How the creative and creativity can help drive your advertising effectiveness

“The relationship between creativity and effectiveness is the golden thread of advertising”    Giles Hedger, Leo Burnett Worldwide

Advertising effectiveness can be the combination of a variety factors, such as spend, reach, targeting approach, brand strength and recency. But none are more important than the creative.

What is the creative?

The ‘creative’ in advertising can be defined as ‘the promotional tools used by advertisers to draw in users’. In essence, it is the visual attributes, design and content brands use to communicate and connect with consumers.

A 2017 study by Nielsen Catalina Solutions found that 47% of a brand’s sales lift from advertising is the consequence of the creative, the largest of any advertising element. As such, the quality of the creative matters, “weak creative results in weak sales lift” and “the reverse is true when the creative is strong”. [2]

Furthermore, the stronger the creative, the greater the contribution to driving sales, lessening the impact on other advertising elements (such as brand and media), which in turn can reduce spend. Therefore, if you’re looking to boost sales and salience, a high-quality creative is imperative.

So, then the question is, how do you ensure a strong creative? Well, the answer may be in the name… creativity.

Creativity in advertising

Creativity can be characterised as “the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas”. In advertising, this can be translated to the differentiated messaging, concepts and artistic value presented within a given campaign or advert.

Further explanation from James Hurman’s ‘The Case for Creativity’ outlines strong creative advertisements as excelling across three core areas; originality, engagement and execution:

A great example of creative advertising is this Tide laundry detergent ad shown during the 2018 Superbowl which won multiple Cannes Lions Awards for creativity. The premise is simple, yet clever, funny and very well implemented… every other advertisement shown during the Superbowl, is it actually a Tide ad.

Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review highlights the importance of creativity in driving sales, finding “a euro invested in a highly creative ad campaign had, on average, nearly double the sales impact of a euro spent on a noncreative campaign”.

The role creativity plays in promoting advertising has been the source of study for years and its effect is clear. As Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Unilever describes:

“Leading brands and agencies have known for many years that more creative work delivers better results than ‘safe’ and rational advertising. What has been exciting in more recent times is to see the emerging proof of this; the hard evidence that creative work is more memorable, more effective and more able to drive overall business performance” 

Creative advertising can be hard

In their study, the Harvard Business Review found that on a creativity scale of 1 to 7 (1 being the lowest possible creativity score and 7 being the highest), only 11 of the 437 observed campaigns received an overall score of above 5 (that’s less than 3%).

So, what’s the secret? Well…

“Creativity takes courage”                                                                                                                Henri Matisse        

Big ideas can be hard to come by. Brands are sometimes the victim of playing it too safe. Timelines, budgets, and external goals frequently do not permit the execution of highly creative advertisements and when everyone is trying to be creative, often, no one is.

Implementing a creative that utilises effective design principles, resonates with consumers, underpins communicated brand values and is ultimately unique, takes risk. A willingness to challenge the brand’s own status quo to create something that truly captures the attention of consumers.

Empowering creatives and agencies to create something completely left field can be daunting, but as proven, it can be extremely effective.


If you have a creative you would like to test, please visit our concept development and testing page to see what we offer and submit a brief.

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