right point where I want to give feedback. Then, jump over to a document and note down the timestamp (eg: minute 20.23). Then back to the video so I can best describe the “where” on the video image (eg: the shadow in the top left corner) — and then the feedback itself (eg: please remove the shadow). This process is so tedious and maddening – is it no wonder our feedback is often late?

4. Find Ways to Simplify Cross-Team Communications

Our best campaigns are multi-channel, and we need all the different assets across all of the different channels working together to break through to our target audience and persuade them to take action. It is this need for campaign and brand consistency across all of the different assets that can lead to CFD.

The creative team for any one campaign may comprise both internal and multiple external team members – each working on a particular asset. As the development of each asset evolves, there is feedback that needs to be applied across the board (eg: this partner logo needs to be on top). It’s a “SSDD: same stuff different day” , groundhog day phenomenon where we find ourselves re-documenting and repeating the same exact feedback multiple times as we engage separately with the unique creator of each campaign asset.


What Can Be Done to Alleviate the Heartbreak of CFD?

If you’re on the receiving end of marketing’s CFD, unfortunately your detailed projects plans and timeline reviews just aren’t enough to keep the feedback flowing on time.

Marketers, with their creative teams, need to explore new ways of working together which enable and enhance their creative collaboration — adopting the technologies and tools that allow us to work and communicate in an immediate and conversational way regardless of whether we’re in the same room, city or time zone.


holstein-hightail-headshotDeborah Holstein is the VP Marketing at Hightail, a Campbell CA-based creative collaboration application for marketing and creative teams looking to speed the time to market.