When creativity pays

We all know that creativity matters when it comes to advertising, but I will bet that this is where the agreement stops. Is creativity a means to get attention, a means to focus attention on the brand or a means to accentuate an impression of the brand? In reality the answer is all three.

The connection between creative excellence and sales is strong. Some of the best evidence for this comes from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).  In collaboration with the Gunn Report, the IPA showed that, on average, creatively awarded campaigns increase a brand’s share a 10 times more than other campaigns.  Although creativity doesn’t guarantee results (one in ten creative award winners produce no sales response at all), real creativity can produce ground-breaking business performance.

So how does creativity work to benefit a brand? Let us assume that the brand strategy is sound (a requirement of entry for the IPA awards) because otherwise it does not matter how creative is your advertising; it is unlikely to unlock new value for your brand. With this proviso, creativity pays when it achieves the following trifecta.

  1. Creativity pays when it turns an ad exposure into attention.There is a great line in GroupM’s new Interaction report which states, “Attention is a reward not a right.” This is so true. You can invest all the time and effort you like to get your ad in front of someone while they are in the shopping process, and if the ad itself does not earn their attention you might as well have not bothered.
  2. Creativity pays when it focuses people’s attention on the brand.At the most basic level advertising works by making the brand more salient. It helps the brand come to mind quickly and easily, ideally in a shopping situation. If your ad does not feature the brand as an integral part of what is creative, how on earth do you expect people to like it, talk about it or shop for it? And I do not mean stuck on the end of an interesting story as an afterthought or tucked away on the fifth reveal of a display ad where no one is going to see it.
  3. Creativity pays when it enhances positive feelings about the brand.So many advertisers seem to feel the need to drive home their message with a voiceover, literally telling people what they should think or how they should feel. Explicit messaging might make the advertiser better about spending money on an ad, but it does not necessarily help the ad be more effective. Often, simply evoking a relevant emotion is all it takes.

One of the findings from Kantar Millward Brown’s facial coding of more than 15,000 ads is that there is a relationship between expressiveness and sales uplift. This true System 1 measure of the intuitive emotional response suggests that the more an ad energizes someone the more effective it is likely to be (particularly for established brands). This is because people pay attention to, remember and respond to ads that stand out as unusual or different, deliver a compelling impression about the brand and resonate emotionally. And that is why creativity is so valuable even in today’s world of hyper-targeting. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.



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