Let’s strip it back to basics. Advertisers work in the business of memorability. We help brands stand out and win a precious space in people’s memory.
If you agree with me on this, then you will also agree that our industry’s most valuable commodity is creativity. It is the crucial point of difference between an off-the-shelf formula of developing an effective advertising strategy.
But take a closer look at the data and what becomes clear is we aren’t making the point loudly enough.
There has been a serious declining trend in the effectiveness of creatively awarded campaigns over the last ten years. This collapse in effectiveness has been rationalised by the shift to short-term activation-focused creativity and the strategic and media trends this has promoted. Essentially an increase in digital first, tactically focussed work that leaves no room for the theatrics of a memorable idea.
But I believe there is another reason as to why this trend continues to impact business performance.
I believe that one of the biggest challenges as to why creativity is overlooked is the very nature of business. Business is serious. Simply put, there isn’t room or time for wacky, irreverent and off the wall thinking within the process, proof and efficiency-driven world of business.
As OgilvyOne’s Vice Chairman and advertising icon, Rory Sutherland once said…
“Talking to a finance director about brand iconography is like going to the head surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital and suggesting that they ‘trust to the healing power of the crystal’.”
With short-term budget allocation and a conservative boardroom, we face a fundamental challenge in the creative industry. How are we going to define and defend the role of creativity in advertising to those that must embrace it?
As an advertising planner, I propose we change the narrative to fit the audience. Let’s stop talking about creativity. It is an ethereal concept that applies to everything while meaning so many different things to different people.
In its place, I propose we start talking about the simple and universally understood concept of popularity. From our preferred choice of food and clothes to the TV we watch, everyone is influenced by what is popular.
In an advertising context, popularity means brand ideas that are well liked and remembered well past their shelf life. Yes, creativity is the means by which we get there but, in the tangible outcome focussed world of business, popularity is the best possible end result.
Cadbury, Gorilla is the obvious popular example from the archives – irreverent, disruptive but most importantly, memorable to us all almost 15 years later. A piece of work that went out of its way to appear to break all the rules of advertising, but on closer inspection, applied them all to masterful, “must watch” effect.
As an industry we must embrace our links with and influence from popular culture – learning lessons from how it is done from Kanye to the Kardashians. Let’s start to talk in terms of how we make brands popular through popular advertising.