Have you fully thought through a framework as to how your creative should work?

I get involved in heaps of creative development and evaluation work, and whilst it is work I really enjoy it can often be challenging. The greatest challenge is when there is lack of alignment as to ‘how’ the creative is intended to work and with ‘who’ it is intended to have impact.  This lack of alignment can be between the client and their agency, the researcher and the client, or the agency and the researcher and so on…

When there is alignment between all the interested parties’ and with the researchers, then we are really working in partnership. This is where research adds the greatest contribution towards making the creative idea the very best it can be.

To ensure this alignment is there, a key aspect is ensuring agreement on a ‘framework’ for how the creative is intended to work and how to evaluate it.

What should this framework include?

Don’t assume that the creative brief is the framework. Absolutely this is a key input, but not all briefs are created equal.

The framework can easily be distilled into a one-pager and should be a way of spelling out all the assumptions made by both the client and agency about how the creative will work. It should show how (in detail) the content of the creative delivers the communication strategy and the client’s commercial objectives (this information is generally somewhere in the client’s/agency’s heads but amazingly is often not written down). Most importantly of all, it should absolutely not be a boring set of research objectives.

The beauty of creating this framework is that it makes explicit for the researcher, client and agency what the advertising is designed to do and how it’s designed to work. This then enables the researcher to tailor the design and approach of the research according to what the client and agency are trying to do. The framework then determines who to interview; content and coverage of the discussion guide; correct wording and language to use (and what to listen out for) and ultimately how to judge effectiveness and interpret the findings. An added bonus is that it avoids politics and misunderstandings at the debrief.

Some tips on how to construct a Creative Framework

The framework should ideally be crafted when you have a finished execution, but you can develop one from a script or storyboards, but it should always be done before the research is designed and the discussion guide is drafted.

Always begin with the client’s marketing / commercial objective – and be sure to understand what end result the client is looking to achieve.

Then take the detail in the creative strategy/creative brief, and ask exactly how are we expecting to achieve it? For example, what’s the key way we’re trying to enhance the brand relationship? Among which people (demographics, attitudinal groups, user groups, primary and secondary targets)? What are the key ways in which the advertising execution is achieving its effect?  And which aspects of the execution are tasked with doing this?

The framework should articulate ‘How the creative will do this?’ for each of the key questions mentioned above or whatever relevant points beyond these it covers.  This then enables the researcher to better understand what effects they should expect to see if the creative is working according to the framework. And if it’s not working according to the framework, how best to explore the creative in order to optimise the work.

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