The Dangers of the Hallway Test

By Todd Anthony, Founder, Head of Strategy

Being a client in marketing is tough. Especially if you don’t trust your gut.

Say you are presented with three creative concepts for a campaign. You like different ones for different reasons. One is funny, but you wonder if the humor is too “inside”. One is super smart, but you wonder if it’s too boring. The third one is a little quirky and very campaignable, but you wonder if it’s too off-brand. How do you decide which one to go with?

Step one: Trust your agency.

Step two: Avoid the colleague test (which can take place in hallways or over emails). You know which test I’m talking about. It’s the one where you share the concepts with colleagues and take the pulse of your co-workers about what they think of the creative ideas. Here are just a few of the many reasons why:

  1. Consensus isn’t compatible with quality creative work. Too many opinions always dilute good ideas.
  2. The context of the ad placement is half the experience. And your test subject’s ability to imagine themselves in the context is generally not as good as you might think.
  3. Since they are fellow employees, test subjects are too close to the product to view the work “objectively” (especially fellow marketers). Better to talk to “man on the street.”
  4. The creative’s number one job is to compete for and get attention. Not so in this test and therefore test subjects generally overlook this critical goal when reviewing creative.
  5. Your colleagues will tend to gravitate toward things they are familiar with. Uncreative ideas do better in this test. I don’t know why.
  6. The test subjects will try to impress you with their critical thinking skills. Critical = tearing down.
  7. The test subject is afraid of looking dumb. The surest way for that to happen is to say they “like it” when 9 other people might find faults with it. They start playing, “Find the flaw.” and that again leads to an unnecessary tearing down of ideas.

What to do? See step one (trust your agency). If you’re still not sure, talk out your fears and concerns with your agency. See what they have to say. At the end of the day, though, you need to choose based on what YOU think. And that’s why it’s a tough job. You take the glory. You take the blame. Ain’t it great?

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Let’s set up a call. We’ll listen carefully and offer our honest perspective.