No matter how efficient your organization's other processes may be, you're almost certainly experiencing endless rounds of revisions in the development of creative execution—ads, emails, packaging graphics, press releases, and the like.

The stakeholders may not have shown much interest in the project early on, but now that creative is ready to review, the opinions are likely coming in droves and impossible to fully accommodate. With luck, the loop of feedback and revisions occurs during the draft or mock-up phase; but, unfortunately, the review frequently happens after the photo shoot or launch of the website.

The team's lack of attention to the creative brief is understandable—carefully reviewing a strategic outline is challenging, whereas reacting to a creative execution is much easier. As Seth Godin notes in Linchpin, however, an organization can make changes either early in the process, when they're cheap (such as revisions to a wireframe proposal), or later, when they're expensive (such as revisions to a website).

Avoiding "design by committee" is obviously the best solution. When that's not an option, following these common-sense but rarely observed rules will stop the endless rounds of revisions. More important, they'll ensure the creative maintains the clarity your campaign deserves.

1. Determine the message you want to get across

This step couldn't be more obvious, but nailing down a compelling message is hard, whereas assuming that the creative team will somehow figure it out in the execution is easy to do. By the fourth or fifth round of revisions, however, the real issue becomes clear: Your team is requesting messages that overlap, compete, or simply contain more information than the execution can bear.

2. Provide only one message

No matter the complexity of your product, the creative brief should have one main message (and compacting multiple ideas into a single sentence doesn't count). If the brief can't express a single positioning or benefit, the execution likely won't be compelling or clear to consumers. "If I throw you one ball, you'll catch it. If I throw six, you won't catch any" is the metaphor often used by ad agencies.

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Adam Garson is a former advertising agency account manager and currently works in marketing in the San Francisco Bay Area. He provides tools for marketers at