How Creative is Your Creative, Really?


It might be an uncomfortable truth, but it’s a truth nevertheless: a very small percentage of brands and agencies pay close attention to the creative they put out. Some agencies run the same old standard static banners for years, expecting positive results. From their perspective, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Changing creative that (to some extent) works is seen as a bad thing, but brands such as Dove and Bank of America are providing a useful counterpoint to that traditional approach. Both of these brands have creatively rethought how their products should be promoted, and their creativity resulted not only in an increase in brand awareness but also tremendous accolades for the brand itself. In particular, Dove has won plaudits for its inclusive messaging and its dedication to trying to change how we think about female beauty.

Another great example is Virgin America’s in-flight safety video, which is miles ahead of rest of the industry and makes travelers pay attention to the important points of safety. In a field where the boring presentation of safety procedures is considered to be the standard, Virgin America rethought their creative, gaining positive attention in the process.

So, why don’t brands and agencies consider putting more thought into their creative?

The answer is complicated. It’s not that brands are not paying any attention to the creative they put out; rather, it’s that most brands aren’t giving it the attention it requires. Some brands have recognized this, and are taking steps to address the issue. Dunkin’ Donuts recently put its U.S. creative business up for review for the first time in nearly two decades. Some media agencies have and are making a stronger push to have a seat in the creative world: Innocean acquired creative agency David & Goliath and Accenture acquired the Irish creative agency RothCo.

Agencies typically have such a resistance to building new creative. Having worked with quite a few agencies over the course of my career, I have seen this first hand. The reality is that, agencies pay the bills by finding out what works for one situation, and then squeeze efficiencies out of whatever worked last time or for a previous client. They often have resistance to producing new creative because it involves putting more thought into a campaign. It involves taking a step back into looking at how the brand has evolved. And it may very well require asking for more budget to invest in that kind of thought and research – which, given the competitive nature of the creative industry, agencies might be reluctant to ask for.

But, contrary to popular belief, good creative is not merely a function of how aesthetically pleasing something is. It also has to be engaging, giving the viewer a reason to click on it or to look for more information. So, whenever I see one more boring ad that says “click here”, I just want to throw up my hands and give up on advertising. It’s not just about having a clear call to action; creative advertising is about showing your audience what you stand for, as a brand. Think of the potential impact you can have with your creative, and it will help guide you to take bold steps in building your brand.

For brands, this might require significant investment and research into finding the right target consumer, and then figuring out what types of creative or messaging are best for reaching that audience. There’s a lot of advertising out there, but the easiest way to stand out is to be relevant, and to resonate emotionally with your viewer.

In my opinion, lots of brands ignore the importance of connecting emotionally with your audience. One of the reasons the Dove campaign was so effective was because it tapped into the feelings of a significant portion of the population who felt that they weren’t being represented in the media. Too many companies show the same series of ads, or ads with the same message, over and over again – to the point where it gets boring, even for people who may have been intrigued by the ads in the first place.

The easiest way for brands and agencies to regain their creative mojo is to pay attention. Pay attention to what the people who buy your product like, what they’re interested in, the types of creative that interest them most. Some people enjoy watching ads that are funny; others might respond better to those that are heartfelt, and still, others might just want to know what a product is and what it does. The point is, you won’t know any of this unless you actually take the time to figure out what message will best appeal to the consumer – and that is what will make your creative truly creative.



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