It's a simple, but vital question for all creative agencies: How do they decide which creative ideas to show clients?
A study conducted by Y&R, in conjunction with scholars at Kings College and University of London, found that advertising executives ground their decisions with a mixture of gut instinct and accumulated knowledge, as well as the prevailing view of senior creative team members.
The study, based on a survey across the global offices of a major agency (not Y&R), will be published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Advertising Research.
It’s titled "Choosing the Best Ideas To Show the Client: How Do Agencies Do It?" and is based on research conducted by Douglas West, professor of marketing at King’s College London, George Christodoulides, professor of marketing, Birkbeck, University of London, and Jennifer Bonhomme, group planning director, Young & Rubicam.
The results suggest that when it comes to deciding which ideas to show to clients, both analytic and pure heuristics (satisfactory but not necessarily optimal problem-solving technics) are used in various combinations.
The results also provide insights about the nature of and factors that influence decision-making among managers regarding which creative ideas win the day.
Authors caution that their findings should be interpreted with care. First, the research was undertaken across just one agency and the corporate culture of that agency may play a role in the decision-making styles and heuristics used. Second, the relatively small survey sample size (69) restricted the ability to undertake a number of comparisons.
Also, because choices were self-reported, managers might attribute success to their own valuations and insights rather than to alternative logical processes.
Still, given the top-notch reputations of the players involved in the research and the journal publishing it, it should make for a good read. Here is a link to the report.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The study labels the dominant decision-making style as "Acknowledge," that's decision-making techniques based largely on past experience. However, respondents also incorporated "Top" decision-making based around an assessment of what would work best via gut feeling. So-called "Know How" also comes into play. And in a small number of cases, decisions based on algorithmic results are deployed.
Ultimately, the authors suggest a key element in these choices is a good understanding of the needs of the client or sponsor. Yes, client needs. For an agency, satisfying those is pretty much always job one, right?