The Upfront Agreement

Here’s a newsflash that’ll surprise no one.

You can prevent a lot of future problems by anticipating and getting in front of them. Before they happen.

Like I said, not a new concept.

But what if we took an old idea and applied it in a new specific way? For example, what if you’re an advertising creative?

As an advertising creative, have you ever had a client get upset or pull your ad because they heard some negative comments about it?

Would you like to prevent that response?


So, how do you get in front of it?

One technique for doing so is the Upfront Agreement.

The upfront agreement can be any conversation you have with your client before you present your work for their review. Especially if there are any elements of your work you anticipate to be new or unexpected.

This is your opportunity to explain all the reasons you made the creative choices you did and what you hope to accomplish by them. (You can explain the reasons behind your thought process, right?) Because if you wait to explain your reasons until after there’s a problem, then you’ll just end up looking defensive and fumbling.

After thoroughly walking your client through your decision points, you’ll have demonstrated your expertise and all the work that went into producing the ad. This shows how much you care about them and the work they hired you to do.

Now is when you look them in the eye and say, “Because I believe this ad has the power to drive traffic, I also believe it has the power to spark criticism. Can we agree not to change or pull the ad until the 10th negative complaint? At which point we can have a conversation about the effectiveness of the ad and what we want to do with it.”

Every business owner says they want to get people’s attention. The problem is, any creative advertising that actually gets attention, won’t get 100% positive attention. Because if your ad is powerful enough to move people, not everyone will move in the direction you were hoping.

By having this upfront agreement you’ll have emotionally prepared your client for what effective advertising looks like.

And by explaining your reasons before you show them the ad, you’ll have demonstrated competence and defended it without looking defensive.

 – Zac Smith, VC