How creativity can save you money

Bonjour to the great and the good sunning themselves in Cannes, while we all celebrate last week’s IPA report ‘proving’ (no less) the connection between ‘creativity’ and ‘business success’ – although I think two findings contradict each other, more of which later.

‘Creativity’ is hard to define. It is intangible and subjective. Sometimes, even the creators of award-winning advertising themselves fail to recognise the creative essence of their own work.
For example, for me, the Cadbury ‘Trucks’ execution missed the core insight behind the success of the earlier, breakthrough, award winning ‘Gorilla’ commercial which is that eating chocolate is pure self-indulgence. That naughty confection can only pleasure the mouth in which it melts.

That (male?) gorilla ain’t banging them drums for anyone but himself. Just watch him preparing to savour his personal moment. He’s not there to offer ‘joy’ to anyone else as, it seemed, ‘Trucks’ set out to do.

Nor can I agree that ‘Surfer’ is the greatest commercial of all time. Do we really connect that undeniably brilliant film with the experience of waiting for a Guinness to be pulled in the pub? I do a lot of this and find the two experiences – watching the ad and drinking the beer – strangely separate.

Lastly, on this personal – and purely subjective – executional journey, at Kirkwoods in the 80s, I was privileged to work on the ‘Toys in Front of the Fire’ commercial for British Coal – (1’13” in).

When the account moved on, ‘Dog kisses Cat kisses Mouse’ won shedloads of awards. But who made the real creative leap? I know what I think. So you see, ‘creativity’ is subjective. What do I know Who am I?

That is what makes awards so important. They recognise work that has been commonly, albeit subjectively, agreed to be ‘creative’ by a number of people. Not just BP ‘small’ people. Important people. People who know.

Creative awards are also important to those who have created the work. Individually, there is the opportunity for a pay rise or a new, better job.

Corporately, awards can win new business from clients who are impressed in this way – because clients, with their own careers, love the glory too.

But surely, from a business, rather than entertainment, point of view awards should be a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves?

Years ago, back here in London (Knightsbridge actually) I was up for a job at Lowe Howard-Spink. These were the glory days when the agency was independent and Sir Frank was on fire.

There I waited, all suited and booted, awkward and lonely, in the strange Reception (all Receptions are strange if you have never been there).

Of the reading material on offer, I went for the agency brochure which, in pre-Google days, was a key, if rather last-minute, piece of learning.

Frankly, I couldn’t believe it. Not only did the brochure gloat over all the creative awards the agency had won but it claimed that winning these awards was the agency’s prime objective.

‘Hold on!’ I said to myself, fidgeting nervously in my suit. If I work here, my job will be to persuade ‘my’ clients that our aim is to win awards, over and above ‘business success’ (IPA term not mentioned in Lowe brochure).

As an account man, would this philosophy suit me? Would I fit?

Then it hit me.

What do creative awards mean? What is ‘creativity’? Original, unexpected, impactful, memorable, award-winning? All of these? Whatever. And what is the benefit of ‘creativity’ to the clients who pay for it?

Surely, if ‘creativity’ includes impactful and memorable then, de facto, the client won’t need to spend as much in the media to i) become noticed by customers, ii) help them remember the message and iii) persuade them to do what we want them to do? The more ‘creative’ the message, the less it costs for consumers to notice it, remember it and act on it. Simples.

Throughout my career, I have stuck by this argument and been amazed that creative agencies haven’t made more of it.

So, back to the two findings of last week’s IPA research:

1. “Pound for pound, creativity makes ad campaigns more efficient; on average, creatively awarded campaigns (i.e. in major awards competitions recognised by The Gunn Report) are at least 11 times more efficient.”

There you go. I’ve been right all along. QED. Phew!

2. “Creatively awarded campaigns that invest strongly in Excess Share of Voice (ESOV) perform particularly well, suggesting that many creative campaigns could further improve ROMI [Return On Marketing Investment] by investing more in Share of Voice (SOV).”

Hang on. Doesn’t this second finding contradict the first one?

If ‘creatively awarded campaigns’ are at least 11 times more efficient, why would you need to chuck in more SOV to improve your ROMI? Isn’t there a mathematical non sequitur here (quite apart from acronym overload)?

Of course, ‘investing strongly in ESOV’ is likely to improve performance, but why does this ‘suggest’ that more investment, rather than less, could further improve ROMI for ‘creative campaigns? Why would you need to?

Remember, ‘E’ in ESOV stands for ‘Excess’. Exactly.

So I am sticking with my position.

I am confident, in Finding One of this research and thus the full backing of the IPA, that the more creative your advertising, the less you need to spend in the media for consumers to notice and remember your message.

In fact, in this digital age, you may not need to buy any media at all.

But Creativity? Innovation? Upstream thinking? Absolutement.