“Clients get the advertising they deserve.”
I trot out that one a lot, and former Comcast CMO, Marvin O. Davis, explores the issue further in a great Adweek column:
I recall an occasion when I was traveling with several company executives. Everyone was expressing their opinion on their favorite and least-favorite company commercials. When I mentioned a few ads I didn’t particularly like, one exec was startled and interrupted me with a question: “How could there be commercials running that you, as CMO, didn’t like?” I explained that I respected the creative judgment of my team and the agency. And, if they collectively felt very strongly about an ad, it would be somewhat arrogant and all knowing for me to dismiss them. Now, to be clear, I have on occasion vetoed spots — usually because of tone or for being off character — which I knew were wrong for us. But the one-versus-all vote should be rare.
It’s hard to approve advertising you don’t love. But if you must, at least give more of a reason than “I don’t like it.” That is unactionable feedback. And if an exec takes that position often enough, the marketing team will lose confidence and begin to play not to lose. That almost always leads to mediocre advertising.