Why Brands Hate Working With Creatives

By Rogan Smith |
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Not all creatives are created equal. Not only that, not all creatives create. 

Last year, I published an article called, “You Want What For What?” In it, I spoke candidly about how brands often takes creatives for granted, seldom giving them the proper compensation that they deserve. Many are often talked down from their prices or treated as if they are lucky to be paid. Others look at creatives as mere hobbyists – a thought process that does the creative industry a huge disservice. 

Over the years, I have also been critical of creatives who think their artistry gives them a license to be lazy, unimaginative or even worse, unprofessional.

Well, I had no idea the hornet’s nest I was stirring up with my article because the post received a lot of emails and responses, many of which came from small business owners. 

One of those business owners offered her take on why creatives are often overlooked or not taken seriously. 

Below, I share some of her comments with you just to give an idea of what some business owners who are open to working with creatives have been forced to deal with. 

Some Creatives Don’t Create

“Very well written article. I came across it on Facebook and after reading it here are my thoughts from the other side of the spectrum (the small business owner).  I am very open to working with creatives but here are some of the challenges I run into: creatives who don’t necessarily ‘create’ anything. For example, I reach out to you for an ad for my company. I tell you all the information that I think is relevant for you to execute the ad, but the ad you provide for me lacks originality and does not properly get my message across. It’s basically very generic. Have you really ‘created’ anything? Did you do more research on my company? Maybe ask me more questions if something wasn’t clear,” she said.  

The small business owner also highlighted another pet peeve – dealing with creatives who refuse to turn down projects that they know are not a good fit. 

“If I approach you about providing a service for my business and it’s not in line with what you do, you can just refuse the job. But instead money is given and service is less than par.

Some creatives make the work that they are creating solely about them and not about the business they are working with,” she said.

These are common complaints in our industry. I’ve heard it in so many quarters. While not all creatives are the same, naturally, the bad ones sully the reputation of the entire industry. 

Some Creatives Function As Hobbyists

The problem is, many writers, bloggers, graphic designers, fashion designers and other artists are simply not professional. They get treated like hobbyists because they conduct business like hobbyists. 

They don’t have media kits and rate sheets. Therefore, when a client wants to know the cost of a service, they have to pull numbers from the sky. They don’t return emails and calls in a timely fashion. They don’t provide deliverables on time and many just have poor attitudes. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have turned down business because I just knew it wasn’t the right fit. Sometimes, the business owners are adamant that they want to work with me, but I know my gifts and abilities. I also value my brand too much to do work that is substandard. I often find myself referring them to someone else who can meet their needs. 

Business owners should also know that they get what they pay for. In some instances, they could get a professional, but it comes at a cost. It’s like any product or service. I don’t know that I’d trust a dentist who says he can fill my teeth for $45. While I don’t want to be charged an exorbitant amount of money, I certainly know that professionalism and skill come at a cost. 

While many small business owners genuinely cannot afford top-of-the-line creatives, others simply prefer to work with someone offering basement prices because they don’t value the service being provided. 

The small business owner I spoke to questioned whether the creative should care about the success or failure of an ad that’s been put out.

Risky Business?


“Should business owners see hiring a creative as a chance they have to take? 
More things to take chances with? We’re already taking so much risks with the products we’re offering,” she said.

The answer to her question is a resounding no. Business owners should not see hiring a creative as taking a “chance.” And the creative should care that the ad performs well. Business owners should find a creative who has a proven track record. They can ask for references from the creative’s former clients or they can ask to see portfolios. They can also ask for metrics, as numbers are a great indication of success or failure. 

But, there has to be realistic expectations as well. 

Firstly, not all creatives and influencers are created equally. Everyone wants a Kardashian to sell their products. But, few can afford a Kardashian and believe it or not, even the Kardashians can’t sell certain products. 

Business owners have to pair up with the right creative or influencer, and sometimes, that means going small. For example, micro influencers – individuals with 10,000 followers or fewer – are the biggest influencer category. 

They’re good to work with because they have greater interaction with their audience than a macro influencer (those around 1 million followers). They also tend to know the people they are interacting with, who in turn, trust their suggestions. 

Sometimes business owners seek out a popular creative because that’s who everyone is talking about. But, the question is, is that person a good fit for your product/service and would that individual perform well in a campaign? Also, is the creative you’re seeking out overexposed? How many times have we seen the same guy doing TV ads for five different companies? It’s too much. 

What Are The Expectations?

Creatives or influencers can do the work. But, companies should discuss expectations up front. And depending on the business, they shouldn’t always expect immediate results.  

A creative can promise to promote the product or service thoroughly; he/she can create campaigns to drive engagement, he/she can promise to do follow-ups or pivot if a campaign is not performing to expectations, but finding one’s way through the sales funnel takes time. A company with great brand awareness, like MAC, for example, does not need brand awareness. It needs sales. However, if you’re company is unknown, it needs a lot of brand awareness and the right creative can help in that area. 

The small business owner I spoke to also questioned who is ultimately responsible for the success of a campaign. 


“I feel a lot of businesses would be receptive of creatives if they could show and have a proven track record of what they bring to the table. In that way, we would both know if we are good for each other,” she said. 

“We are already experiencing losses all around, from theft in our business, expired or damaged products, ineffective marketing and the list goes on. I feel creatives should pick a business that they have genuine interest in. Show the business that you have interest in their product or service by first supporting the business. If you’re a creative by heart, you’re going to automatically create. When the business sees the benefit of having you a part of the team then the relationship becomes mutually beneficial.”

My experience has shown me that both the creative and the business owner are mutually responsible for the campaign’s success. 

It’s not enough to hand over the work to the creative and expect miracles. There has to be a meeting of the minds with clearly defined goals and objectives as well as measurables to track performance. 

Both sides have to be willing to listen. Not because a client is paying means that he or she knows everything. If that were the case, then he or she would do the work himself or herself. And just because the creative is an artist does not mean that he or she shouldn’t listen to someone who has been in business and has the most to lose. 

Communication is key. 

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4 Replies to “Why Brands Hate Working With Creatives”

  1. Loved this ! I believe that among businesses , influencers and creatives relationships can be better . It starts with equal appreciation through equal respect and professionalism. It’s so simple it should be consistent.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback! I absolutely agree. I think both sides need to have open and direct conversations before entering into any agreement. It’s no different from a regular job. But there has to be mutual respect.

  2. Well dang. Great read Ro and I’m definitely taking notes. I myself am a culprit of one or two of those infractions but I am a work in progress.

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate it. Trust me, we’ve all made mistakes, myself included. Sometimes that’s how you learn. Years ago someone asked me for my rates and I didn’t even have a rate sheet. I changed all of that following major embarrassment.

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