It’s July, which means aside from the occasional hot spell we marketers are about to be deluged by an ocean of talks, tweets and treatises on the importance of creativity and her bespectacled, more reserved brother, innovation.
Blame Cannes. Last week, 13,000 marketers descended on the French Riviera to have the overriding importance of all things creative drummed into them. If proof was needed that Cannes Lions was all about the C word, we need only consult last week’s social media analytics. Apparently, more than half of the messages emanating from the event mentioned either creativity or innovation.
But there’s more than just the annual French maritime party to persuade marketers that it’s all about creativity. The digital revolution apparent across our industry has many implications and one of them is to make creativity a more appealing focus for many marketers. In years gone by, a brand manager had to surmount several distinct obstacles to get to a point where they would interact with creative teams and partake in the creative end of the marketing conveyor belt. Today, thanks to ‘real-time marketing’ and the surfeit of digital communication platforms that marketers personally manage, many view themselves as being directly responsible for the creative act.
Back in the day when marketers realized that their main challenges revolved around market research, brand positioning, product strategy and pricing there was a much clearer awareness that creatives were a separate species. Few made the mistake of thinking they were the creative ones. But today, many marketers believe that their main challenge is content marketing and traditional strategic work has been replaced with a more abject emphasis on creativity uber alles.
That’s troubling because in my experience most marketers are hopeless at creative work. I say experience not because I claim any personal creative talent (I have none) but because I have worked for several large, creative businesses at the height of fashion and luxury. It’s difficult not to sound like a braggart in that last sentence but it’s true. I worked for several companies famed for their creative prowess and the irony was that I, and the marketers I worked with at these brands, never thought for a second we were creative in any way. We knew our place – which was at the analytical and strategic end of the process that then fed the creative teams.
I enjoy seeing people poke business models, but it’s important that when you look to disrupt a business that you do so without assumptions. The call by Marc Ruxin of Universal McCann to rethink the creative department of ad agencies is a great idea but my sense is that his suggestions still assume the battle is for attention, and that winning that attention and holding it via great content, well presented, is critical to achieving consumer preference.
The noise preventing that, he says, is formidable. Brands are trying to get their messages heard and acted upon in an environment of 150 million tweets a day, 700 billion minutes a month on Facebook, 300 million global players of Zynga games, 200 million Daily Deal subscribers…
I’m far from convinced though that attention and preference are a linear progression. And I think we need to insert at least three further filters into that zig-zag of decision making: notice, consider and purchase. You may gain a consumer’s attention momentarily, but until they choose to escalate that attention and actually take notice of you, there’s no way they’re going to consider you, never mind prefer you – and even then, they may not buy.
It seems to me Mr. Ruxin is still trying to run an interruption model based on see, want, get. I feel he still thinks content is the make or break, and he’s now looking to adapt that model to fit the new channels that consumers now occupy their time with. That doesn’t so much require a rethink of the creative department as it requires the creative and media departments to rethink their approach and to adopt new skills. Not quite the same thing.
In his article, the author suggests: “It is a new world: Brands + Skillfully Placed Media Investments + The Right Platforms + The Right Partner + The Right Offer = Creative Success” Two things about that. I don’t think that’s a new world at all. That equation doesn’t look any different from the way it looked when I started in advertising – it’s just that the media, platforms and partners themselves have changed. And there’s no reason to believe that ‘Creative Success’ is the result anyone should be seeking anyway. That’s an agency metric, not a commercial one.
October 22nd, 2014
By Chris Wren
Customers are intimately familiar with how brand excitement or brand dislike is communicated: word of mouth, written recommendations, ratings, reviews, etc. Everyone can access information about a brand’s stuff – the good, bad, and ugly.
When digital was young, we approached it with an advertising mindset. But digital media, mobile media, and social media are really three names for the same thing: a social web that is powered by human media. And anytime humans are in the mix, we need to be thinking about behavior.
Convincing people to change is a like a game, and brands that create the best change understand how games work. Sebastian Detering says, “Games are fun to play because they are designed well, not because they are games.” How do game designers do it? They craft smart, interesting choices and place them inside of the intersection where a behavioral change should happen.
Here’s a great example:
What does Super Bowl advertising and spam have in common? Both subscribe to the eyeball theory. In both cases, it’s about scale. In both cases, it’s about interruption. In both cases, it’s about hope.
“If we can just reach enough people, then enough people will react and we’ll get our money back”. Which as I say is hopeful, because more and more the real numbers seem to be suggesting that reach alone is a dead metric. Just because people have heard of you, just because you’ve had your 30 seconds of fame, does not automatically mean that will convert into significant amounts of sales. Particularly when your logo is thrown into the 10 second end-zone at the back of the ad to give the gag as much time as possible to run. And particularly if you’ve spent most of your year’s budget on this big splash, and there are little or no resources left to follow up.
The National Football League’s Super Bowl is the triumph of occasion, prestige and scale. Between the press releases and the hoopla, advertising at the Super Bowl simply means 110+ million people saw you. Or could have seen you, in between mouthfuls of chips and trips to the restroom.
There must be better ways to spend $4 million of your marketing budget. But very few more noticeable ways. And that’s the key. That’s what big brands will pay outrageous money for. That intensity of notice.
November 12th, 2013
By Nigel Hollis
One of the consistent findings from ad pre-testing and tracking research is that bits of ads go missing from people’s memories. A key reason for this finding is that our brains can’t deal with too many concepts at one time. I am not just speaking for myself, there is plenty of evidence that our conscious work space is limited, and things that don’t make it to our conscious attention, get forgotten.
So how does this memory loss happen? It all has to do with how our brains work. Our brains are incredibly good at focusing our conscious attention on things that are emotionally charged and relevant to us, and ignoring everything else.
Think of the “cocktail party” effect, where we can suddenly hear our name being mentioned across a crowded room, even though we were not previously conscious of that specific conversation taking place. The use of our name – something emotionally charged and relevant to an individual – implies the conversation could be important to us so our conscious attention is drawn to it.
The downside of the “cocktail party” effect, is that the conversation we were having with the person next to us, gets ignored for as long as our attention is distracted. A few seconds later, we suddenly realize we have no clue what the other person was saying to us.
The same sort of effect takes place in video ads. Our attention gets directed to interesting and enjoyable aspects of the ad – the emotionally charged and relevant bits – and that distracts our attention from other elements. No attention, essentially means no memory.