Creativity. Who needs it?

Trevor Chapman

Rainmaker Advertising

Are agencies that bang on about ‘creativity’ more concerned about winning awards than shifting product? Surely a clearly stated, visible message that is on strategy will do the job well enough if the product is genuinely worthwhile.

Well actually, no. Great products are not enough and yes, agencies do like winning awards.

Perversely, some of the most successful brands of modern times have been ‘me-too’ products and some genuine innovations have failed because they didn’t manage to get their message across in a meaningful way.

If you’re going to make the most of your brand in the marketplace, you need every advantage you can get. Punching above your weight isn’t an option, it’s mandatory.

It’s tough out there

Why? Because the audience is lazy, fickle and easily bored. An ad has 0.6 seconds to captivate the reader before the page is turned and the average person is exposed to 1,300 selling messages a day and retains only two of them.

Little wonder then, with all the noise and clutter in the marketplace from competitor promotions that the overwhelming majority of communications die before they have had the chance to deliver their message.


“…the average person is exposed to 1,300 selling messages a day and retains only 2 of them.”

Of course, standing out against background noise can be achieved by dominant share of voice. Fine for blockbuster launches with bottomless pockets but they are getting fewer and farther between. That’s just not an option for the campaigns that most of us do.

For the message to make the transition from page or screen to the mind, being relevant is not enough. It needs to be delivered in some way that is rewarding – through emotion, humour, an unexpected visual or a clever headline.

The power of creative

Easily said but not so easily done. Even if you’ve got a creative department that can produce the goods, it can take courage for clients to choose original ideas. But good work has always been worth buying. It was true for brands like Heineken way back in the 70s and is just as true in the current day where Walkers Crisps came from nowhere to take a whopping great 45% of the market. And in an undifferentiated market, how many of us are now not aware of the difference between meerkats and cheap insurance? The list of brands that have gained pre-eminence through memorable and engaging creative work is a long one. And time after time it seems that brands that pick up creative awards are also doing well in the market. It’s not a coincidence.

In understanding why, it is important to realise that great creative work is not based on whimsy. It is fundamental that the agency understands the brand intimately, with its positioning and strategy as second nature. Nor should we underestimate the work that goes into preparing the creative brief. Get that wrong and everything else that follows will fail. It is not an opportunity for the agency to display its product knowledge to the client. The brief should be exactly that – preferably one page and written with sufficient clarity that the cleaning lady will have no trouble in understanding it. All great creative campaigns, without exception, are based on genuine audience insights that go to the heart of the message and can be measured against the creative brief.

Making the most of digital

And that applies regardless of the discipline. All communications, whether traditional or digital, should be consistent with the brand’s message and values and engage the audience in a way that is both meaningful and memorable.


“All communications, whether traditional or digital, should be consistent with the brand’s message and values…”

More and more people engage with the internet every day and digital media have provided us with a whole range of new possibilities from websites and digital display advertising to e-detailing and e-learning as well as social networking.

But these are not magic bullets, despite being an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. They need to be used intelligently just like any other way of communicating with the audience. The medium is not the message.

Getting the most out of digital media also means having the right technical skills and understanding how to interpret the data that is generated. It’s not just about better ideas. It’s a different way of working that lets us measure the effectiveness of what we do whilst we are doing it. But that does not mean it is for geeks. The work still needs to comply with ABPI and PAGB regulations and take note of market conditions – even though it is brought to life by technology.

Bearing that in mind, there is no doubt that those agencies that have embraced the digital medium, employing designers and coders alongside their traditional disciplines rather than outsourcing those services, have a head start in providing a better, more creative product.

The proof of the pudding

Great creative campaigns work harder. You get more for your marketing pound. But don’t take my word for it. The IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) recently published a report called ‘The link between creativity and effectiveness.’ The report is a robust study that compares the scale of hard business effects achieved by campaigns with creative awards in the IPA Databank with campaigns without creative awards. The study included both traditional and digital campaigns.


“…creatively-awarded campaigns were a staggering 11 times more efficient than non-awarded ones in driving market share growth.”

Their analysis demonstrated a very strong link between creativity and effectiveness and showed that creatively-awarded campaigns were a staggering 11 times more efficient than non-awarded ones in driving market share growth. The report also concluded that campaigns that worked emotionally (by changing feelings toward the brand) were significantly more effective than those that worked rationally (by providing information).

Positive proof that the right creative campaign can indeed help you punch above your weight.

Can you really afford not to?

About the author:

Trevor Chapman is a managing partner at Rainmaker Advertising.

For direct enquiries he can be contacted at

For more information on Rainmaker Advertising go to

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