5 Ways to Give Constructive Agency Feedback in 2024

providing feedback in group meeting
By Joshua Ridley |

It’s exciting to hand good work to a client. There’s something thrilling about anticipating the client’s thoughts and feedback on agency work, no matter who created the deliverable and who hits send.

Agencies like Pace exist to share our client brands’ stories as a collaborative partner. Our superstar teams are made up of account executives, analysts, strategists, creatives, and others, all aligned to elevate our clients’ messages and move their audiences to action.

Account executives are the voice in the room, working with clients directly, collaborating and listening to their feedback. From the clients’ perspective, delivering feedback to your agency partner might look different for everyone, but there are a few core principles that create a safe space where respectful dialogue is conducted and the best work is produced. Here are a few helpful reminders to keep in mind before you join your next feedback call.

Review the Creative Brief

Two professionals exchanging feedback in an office setting

Especially with a bigger project, it may have been a while since you last reviewed the strategy or the creative brief. In anticipation of receiving creative, refamiliarize yourself with the problem, the objectives, and the goals. As we create on the agency side, we are constantly looking at the brief to ensure every ask is being covered and completed in the right ways. Before you give feedback, make sure that you ground yourself in the ask to ensure that there is nothing contradictory.

A question to ask yourself before reviewing what your agency partner presented you with is, “Is this an ongoing project, or is this something new we haven’t done before?” In the debate of old versus new, this can change your expectations and the feedback.

It’s easier to provide clear and concise feedback on an ongoing project because the examples of success exist for your reference. With a new project, on the other hand, there is nothing to compare it to.

Keep an open mind and push yourself. If the creative is not what you expected, remind yourself why you chose this agency and trust that they are only showing you their best and brightest ideas.

Talk It Out: Sometimes a Call Is Better Than an Email

A man smiling as he speaks on the phone

So much more goes into communication than words. Facial expressions, tone and body language cannot be read through an email. Email and other forms of written communication can sometimes be one-way, whereas phone or video calls create dialogues. They open the door for explanation of thought so that you and your agency partner can uncover any discrepancies in real time. Experts at LinkedIn recommend creating a feedback culture. This means shifting our perspective toward feedback as a learning opportunity rather than a threat or punishment. It encourages creatives to receive feedback openly, respectfully and constructively. To create this feedback culture, it is the joint responsibility of both the agency and the client. 

This will streamline refinement rounds—less time reviewing feedback and discussing feedback, and more time producing amazing work. Also, speaking with your agency partner not only strengthens the working relationship with your account executive, but it will deepen the connection with the rest of the team and the agency. 

Think of your agency partner as your advocate. Building relationships and trust are essential to your business. After working with the same agency for a while, your agency partner will be able to anticipate your wants and feedback before you deliver them—proving to be efficient.

Gather It All In Once Place

A team assembling a light bulb shape from puzzle pieces

It can be challenging to deliver creative and get feedback at different times from different people. Receiving feedback this way can be contradictory, and more time is spent deciphering the feedback than being able to work on refinement. We often see timelines increase based solely on this. On the client side, it is important to identify one person who will gather all internal feedback, work to resolve any contradictory comments and send it back to your agency.

Be Descriptive. Be Specific.

A magnifying glass

I don’t like this. This doesn’t feel right. I feel like this missed the mark.

Sure. But why? These simple statements don’t tell your agency how to make it right. We don’t present creative that we don’t like, that doesn’t feel right to us, or that we feel misses the mark. Sometimes feedback causes confusion on the agency side.

Instead of “I feel like this missed the mark,” maybe it’s “I feel like this missed the mark by not speaking directly to X audience.” Providing that additional context is critical to determine how we may need to pivot. It can also lead to a greater conversation on why the agency team approached it that way, if we’re able to talk it out.

Point Out What You Like

Two professionals reviewing performance data on a monitor

No one wants to hear that you don’t like their work. Honestly, we can all get a bit defensive about it. When reviewing the creative, talk about what works well or how it made you feel. We are anticipating that you will have points you may not like or that you want refined. Starting with what you do like goes a long way in improving how the rest of the conversation will go. Everyone will leave the call feeling much better about the direction and next steps.

Giving constructive feedback to your agency partner is what makes the relationship work. More importantly, delivering feedback with empathy creates a safe, trusted space that is better for everyone. Before our job titles, we are people first—with feelings. Being empathetic and creating award-winning work are not mutually exclusive. Giving empathetic feedback will make the strategy better and the creative better. We both have the same goal: To make you and your work stand out. To meet your objectives. To build up your business, together.

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