How and when to give effective feedback to your creative agency

4 min read

How and when to give effective feedback to your creative agency

Approvals driving you crazy? Here’s how to how to structure productive design feedback

This week’s blog was inspired by one of our favourite clients, Vanessa Bernardo at IRD. (She’s going to hate us for putting in the spotlight, but credit where credit’s due…)

She created a great checklist to help her team check creative and smooth the process of feeding amends back to the agency. We’ve shamelessly pinched it to turn it into our own constructive creative feedback ‘how to’ list.

Thanks Ness, we owe you one :)

Some rules of thumb

As a rule, you generally get 2 rounds of amends per piece of creative. 3rd round is normally sign-off time: you should have everything straightened out by then.

(Note: most agencies charge additional time for anything more than this: so watch out!)

Clients who get everything licked with one round of amends get an extra serve of dessert at the agency Christmas party.

What to focus on at each stage

First round changes:

Overall concept

  • Does it work? Is it on brief? If you’re after a response, is there an offer and call to action?
  • If you feel something is not working, be clear about why. Be kind – someone’s sweated blood and tears over this.


Read the copy like it’s your living will. Don’t think you can give it a quick scan and pick up on the detail at the next round (no Christmas party dessert for you).

Here are some things to look for:

  • Language – cross-check against agreed brand language. Still don’t love it? Your brand language might need an update. Make a note of this for another day.
  • If you want to use specific terms, make sure your changes are consistent through the document.
  • Spelling, grammar and so on. Mind you, any agency worth its salt should already have this covered.
  • Quantity: too much? Too little? Remember different copy lengths are needed for different channels and stages of the buying cycle.


  • Don’t like an image? Try to be specific in explaining why (e.g. colours are too dark, theme is too serious, image doesn’t reflect the brand personality etc)
  • While specific feedback is extremely helpful, it’s best to allow the agency to create alternatives based on your feedback, unless you have a must-have image you feel is absolutely perfect for this piece! Specific is cool, prescriptive is not.
  • Logo placement: is it on brand? Does it have enough space?
  • Colours: do they communicate the feel we’re after? Are they on brand? Do they work with the chosen background and type?

If everyone does their job well, the first round of feedback should be where the bulk of the changes happen. Second round should just be minor adjustments, or even approval! (I’m sure there’s an award for getting creative signed off at second stage somewhere)

Second round changes:

Notice how short this section is? There’s a reason for that.

Second stage should really just be checking that the agency has implemented and understood your feedback. Artwork, language/copy and overall design should be pretty much there.

Third round

(Also known as the ‘shit happens’ round)

Sometimes required because certain amends may just not be working. May need a few final tweaks, but are generally minimal.


(Insert fanfare here)

Bad form

Making copy changes at design round 2 or 3 that were ‘missed’ or could have been communicated in round 1.

Changing words to other words that mean the same thing. OK to do in first round amends – if you must - but after that leave it. You might have an honours degree in literature, but this is the real world and nobody likes a pedant!

That’s it folks!

Stick to these guidelines, and you’ll see your creative projects progressing a lot smoother, more quickly, and without burning through those agency hours. AND you might just get that extra serve of tiramisu at the agency party.

Download our free 7-Step Checklist to Choosing Your Inbound Agency to find out which questions you need to ask and how to score them, to ensure you choose the right agency for your business.

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