As creatives, we’ve all been there—that moment when a client loves every concept and wants to merge the best parts of each into one final mega-idea, also known as “Frankensteining.” It can be challenging, often leading to work that’s disjointed and inconsistent. Visuals and messaging that don’t align with each other, the audience, or the strategy create a frightening brand experience.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Crafting great work is all about finding the perfect balance of words and visuals, putting thought and care into every aspect. Actively listening to objective feedback can open a new door or give permission to explore deeper down a path. As creatives, it’s important to remember that not everybody sees, hears, and perceives things the way we do and that’s a good thing. Proactively listen for opportunities in the feedback. We can learn to interpret it and make strategic decisions that strengthen the work. Winners all around: clients feel engaged and invested and the creative meets or exceeds our own expectation of excellence.
Our VP, Creative Director, Chris Cacci, offers a peek inside our process and how she guides the creatives at Yes& Lipman Hearne through challenging feedback. Here are 5 tips to productively use Frankensteining:
- Clearly communicate in advance that different features will be explored in different concepts.
Hey, we all love giving our clients options, and who doesn’t love choices? During the conceptual development phase, including distinctive features in each concept demonstrates conceptual exploration and thoughtful consideration. It’s not unusual for clients to be tempted to select a feature uniquely designed for one concept and ask to move it to another. Sometimes that works perfectly, but other times not so much. Make it clear during the presentation what can and what can’t be applied across multiple concepts. You don’t want to spend the whole presentation discussing the pros and cons of mixing and matching, but being intentional about any features that could cross-pollinate can often stay ahead of feedback that negatively impacts scope or dilutes the strength of an idea. Defining creative boundaries early on can be an effective way of communicating flexibility, while suggesting that not everything is interchangeable.
- Clearly communicate the creative strategy for each concept, understand the problem to be solved and what your client cares about.
To avoid Frankensteining, it’s essential to have a clear strategy or vision in place before starting any project. This helps keep focus and ensures all elements of the project work together seamlessly. Here is where a well-thought-out creative brief is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes briefs can either be too short or wax on and offer little value, so the most important thing is to make sure they’re targeted and concise. This means including the project’s creative goals, the client’s business goals, key insights about the target audience and what they care about, what we want them to think, feel, and do, and any mandatory elements or brand components. Think of it like a map that guides us through the project and helps both you and the client stay on track. Treat it like any other project—schedule a meeting to review it with the client and get final sign-off. This way everyone is on the same page, which can help deter spontaneous Frankensteining. Finally, don’t forget to provide it as a Microsoft Word doc so the client can edit it and be a full participant.
There’s lot to cover in a client presentation, right? Trust me, I’ve been in plenty of creative presentations where the strategy wasn’t clearly defined before diving into the work. It’s crucial to make sure the client’s business goals and what work they’ve already approved are included in your presentation. Make it clear that you’ve considered all of this before your presentation, and reference how you’ve addressed the strategy through copy and design. It’s a good idea to include a slide for the overall creative strategy—a simplified version of what’s in the creative brief that the client approved. And also write specific creative strategies for each concept. Keep it targeted and brief—seven bullets max to a slide. This will help differentiate each concept and connect a solid rationale to each approach. Address both right- and left-brained elements of the work. The bottom line is that your presentation should be all about what the client (and their audience) cares about, what each concept addresses, and what’s exclusive to each one.
- Listen to your internal team’s feedback.
Having a good relationship with your account team is a win-win. They’re with the client more than you, so they have the inside scoop on their needs and concerns. And even though they may not be creatives, they can be your secret weapon. In addition to providing key insights, they can help anticipate any objections during the presentation and make sure everyone is on the same page so the team is ready to defend the work to head off potential Frankensteining. It’s a cliché for a reason—teamwork really does make the dream work.
Don’t have a solid relationship with your account team yet? You can still get valuable feedback by sharing your concepts with other trusted insiders within the agency. Just make sure to be careful sharing your work outside the agency to respect your company’s nondisclosure agreements.
- Build rapport and trust with the client.
Trust is a crucial element in any client-agency relationship. The more the client gets to know you, the more they trust your professional opinions and recommendations. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time to build trust and need to build rapport quickly, especially if the creative presentation is your first with a new client. Make a good first impression; be friendly, attentive, and most important, have your delivery down pat. This will help you navigate any conversations around Frankensteining and push back if needed—which leads me to the next tip . . .
- Be willing to push back if requested changes do not align with the project’s business goals.
As outsiders to the client’s organization, we have the advantage of being objective. Having industry focus like we do at Yes& Lipman Hearne (nonprofit and higher-education), we have the ability to offer valuable insight into industry best practices and trends—what other similar organizations are doing in similar cases. So, if Frankenstein is rearing his head, it’s the responsibility of the agency team to uphold the integrity of the work with logic, making sure it aligns with the client’s business goals, and with passion expressing how the creative is on point.
Could it get a little “bumpy”? Sure, but it’s all about finding that sweet spot of meeting the client’s needs while maintaining the quality of the work. And remember, it takes a bit of courage to stand up for what you believe in. Do it with kindness, but with resolve. It’s all part of being a principled and empathic creative professional.
To wrap up, know that feedback is a gift. It’s an opportunity to improve the work and strengthen your relationship with your client. And let’s be real, it’s also an opportunity for you, the presenter—designer or writer—to think about your own growth in presentation delivery. With clear communication, a willingness to compromise (including knowing what to compromise on), and a focus on the bigger picture, more times than not, you will guide the work toward success. Always keep the client’s best interest in mind, and remember to trust in your expertise and instincts as a creative professional.
As you’ve probably seen in the Chronicle of Philanthropy or in coverage of 2022’s Giving Tuesday, the recent philanthropic environment …: