How To Save Your Creative From Death by Committee

There’s an old expression that maintains that a camel is actually a horse that was designed by a committee.

We don’t want to knock on camels – they’re pretty cool and all, given their celebrity status as superstars of the Geico campaign. But we’re definitely not fans of creative that happens by committee. And if you’re a smart advertising or marketing pro, we’re betting you’re not either.

The best strategy for saving your creative from death by committee? Avoid said committee. Run like the wind in the other direction. Fight until your last opponent is on the mat with the referee counting over his body.

That being said: Sometimes committees, whether they’re unofficial or formally organized, are unavoidable if you want to keep collecting a paycheck. So when you find yourself trying to design, write, or conceptualize a horse that’s starting to look more like a camel every day, these tactics can help you turn out your best work in spite of the obstacles being thrown in your path:

Power up your filter.

The main reason that creative by committee leads to bad results is this: Somewhere along the process, most of the people involved become convinced that EVERYONE’S opinions matter –no matter how uniformed, and no matter how little business some of the committee members have being involved in the first place.

As good marketers, we know that the hard truth is that not all opinions about creative are created equal – far from it. So when we’re forced to go through a creative by committee process, it helps enormously if the project manager has the ability to sift through a sea of opinions and filter out those than can be politely ignored, those that need follow up, and those that are worth taking back to the creative team for consideration . And speaking of desirable qualities in creative project managers…

Show leadership.

The project manager must have the leadership smarts that are necessary to diffuse conflict, deflect criticism, and diplomatically but firmly re-channel misguided and uninformed feedback. Putting a creative project in the hands of someone who is worried about pleasing everyone, and who doesn’t know how to effectively filter feedback, will probably result in a bogged-down project and frustrated creative team members.

By the way: If you’re the big boss who’s lucky enough to have a leader at the helm of your creative project, make sure you’re not inadvertently undermining that leader’s ability to get the job done. A project manager who’s over-directed and second guessed by the big boss can go from leader – to de-motivated order taker – in no time at all, especially if the project is challenging enough to begin with.

Leave your dictator boots at home.

The importance of leadership aside, if you’re a creative project manager you should avoid the urge to bulldoze any and all input in your quest to get to get the job done, no matter how tempting that option is.

For one thing, a dictator approach can cut you off from feedback and ideas that might actually be worth something. Secondly, it can antagonize committee members or other stakeholders to the point where they are motivated to meddle in the project when they might not otherwise have gotten involved.

Ask for support.

If you find yourself leading a creative project that’s getting mired in a morass of conflicting opinions from unqualified opinion givers, don’t suffer in silence. Round up the committee, virtually or in person, and shoot straight with them about your troubles. Point out instances in the past when your team has been empowered to work independently with great success, and other instances where too much input yielded less than desirable results.

In fact, you might even consider the bold step of challenging some of the committee members to have the leadership to raise their hands and remove themselves from the process. Even if there’s an explosion, you’ll still have the benefit of having gone on the record with your concerns – and you never know, you may be pleasantly surprised at the professionalism your colleagues will demonstrate once they are made aware of the problem.

We solve marketing committee conundrums. Contact MindEcology if you’ve got one.