Monday, May 04, 2015

I Think We Should Abolish The Word 'Creativity'

Wendy Clark, a senior Coca-Cola marketer in the US, is well-known in Agency circles as a force for good - a Client who has supported great work, time and time again.

And I love that - as chair of the Effectiveness jury at Cannes this year - she writes an article that instead of arguing for the primacy of effectiveness, makes a plea for the importance of creativity.

"If you leave creativity behind, you are leaving some measure of effectiveness behind too," she writes.

Very cool.

However, I do have one quibble with her argument.

She develops her theme by making a big play around the word "and", arguing for work that is both creative "and" effective.

And I guess I feel that 'creativity and effectiveness' are not similar concepts that can be linked together with an 'and', like 'fish and chips'.

Because they don't exist on the same plane really, do they? Surely effectiveness is an outcome, and creativity is a means of achieving it?

"Effectiveness is our goal, creativity is our tool." That's how Nigel Bogle always used to phrase it.

In other words, effectiveness is a hole in the wall, and creativity is a sledgehammer.

Let's face it, you could still have a successful advertising campaign by filling media space with a completely literal and uncreative message.

Here are two executions in which the communication is identical.

First, expressed without creativity:

Now, with creativity:

The first execution could still be effective. A lot of people like Wayne Rooney, and a timely and well-bought media placement that reinforces the association between Nike, Rooney and England could help drive affinity for the brand.

But the second execution will be more effective (because more impactful, more memorable, and more cool. Yes, in sportswear, cool matters).

The fact is, we Agency people are not using creativity because it's more fun for us. (Although it is). We are using creativity because it increases the effectiveness of advertising. Creativity is an amplifier, that's all.

The problem we have is that too many Clients think we like creativity for its own sake, and hence they lack trust in our recommendations.

So what if we stopped using the word 'creativity' completely?

The Creative Department would henceforth be known as the Effectiveness Amplification Department, and the Creative Director as the Effectiveness Amplification Director. Creative awards would be called Effectiveness Amplification Awards. 

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Nigel Bogle's words:
"Effectiveness is our goal, creativity is our tool".

The problem, and the reason why many clients are wary, is that for some agencies and creatives, creativity is the goal. And you can be creative without being effective.

The scams and more questionable work in our industry only help to feed this problem.
That's the problem with the 'awards currency'.
For many copywriters, art directors and creative directors, their KPIs are awards. So they will strive to achieve them, sometimes at any cost.

Creatives never hear the words, 'that double-sided bill insert you did increased sales 20%. That deserves a raise/promotion/reward'.

Sandy said...

Love the sentiment of this blog. Also love the example of the two pieces of work and agree that version two has so much more cut-through and is a far more memorable piece of advertising.

But I can't help but think that the key message (Nike are behind England and Rooney) is a harder "get" with the second concept - despite it being more visually striking than the first,. The lack of copy relies solely on the image alone to communicate the message - which may be tougher to pick up for some readers (shamefully, including me).

Which brings the question back to the clarity of the key message - amplified by the creativity of executing it. If the key message is tougher to "get", despite the obvious impactful nature of the spot, is it a more or less effective piece of communication?

Woolven said...

Perhaps not to you, Sandy. But to the 53 million people that inhabit England, I dare say an interpretation of their flag would be instantly recognisable.

I would also surmise that this execution ran there, (England) during a World Cup, in which case the environment would have further engendered the execution with the relevant message (Nike is behind Rooney, and thus, England).. Perhaps this ad just wasn't mean for you to 'get'.

Sell! Sell! said...

I think creativity is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in advertising.

A lot of the time, when people say creativity they really mean craft.

In your example here, the first and second are the same basic concept (Rooney and St George's Cross) one is poorly art directed, the other has a strong visual idea.

We should be aiming to make advertising creativity mean a lot more than just craft. Otherwise we'll continue to see the move towards creatives being seen a merely stylists.

I totally agree with you, dingosbreakfast btw.