Print Ads: How to Manage the Creative Process

While the world of digital marketing gets a lot of attention these days, print ads are still very important. In fact, 55% of all consumers trust print marketing more than any other advertising method. But since crafting that killer print ad is no easy task, here’s a look at the process you can follow to create immaculate print ads…

Why is it challenging to get feedback about print ads from a lot of stakeholders?

If you need to create a print ad, you’ll need to take stock of the challenges you’re likely to face first. So it’s always better to be prepared. Here’s a look at the key reasons it can be so challenging to create a print ad when there are so many parties involved…

1. You don’t have a single, centralized file.

You’ll often find that your team members one consolidated file to collaborate on. Instead, you’ll often have multiple files on your server, which can cause lots of confusion. If you’re going to create a logical, efficient workflow, you’ll need to find a way to consolidate your collaboration on certain files.

2. Your communication is disparate.

If you need to coordinate a large group of stakeholders, you’ll often find that the length of your feedback rounds spiral out of control. Not only will the process get longer, you’ll also struggle to keep track of email threads and the information contained within them.

3. Version control gets tough.

As the project manager, you’ll ultimately be responsible for keeping track of versioning and feedback. This situation can become a difficult task when you’re managing a number of people, as they might fail to leave feedback as requested. Version control issues can also cause people to review the wrong files.

4. Team members might be unavailable.

Information silos can put your project at risk. In today’s fast-moving business landscape, you’ll often find that your important team members are temporarily unavailable. The larger your team, the higher the chance that some of them will be missing, due to illnesses or business trips. You might even find that they move to different companies.

5. You’re chasing down feedback.

Unfortunately, your print ad project might not be the first priority of your various team members. Some of them will have lots of other important priorities and projects that take up all of their attention. Therefore, your stakeholders forget to leave feedback, or take too long to share it.

6. Internationalization takes time.

If you work in an organization with a multinational audience, you’ll have to tackle a number of internationalization challenges. In other words, you may have to wait for translations. So your compliance departments will have to approve your designs before you can secure final sign-off. From a practical perspective, international projects will often require international teams, which can cause confusion during collaborations.

7. Travel causes disruption

Business travel is more prominent than ever before. So you’ll have stakeholders in different places at different times, which could jeopardize your project. When traveling, your stakeholders may only have mobile access, which can halt your project while you wait for their feedback.

Who’s typically involved in this process?

Before we dive into the ideal workflow for project managers, let’s take a closer look at the various stakeholders involved in the process. This tactic will help us clearly walk through the feedback workflow.

Project manager

As the name suggests, the project manager is responsible for holding the entire print-ad project together. If he or she is vigilant, the project will logically move forward, and all of the stakeholders will do what they need to do to make the deadline. So the project manager is often the go-between for different stakeholders.

Marketing team

The marketing team will often be responsible for commissioning the print-ad project and  strategically guiding it to completion. This team will often handle important factors, such as internationalization and logistics.

Design production team

As the name implies, this team is responsible for the actual design of the print ad. While some corporations have in-house designers, others call on the services of an external agency.

Product and/or sales team

A corporation has a product/sales team that will need to provide approval of the messaging and accuracy of the print ad. So to ensure the print ad is compliant and accurate, it’s critical for these team members to have a loud, clear voice. 

What’s the ideal feedback workflow (from a PM’s point of view)?

Now you have a better understanding of why it’s tough to create a print ad, as well as  the people involved in a typical project. So let’s dig deeper into the ideal feedback workflow. 

We’ll cover the six steps you’ll need to cover during the complex feedback and approval phase.

Before you start Step 1, you’ll need to prepare an initial draft. To complete this step (Step 0), your marketing team will need to create a detailed, insightful concept for the design team. Then the design team will have a rough draft of the design, which they can review.

1. Get feedback on images/graphics.

Who’s involved

Product/Sales and Marketing 

What happens

During this stage, it’s important for the marketing and product/sales teams to get together and discuss the rough draft of the print ad. Structurally, these stakeholders will want to start by discussing the images/graphics included in the design.

Product and sales should confirm that the images are appropriate for their purposes, and marketing should assess whether these images fit with the initial creative brief (download template here).

Advice when asking for input

When it comes to discussing imagery, you should try inspiring your stakeholders to leave precise feedback. Rather than accepting vague, unhelpful comments, try to really hone in on exactly what your stakeholders mean. Then you can provide your design team with actionable insights. 

How content review software can help

Tools like Filestage makes it easy for your stakeholders to leave rich, in-context feedback. This feature helps reduce ambiguity, which ensures that your design team will get insightful feedback.

print ad creative feedback

Using content review software, your stakeholders can simply click on the image and start directly sharing their feedback.

2. Get input on ad copy.

Who’s involved

Product/Sales and Marketing 

What happens

Now that your team members have left their feedback on the images, it’s time to tackle the copy used on the ad. While a copywriter from the marketing department will often provide this step, it’s important for everybody to share their opinions.

You’ll want to make sure that the language used fits the tone of your brand, and that it’s accurate from the product/sales team’s perspective.

Advice when asking for input

As the project manager, you should try to make sure that everybody leaves their feedback and makes their voice heard during this step. All too often, team members enthusiastically share their opinions about images, but fall silent during this step.

How content review software can help

With content review software, you can easily track which individuals have yet to leave feedback. So at a glance, you’ll be able to see who needs chasing for their feedback. In other words, you’ll get everybody’s input, and each person’s voice can be heard.  

manage print ad feedback

3. Get input about structure and layout.

Who’s involved

Product/Sales and Marketing 

What happens

Now that you’ve collected insightful feedback on both the visuals and copy, you’ll want to turn the attention of your various stakeholders to the structure and layout of your print ad. While some of your team members might believe they don’t have valuable insight to offer here, everybody’s opinion counts.

So you should encourage your team members to share their thoughts about the way the elements are arranged in the print ad. To get their best feedback, ask them what they would change and what they think could be improved.

Further advice when asking for input

At this stage, it’s important for you to encourage all your team members to share their thoughts. Then you’ll be able to leave useful feedback for your design team when you ask them for changes.

How content review software can help

Content review software (such as Filestage) makes it easy for your stakeholders to leave attractive, clear annotations. Since these kinds of notes are more intuitive to read, your design team members will undoubtedly appreciate them.

print ad creative process feedback

4. Get input about the whole ad.

Who’s involved

Product/Sales and Marketing 

What happens

After you’ve collected specific feedback about the layout and structure of the ad, it’s time to collect overall feedback. So at this point, you’ll ask your various stakeholders what they think about the ad in general, including the overall impression it left on them.

While this feedback might seem abstract at first, it will be incredibly useful for your design team, and it can inspire interesting discussion. Again, it’s important for everybody to try to share their thoughts and feelings about the print design.

Advice when asking for input

When it’s time to ask for input about the whole ad, you’ll need to try and inspire a feeling of collaboration and creativity. Some of your team members might feel compelled to keep their thoughts to themselves here, but you should emphasize how useful their feedback can be.

To set the right tone, you might want to lead the way and leave your own feedback for all to see.

How content review software can help

Content review and proofing software is a great option for a creative team, given that it boosts the transparency of your feedback phase. Since your team members will be able to see the comments their teammates have left on your piece, the conversation will go as smoothly as possible.

manage print ad approval

Due to transparent feedback, your team members will be compelled to share their own feedback and join in on the action.

5. Apply requested changes and repeat feedback loop

Who’s involved

Product/Sales, Marketing, and Design 

What happens

Now that your team members have worked together to generate and share constructive feedback for your design team, it’s time to deliver it. As the project manager, you should share the feedback with your design team. At this point, they can implement any changes.

After the changes have been implemented, the design team will need to export a new version and share it with you. At this point, it’s time to repeat Steps 1-4 until you arrive at a version everybody is happy with.

Advice when asking for input

When asking your stakeholders for their feedback on an updated design, you’ll want to make sure they remain cognizant of the previous feedback rounds. So make sure they understand how the project has evolved, in order to reduce the likelihood they will leave conflicting feedback.

How content review software can help

Tools like Filestage makes it very simple for you to perform immaculate version control. In other words, your team members will be able to look over past versions of the design, in order to track the evolution of the project.

So your team members won’t leave frustrating, counterproductive feedback that might dishearten your design team. With Filestage, your projects can move in the right direction at all times.

6. Final approval

Who’s involved

Product/Sales, Marketing, and Design 

What happens

Now that you have a final version of the design everybody is happy with, it’s time for you to secure final approval from your stakeholders. At this stage, you’ll want to share that finalized design with your stakeholders, so they can confirm that everything looks good for them.

This stage helps drive accountability and make sure that everybody has seen the final version of the ad before it goes to print.

Advice when asking for input

At this stage, it’s important for you to make sure everybody is diligent about making their final review. So you should emphasize that this part of the process is important and that everybody needs to take it very seriously.

You should also mention that you’ll carefully track who has and hasn’t left approval. This tactic will help boost accountability and ensure that everybody signs off on it. 

How content review software can help

Software such as Filestage gives project managers the ability to instantly track approval. On the dashboard,they can quickly see which stakeholders have and haven’t given their final approval. This feature helps expedite the process and drive accountability. 

print ad marketing collateral

Streamline your print-ad creation process today.

Are you ready to streamline the production of your next amazing print ad? Be sure to start your free 14-day Filestage trial today. We offer you everything you need to make your print ad a success—from easy access and simple workflows to real-time collaboration and clear version control.

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