Creativity - Advertising's magic dust

M&C Saatchi's Jamie Roston's Distinction earning essay on this IPA Foundation Certificate question.

We are spotlighting some of the best essays from our MIPA qualifying courses and qualifications. Here, M&C Saatchi's Jamie Roston earned a Distinction on this IPA Foundation Certificate question, looking at the importance of creativity in our industry.

In many ways creativity can be viewed as "magic dust" that can have a dramatic impact on business results delivered by advertising. Indeed, Hegarty called it "advertising’s special sauce" partly due to the significant effect creativity can have on achieving or even surpassing objectives and increasing ROI.

Kahneman has argued that humans have two systems of thinking. System one is instinctive, quick, based on emotion and previous memory structures and makes the majority of our decisions, especially when choosing a brand. System two is more rational, based on evidence, it is slower, and takes significant effort to use. Advertising, to increase effectiveness, has to appeal to system one, by conveying emotions and helping to build memory structures and act as a heurist, allowing for consumers to choose a brand easily and instinctively. Creativity is the best way to convey emotion, be that humour, nostalgia, sadness etc. If a piece of communication is memorable as well then it is more likely to activate system one thinking. For example, the Lego Movie ad break takeover, developed in conjunction with ITV was a brilliant piece of creative work. The Lego movie/Warner helped four brands create Lego versions of their TV adverts. All brands paid for their own production and media space and it became the highest rated TV ad break of the last few years. This was a truly memorable, amusing and creative piece of advertising. Warner found that this idea helped increase revenue of the film by 5%, promising a highly effective and efficient creative idea.

Moreover, IPA studies have proven that creativity can increase ROI by 10x. Binet and Field highlight that communications that are built upon a foundation of emotion and that eventually become famous can greatly enhance the effectiveness of a campaign. Paddy Power and Stonewall created just such a campaign with Rainbow Laces. With a fairly modest budget but a strong creative idea Paddy Power was able to enter the public consciousness in a truly unique way. The creation of the rainbow laces for Premier League Football Players to wear was a staggeringly effective use of budget because the stunt managed to create a huge level of earned media. With a little bit of activation and paid media spend the British media soon took hold of the campaign. This simple, but creative idea, by becoming news worthy promised a great return on investment for stonewall and Paddy Power.

Nonetheless it is important to realise that creativity does not operate in a vacuum. There are numerous other aspects of a campaign that contribute to its effectiveness. The media spend, the way that budget is divided between different media channels, changes in price of products, even things like weather can all impact a campaigns effectiveness. That’s why measuring effectiveness with various KPIs and econometric models is so important, as this allows different factors’ contribution to business results and objectives to be isolated and quantified. Furthermore, it is important to remember that while creativity can act as a multiplier for ROI and other measures, creativity should never be used as a substitute for solid media investment. The best campaigns have a good balance of both.

Clearly, a creative campaign that appeals to the emotional side of peoples brains, is memorable and sparks conversation, eventually entering into public culture can have a great impact on business results. However, it is important to remember that creativity is just one very important part of advertising and having a creative idea is useless unless people actually see it.

Jamie Roston is an Account Manager at M&C Saatchi. This essay earned a Distinction as part of the 2019 IPA Foundation Certificate.

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