The Fab Five

Five tips for getting advertising that works

Whether large or small, all businesses need great marketing, but when you pay for it, you want to make sure you’re getting the best work possible to help you reach your goals. So, what does it take to get great advertising that works? The formula is simple; you need clear direction from the client and great creative from the agency. Getting there boils down to the following five things:


Know that your role as the client is to understand the business challenge. I can’t count how many times I’ve said, “Tell the agency what your business challenge is, and let them come up with the graphic solution.” Too often clients fixate on fonts and colors without the graphic knowledge to know the impact “making it yellow” or “bigger” has on the layout. Requested changes can often have a ripple effect on creative. Make enough of these random changes and before you know it, you have an ad that looks like it came out of left field. Trust your agency with your business challenges. Let them give you great creative to solve those challenges.


Realize the danger signs of getting caught in the spiral of revisions. When you’re asking for the 27th revision it’s time to realize you’ve lost your way. I too have been a part of that death spiral. To this day, that experience remains my hallmark example of when a client doesn’t know what they want. When you get caught up in the minutiae of creative details you start losing sight of the business challenge. You start to think tinkering with the ad will make it better. It doesn’t, but if you trust your agency they’ll get you something creative that feels right for your brand.

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Don’t do it yourself. Today anyone can subscribe to creative software, and everyone has an HD video recorder in the palm of their hands. Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should (or that you really want to). As my coworker used to say, “Let the creative people create.” Agencies have a very specific job to do. As business owners, we have also have very specific jobs that should include item No. 1, communicating the business challenge.


Don’t make your agency guess. I recently worked with a client who was unhappy with one of his agencies because of the work they were NOT doing. I asked him if he had actually told them he wanted them to do those things. His answer was no. He wanted them to just know he would want them to take the extra steps. Agencies are not psychic.

When you share your ideas, it can lead to creating something great. We recently worked on developing the identity for a new public relations firm that was passionate about telling stories and engaging people with the stories of their clients. When we brainstormed some concepts, the client said he liked the idea of a “period.” We knew that wasn’t what we wanted, but it was something he liked. That one small thought led us to the development of a logo that told a story bigger than a simple period could ever tell.

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Be passionate. I know I just told you to take the business role instead of the creative role, but you must be passionate about the messages you’re putting out to your audience. If you’re not, what makes you think your audience will be as passionate as you want them to be when they see or hear your message? Pushing for greatness is not the same as making uneducated changes or pushing just to show who’s boss.

When you push respectfully and agencies push themselves, you’re going to get some of the best work you’ll ever see.

Julia Carcamo is president and chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates, specializing in brand and marketing strategy. She is also the co-founder of espNOLA, a Hispanic marketing and engagement agency. Learn more at and


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