Thursday, August 11, 2022

Brief writing - it's harder than you think

The biggest problem with brief writing is that people think they're easy to write.

Typical Marketing Department:
"We're going to grab a sandwich. Coming?"
"Sure, give me ten minutes. Just need to get a brief to the Agency".

Typical Client Service Department:
"We're going for sushi. Coming?"
"Sure, give me ten minutes. Just need to get a brief into Traffic".

Great briefs take time. 

A great brief needs to be very, very clear what the resultant output should achieve (note: not what it should look or sound like, but what it's intention is). More than that a great brief must inspire, in fact, catapult, the imagination of your creative teams. It needs to immediately conjure up ideas and angles and possibilities and excitement. 

To do that it needs to be a few simple things:

1. Be Clear.
2. Be Concise.
3. Be Clever.
4. Be Creative.
5. Be Collaborative.

I'm going to unpack these in this blog. I've even drawn you a little video in the proposition section. Take a look. 

Be Clear:
Who do you want to do what as a result of this piece of communication?

There's a bunch of choices in there and the catch-all target market definition usually chucked in a brief is a perfect example of lazy thinking, where no choices have been made at all. It's murky and bloated and will undoubtedly lead to obviously murky and inefficient communication output.

To exquisitely illustrate the point, watch this:

Once you've sorted the "who are we talking to" out, then what do you want them to a result of engaging with this piece of communication.

Answering these questions as a "if-then" approach is helpful. Remember, they may be exposed to a whole lot of things that your brand is saying in a whole lot of channels. However - what's this one going to ask the/expect them/persuade them to do?  This is where separating out marketing objectives from communication objectives is so critical. Example, the key job of a banner ad is most likely not to increase brand awareness.

Obviously if the brief is for the BIG IDEA, and you're not down to the individual elements yet, think even more carefully about what the role of the communication will be. What will success look like? Will it (can it) be measured, if so how, and if not - how will you know it worked?

Be Concise:
Doing all of the above thinking - before you write the brief - helps you become focused in your thinking. And so the communication can be focused, and work in an integrated way with all the other bits of communication in your overall plan. If you want to ask your consumers to do ten things, you must realize that not only are you being lazy, but most consumers are. Ask us to do/think/feel/remember one thing, maybe - just maybe - we'll do it. Ten things, or even three? Sorry, what were you saying again?

A creative brief should be no more than two pages. It should tell a story and should read well. Not like a collection of marketing-speak cut and pasted from the brand plan. 

Be Clever:
Find a truly interesting and motivating and deep-seated reason why people do what they do. And find a way of connecting it to what your brand offers. Where the human truth or insight meets your brand truth or insight is where the magic starts happening. This is going to emerge in your brief as the Proposition (see next point).

An example from a campaign that I loved the moment I saw it (Boom! Great insight driven work always does that - connects with a Boom!), is Sanlam's One Rand Man campaign. The insight is - my words not theirs - that because we don't physically pay with cash, our money doesn't seem real. 

Be Creative:
This is the real thorn in the side. Here's why you really can't bang it out before lunch.

The inspirational bit of the brief hinges on the Proposition. Call it what you like. The Platform. The Single Minded Thought. The Elevator Pitch. The thing most likely to convince our consumer to do/think/feel what we want them to do/think/feel. This builds on the brand's Value Proposition.

Source: Tim Williams

Usually, you can't get to a great proposition unless you have a really good Insight. Because what we want to do with the proposition is create a launch pad for ideas. The insight helps because it allows you a real understanding of consumer motivations and beliefs - the why not the what. (Insights are something that must be done, along with the Brand's Positioning Statement way before you sit down to write the brief).

The proposition requires creative writing. And understandably not every marketer or account manager is a creative writer. So this proposition can and should be written in collaboration with the agency. In agencies, account managers should be creative. But if they're not, then they should bring in a strategist or a copywriter to get that sentence. Because once you've got it - you're off. That's the catapult to a big idea and a seamless, integrated campaign.

Propositions need also to help make the brand distinctive. Why can this brand solve the tension in that insight better than anyone else? This is when a truly differentiated and distinctive product concept helps. But honestly, how many of those do we see?

So the proposition links a universal insight or truth with a brand truth with something that makes your brand distinctive from the competition or category. Note I said distinctive not differentiated. Distinctiveness is critical when we get to the communication part of the proposition. It sets us apart, maybe tonality, maybe because of an underlying purpose, maybe because of a bottle shape. 

Read this wonderful examnple from The Economist:

The best way to get better at this is to practice. There are a number of obvious examples but a powerful one is Dove. The fact that a brand based on a moisturising soap can help you acknowledge your inner saboteur and encourage self-belief and self-confidence in young women, is nothing short of miraculous.

I find a way to write good propositions is to think of them like headlines. In fact great propositions can be headlines and many end up with tiny tweaks to be payoff lines. How would you write the proposition for this ad?

Human truth: Very few women think they're beautiful (4%).
Brand truth: Dove has a range of everyday beauty products.

So, true to the brand: Dove is a real beauty product
Motivating insight: You are probably more beautiful than you think
Distinctive to the competition: Dove believes in real beauty.

Here are some options (and these take time to write, so you have to try them out until you get to one that sounds like it could create ideas).

Proposition ideas:
With Dove, you know your beauty is real.
Dove helps you be comfortable in your skin.
Dove believes your beauty is within.
Dove - real beauty is more than skin deep.
Dove is a real beauty brand that celebrates real beauty.
Dove wants you to feel more beautiful than you think.

Here's what their VP said:

So "Dove wants you to feel more beautiful than you think" feels quite on-brand and quite creatively liberating doesn't it?

That's probably an easy one, because we know what the output is. I took toothpaste (IMHO a massively undifferentiated and non-distinctive category, except for specialist toothpastes) and here's where I got:

Brand truth: Brand X makes your teeth white and your smile beautiful
Insight: I feel happier if someone smiles at me.
Distinctive: A toothpaste brand that believes in the benefit of smiling.

Proposition attempt: 
Brand X, making the world a happier place, one smile at a time.

I've never worked on a toothpaste brand, but Googling this - smiles are everywhere in toothpaste ads, So that's not distinctive. But it seems that "happiness" could carve a distinctive tonality in the category. Is this Coca Cola's territory? It is close. (Ironically). So we may need to keep working on the line to find the right word. But can you start seeing a campaign around Making the World a Happier Place, a hashtag on Instagram, a Pinterest board, some amazing content possibilities, ads? I can. It has "legs". 

The last piece about "Be Creative" is that you should consider your audience for the brief. The creative team. How can you dramatise the proposition? Where should you do the briefing session? In the boardroom? Or In Real Life somewhere?  Wherever, make it inspiring.

Be Collaborative
As I said at the beginning, briefs are hard to get right. The more heads to bounce ideas off, the better. 

But, this is not a committee. You're asking for clarity and inspiring comment, not "oh and can you add in that we now also close later on Fridays"?

Find people in your organisation that are good with words. Those right brain types. 

And, when you have your briefing session, and in discussion someone creative says "what if we said.....", and comes out with the zinger of propositions, please for the love of great communication, punch the air and say YES that's IT! Instead of "it's not what it says on the brief".

If they feel excited and you feel excited, I promise there's a better chance your consumers will too.


Adtherapy runs  Exceptional Brief Writing workshops for marketers and agencies.  

The Creative Fitness programme also includes Developing Transformative Insights and other useful tools and techniques to make sure your communication is as good as it should be. 

Email or call 0832659099 to discuss how we can help you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

You've written your best Brand Plan. Now it's time to write your best brief.

Just like any other strategic process, a brief is about choices. The brief is the roadmap of how to direct the execution of creative materials to achieve the marketing objectives at which you have carefully and strategically arrived.

A brief is not just an instruction for work to be done, it's a strategic and creative document, meant to summarise effectively the task at hand in a way that inspires great creative output.

I shouldn't have to remind you of this, but the reason you should want (in fact, insist on) great creative work is simply because it works harder and better. The IPA and researcher Peter Field recently updated their research on the effectiveness of creativity: "the findings revealed a direct correlation between strong advertising creativity and business success, and that high levels of creativity make advertising campaigns some 12 times more efficient at increasing a brand’s market share".

Briefs are hard to write, and even harder if they are not underpinned by good strategic thinking upfront. Mark Ritson bemoans the state of brief-writing and unpacks most of the common problems (strategy being confused with tactics is a biggy, or even worse going into a briefing with no discernible strategy at all, hoping the agency will magically identify one during the creative process, here

The Better Briefs research that Ritson references acknowledges that most marketers admit to finding them difficult to write, and in fact not even experience seems to make them easier, but in spite of that many marketers in fact think they're rather good at them. Not so the recipients of the briefs. The research showcases the astonishing divide between the author and commissioner of the work, the marketer, and those that need to interpret the brief and deliver, the agency.

So, what does a good brief need to make it good?

The key attributes of briefs should be Clarity, Brevity and Fertility. You probably have a standard briefing template, and you just have to fill it in before lunch, right? Wrong! Templates may have the right boxes but the hardest part of writing the brief is deciding what goes into those boxes, and what gets left out.

Did you see the size of the brief in the Stop Sign video above? And did you see the chaos that followed? And the resultant confused and jumbled output?

Sadly, many briefs are problematic - they don't articulate the problem carefully enough , they have too many - or too vague - objectives, their target audience is indistinct, there is no insight into the consumers' behaviour, no clear idea of the behaviour change required and no jump off point for how to bring the brand benefit to life. More than that, most of them are wishful (and dare I say it, sometimes rather arrogant) thinking.

Many briefs use the From - To, or the Get - To - By, format, which are both useful. In essence, your consumers are at Point A, and you would like them to be at Point B. What are the messages that would persuade them to change their behaviour, at what stages in their decision making journey should you interact with them, and how?

But a strong area of insight is identifying what might get in the way of them simply doing what you want them to do, following your instructions like sheep? What is the brand hurdle, or tension between Point A and B? Even if you managed to get them to change their minds about their beliefs about the brand, might there be an obstacle that stills stands in their way?

By adding that into your brief, you will acknowledge that you consumers too have choices. And maybe you're not one of them. Yet.

Other top tips:

1. Really truly drill down into the objective - what is the problem or opportunity that communications can solve or achieve? Why are you doing this? To acquire new customers, or retain existing ones? What are the measures of success and how best will you achieve them? My favourite example of this is Sainsbury's "Try something New Today" campaign - it's an old example but an exceptional one in terms of setting clear objectives. All they needed to achieve a massive growth target (+£2.5 billion over three years) was to ask their existing customers to spend an additional £1.14 each time they shopped. Watch the case study of this campaign here . There's a lot that works in it, but take a moment to marvel at the simplicity and clarity of the objective, and how it clearly directed the creative and media strategy.

2. Be clear who your core audience is. Famous for his Volkswagen ads, copywriter Bob Levenson said, "I always started by writing Dear Charlie, like writing to a friend. And then I would say what I had to say, and at the end I would cross out Dear Charlie, and I was all right." If your creative team can't imagine who they are speaking to, what will they say and how will they say it?

Dear Charlie...
3. Insight, shminsight. It's such a bandied about term, but it's worth digging for.

Simply put, you want to understand the sometimes hidden motivations that drive behaviour. Actually no, you NEED to.  Consumer insights are little secrets hidden beneath the surface, that explain the underlying behaviours, motivations, pain points and emotions of your consumers. Although they are sometimes quite generic, they are always truthful and a really powerful one will immediately generate an emotional reaction - a laugh, a smile, a tear, a sense of - oh yes, that's me.

The real power of the insight is when the insight (or human truth) OVERLAPS with the brand benefit. That's the sweet spot.

I am a fan of the Venn diagram when trying to extract insights - use two or three circles and see where you overlap. When you hit the intersection between the brand and the human motivation in the category, you hit truly powerful territory.

One of my favourite examples is the Always Like a Girl campaign. Or the Sanlam One Rand Man campaign. Making up stuff for insights (ie not basing them on actual observations & data), and leaving them in space that is too generic, is where things get fluffy.

How does that motivation that you've identified link unlock brand growth?

Think Omo's "Dirt is Good". "The campaign had resonance because it addressed the inherent tension between moms’ controlling instincts (visá-vis dirt) and their desire for their children to be free to grow and develop through play. Moms found the message relevant, meaningful, and evocative. Before this campaign, it could be argued that most moms (and most makers of laundry detergent) thought of dirt as the enemy, but this big idea made us think about dirt in a very different way. It made us think of dirt as an ally in our children’s development." The idea was not only disruptive, it was based on a universal insight, so was able to resonate (with a few regional tweaks) across the world.

The Book Of Dirt, a recent execution off the long running idea, 'Dirt is Good'.

3. The Proposition. The Single Minded Proposition. The Value Proposition. The Single Minded Thought. Call it what you like. Howard Ibach who writes books on Briefs and Propositions, says that a well written proposition is "the best kept secret for transforming our brand'. 
He describes it well here: 
"in an academic world, a positioning articulates the competitive added value of a brand. It is defined vs competition, whereas a value proposition defines what the brand brings to its audience and is consumer-driven. Some people define value proposition with the claim e.g Airbnb's proposition is “feel at home anywhere in the world”, whereas it's positioning could be the anti-hotel brand". 
The proposition is the springboard for the creative - it sums up what the benefit is, in a neat sexy sentence. Remember the job of the brief is to inspire great creativity - this is what does it. (Or doesn't.) 

An example: 'Snickers makes you, you again'. (Watch Mark Ritson's Effies Case study here . Venn diagrams are useful here too. When you read the proposition for AirBnB or Snickers, can you imagine a campaign? If you can - it's got "fertility": ideas will come easily, and will spread across multiple channels. That's what you're aiming for.

My Venn diagram, based on info from the Effies case (link above).

Of course there are other things to put in your brief - tonality, reasons to believe, deadlines, budget and so on. I like to try not to be prescriptive in terms of media channels when briefing for a campaign, because the idea can also inform the media choices. Usually though, you have an idea of which channels to go into, and these can also be helpful to the creative teams. What can be useful is to understand the process a consumer goes through in terms of decision making, and where you should be talking to them at what stage of their decision process. Whilst you might have the where to talk to consumers sorted, please always allow the creative team the freedom to come up with the how. I love to think about how boring a Train Safety campaign could have been if the client had been prescriptive - instead of this one.

So - good luck! Have fun with it. Remember the target audience for your brief is the Creative Team. Be inspiring. Bring it to life with a face to face briefing that brings the proposition to life. 
Please, please don't email the brief without discussion. Sometimes, when confronted with your hard toiled brief, a creative team or strategist will ask some questions that you hadn't thought of. Use this opportunity to improve your brief. 

[Note to marketers: very often an agency will write a BUILD on your brief, called the Creative Brief. Why? It interprets your 'marketingese' into inspiring nuggets that can help the creative teams deliver great ideas. It's a really good idea for you to sign off this brief - most agencies will build on your first proposition - they will make it sexier and more juicy - that's what they do. BUT if you don't sign it off, there may be a subtle direction change that you did not envisage, and it's definitely something to agree on before the creative development process begins. Also, think how excited you will be to see the outcome?] 

[Note to agencies: if your client signs off the proposition on the creative brief, you will an almost 100% chance of your work being bought first time round. It's a win-win!]

The brief is the first step in the creative process - get it wrong, or make it boring, and it sets up a world of pain, confusion and ineffective work. In fact, the Better Brief research found that 33% of every markeing budget is wasted on poor briefs and misdirected work! And no-one needs more of that. (Get the full report here.)

Now, go be great.

And of course - if you need help, call me.

Head over to our Brief Therapy page to see how we can help you (we run Creative Fitness training workshops on brief writing and we can mentor or help you write the briefs in other ways, like getting to grips with insights or finetuning your proposition). Email me at with your questions or what you think would help your team.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Playing Together to Win - how to build an agency ecosystem (across brands, categories, disciplines & regions) that delivers great work

Global and local CMO’s have starting asking the same question: now that we know we need great creative because it works better (thank you Binet and Field and Mark Ritson), how do we get it? 

It’s a question every CEO should be asking, and every CMO answering.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the strategic framework of defining Where to Play, How to Win, and what Capabilities are needed to execute the strategy. 

Perhaps the other really important question that marketers need to ask is “how do we play together to win”? 

In other words, how do you optimize the client-agency relationship so the combined partnership ‘plays’ in a way that generates the best quality commercial creativity?

For a number of recent local and global projects, Adtherapy has been briefed to look at optimizing client-agency relationships, applying this to the client’s full eco-system of different agency types, scopes and services, specifically in order to improve the quality of creative output. 

What makes this sort of project interesting, is that it's not really clear where the ownership of various aspects of the ecosystem and the deliverables sit in an organisation. A 2019 report by the World Federation of Advertisers outlined the challenges faced by their members. Does this sit with Procurement, Marketing, Marketing Ops (if there is such a thing), the Agency?

When a marketer has a complex ecosystem of agencies with different scopes of work and different deliverables, across different categories and brands and in some cases, different markets, it’s important to clearly map the ecosystem and how it fits together to make the whole. Not only does this help the flow of work, but it helps in three other areas: it helps in collaboration – if the other agencies across the eco-system know who’s responsible for other things, it’s easier to work together. It helps define the guardrails and where accountability lies. It also helps in pitch governance: when and why does anyone on the brand side need to brief or pitch outside of the ecosystem? (Clue: mostly they don’t).

Once that’s done, a Ways of Working can be mapped, so everyone clearly understands who does what and when, and who needs to be included when and where. RACSI’s can be defined to ensure that the process is clear and that the correct decision makers are in the room at the right time. One the things that becomes apparent is the need to clarify terminology across the organization and across agencies (so many terms we bandy about kind of mean the same thing, but crystal sharp clarity is needed for consistency). Most importantly, is the definition and explanation of the “why” and the “what good output of that phase” looks like. What the process needs is for the marketing practitioners in the business to buy-in to the effectiveness of better work, and clear communication of the ambition, from top leadership, to ensure that the business achieves better creative outputs. 

In order to achieve this goal, the key inflection points in the Ways of Working process must be identified: i.e. those activities that have a material impact on the next steps and the quality of the output. At each of those inflection points, best practice examples and templates, accepted guidelines, and most importantly the “how-to’s”, with links to training courses, templates and tools, have to be clarified and communicated.

Briefs are a critical inflection point. Creative evaluation skills and understanding what the business is aiming for in terms of creative quality, are equally critical. In a large organization, with many people making these decisions on a daily basis, what criteria are they using to approve or reject creative work? If there’s a research company in the mix, what are their criteria? Is there common ground? Process issues, like uploading files in the right format for re-application, can be a small thing, but can have enormous knock on effects in inefficiency, cost control and quality.

After the need for clarity, comes the need for consistency. What’s standing in the way of the consistent application of any agreed Ways of Working? Very often, it’s simply a lack of communication. So many organizations have poor systems for the dissemination of training and institutional knowledge, with years of clever processes and templates and methodologies sitting in people’s hard drives, at best inaccessible when needed and at worst, completely forgotten when people leave the organization. (I’ve been briefed to develop a X Marketing Way training academy from scratch, when I had been involved in the building of the same company’s marketing academy a few years before. The new team didn’t even know where to look for the old academy material. What a waste.)

Another reason for inconsistency is a degree of inexperience that leads to non-compliance. Inexperience can be absolute (coming into marketing from another function), but it can also be corporate or category inexperience, so relying on tools and ways of doing things from previous companies or categories. This results in a methodology mish mash – in one company I worked with, every brand and marketing manager had a different briefing template, mostly given to them at some stage by an agency. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of them – it just leads to differing inputs that aren’t necessarily the best at inspiring, and getting, great creative work.

The big hairy challenge is how to build compliance in a positive way. Rather than make this a tick box approach, realize that compliance is aligned to culture, so try to build an understanding through the organization of why creative work is the goal, why it’s important (again, in case you still don’t believe me, because it’s more effective). The aim is to get people to lean into compliance rather than be forced into it. Creativity needs air to breathe. In research conducted by Peter Field, he showed a strong correlation between companies awarded Cannes Advertiser of the Year, and significantly higher than average share price growth in the same period. Why? Because the companies were in a period of innovation across their whole business. (Source: The Case for Creativity, James Hurman).

Having said that, there are risks, and financial implications for non-compliance, so for certain key steps, you need a governance and evaluation/measurement system that makes it clear what the metrics are and where the boundaries lie.

Once all of this has been mapped out, the system needs to be constantly communicated and updated. My preference is for a shared portal of some sort that aims to both be a source of tools and methodology as well as a source for inspiration. It should be living, breathing, and frequently accessed, refreshed through the sharing and rewarding of great work, great briefs and great case studies from within the company and without. This virtual Center of Excellence becomes a place where the agency and client can easily access best practice guidelines but also add to and build expertise across functional lines.

Ultimately, the success of the process, of how the client and agency play together, will be in the success of better work in the market. The win will be if the organization follows the process, if the process unlocks greater collaboration and better quality creativity, and if that delivers greater results in the marketplace.

It’s hard to see how it cannot win. Mediocrity thrives in chaos. What an exercise like this aims to do is to take inconsistency, lack of clarity, lack of accountability and lack of ambition out of the picture and build in a clear picture of what the process is aiming for. 

In times like we're in and entering into, the relationship and the Ways of Working need to be slick, empowering and delivering greater value in terms of creativity than ever before. 


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Just How Risky is Creative Advertising?

The short answer?

Much less risky than boring advertising.

I wrote this some time back and I thought I would republish. Worth bearing all this in mind as we go into execution season.

Do you know how marketing messages we are exposed to every day?

Figures vary but it's safely between several hundred and several thousand. A figure of between 3000 and 5000 marketing communication messages every 24 hours is often mentioned. Read the links in this article here to give you an idea of the studies done in this area, some which clarify that number, some that dispute it.

Of course when you talk about messaging in the thousands, you are including every single message - from your Facebook stream, the branding on the motorbike in front of you, messaging in shopfront windows and on shopping bags, packaging and so on. In reality, we obviously don't "see" all those messages, as Shari Worthington notes in this piece. She notes:
"Our senses are bombarded with over 11 million bits of data every SECOND. The average person’s working memory can handle 40-50 bits, max. That means we ignore 10,999,950 bits of data every second we are awake."- See more at:

Whatever the amount is, studies conducted by Harvard University's Graduate School of Business way back in 1964 concluded that of all the messages we see, only 76 penetrate our subconscious. (Bauer, Greyser

Further studies emphasised that from the 76 messages of which a person might be aware, only 12 made any kind of impression (Adams, Common Sense in Advertising, 1965). 

And of those, how many are remembered the next day? Figures range between none, 1, 1.7 and mostly, at most 2. (*All references to this research taken from notes in the excellent book: Case for Creativity by James Hurman).

Bear in mind, these studies quaintly only measured 4 - 5 media types: magazines (remember them?), newspapers, radio and TV. Only in later studies did they include outdoor.

Fast forward to the proliferation of media around us, and taking into account Shari's estimate that we only really see between 300 and 700 marketing messages per day, let's settle on a number of around 500? Assuming the number of 76  of which people are even vaguely aware still stands (and why wouldn't it?) that's 15%. If only 12 of those 76 make any impact, we get 15% and a miserly 2% of the total. And recall the next day? Of those that made an impact we are likely to remember 16% the next day, when we're shopping for something. And if we take the percentage of those recalled the next day of the total number of messages of which we were aware? 0.4%. 

Point being - if a tree falls in a forest if probably makes a sound but no-one cares. Ditto with 98% of advertising.

Some valuable insights on whether a tree makes a sound: image from

So. Good. That's all clear. We want to be making ads, creating marketing messages, that work. Awareness on its own really isn't much use. What we're trying to do with commercial messaging is create a behaviour change - change how someone thinks or feels or what they do. So vague awareness is only marginally useful. We need to make an impact.

But how? 

Buy more media? Prof Byron Sharp reckons that by extending your penetration, you will grow your share as growth depends largely on mental and physical availability. Not everyone can afford that.

Be more creative? Yip.

Isn't that risky?

Turns out it's the opposite of risky. Mediocre is the risky option.

My elaborate maths above should have already told you that. By being boring you simply won't make any impact and your marketing investment has become that poor tree in the forest that no-one hears.

And how about this?

Here are some astounding some facts, summarised in The Case for Creativity, reported in a 2010 study, commissioned by the IPA (Institute of Practitioners of Advertising) and Thinkbox in the UK. The research was conducted by acclaimed researcher Peter Field and entitled "The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness".
  • Only about 0,001% of advertising wins a creative award, yet among highly effective campaigns (in this case winners of an IPA Effectiveness award), 18% are awarded. This means that there's on "over-index of 128,500" of how likely creative campaigns are to be effective.
  • In an analysis of "Excess Share of Voice" (ESOV, which correlates a brand's share of advertising with its share of market, Peter Field found that the "Return On Investment (ROI) for a highly creative campaign is on average 11 times higher". ie... "you need to spend 11 times more on media for an uncreative production" to achieve the same result.
  • And, here's the kicker: Creatively awarded campaigns are more certain to achieve a higher rate of effectiveness by a "degree of confidence of 99.9%" as opposed to to non-awarded campaigns'  degree of confidence of 87%.
"What this implies is that less creative campaigns are not only less efficient, but also less predictable than creatively-awarded ones - something of a departure from the perceived notion that a more creative approach is a less certain one"
James Hurman

There are plenty more fascinating analyses in the book or on the Slideshare presentation (link above) if you need more convincing. James Hurman actually concludes that he looked for but couldn't find any research to prove that there isn't a link between creative advertising and effectiveness. He kindly updated his slides and added in even more justification. See here. Honestly, if you're still not getting great work, or aiming for it, you're doing it wrong.

Heavens alive, even Millward-Brown reported in 2011 in an article titled Creative Effectiveness that they observed an overlap  between creative advertising and effective advertising. They concluded, having re-tested Peter Field's research, and added to it with some of their own, that persuasiveness was over-rated and emotional connection is far more effective.

"A study of IPA effectiveness, Effie and Cannes Lions awards winners reveals that ads don't need to persuade to be effective but they do usually engage emotionally."
Dominic Twose, Polly Wyn Jones, Millward-Brown, 2011

Two interesting cases in point

That Volvo ad with Jean Claude van Damme: "Epic Split".

The industry was divided about it. They're talking only to truck buyers, so why should 90million YouTube views matter? Here's what Volvo said.

In a survey they commissioned amongst 2,200 commercial truck drivers, nearly half who had seen the campaign said they are more likely to choose Volvo the next time they buy a truck. A third of all respondents had alraedy contacted a dealer or visited the website for more information. There was also a very positive improvement in the perception of Volvo Trucks as "an innovative and modern truck brand".

Oh, and they achieved their annual sales target in the first Quarter after "Epic Split" ran.

Not bad, huh?

Remember Dove's Real Beauty Sketches ad, with the forensic artist?

"Since they launched the campaign, Dove has seen an increase of almost 2 billion in sales, and has received a multitude of awards, including 19 at the Cannes Lion Film Festival alone.
Princeton Partners

It won lots of awards, got  65 million views on YouTube. Did it work?
"A jury of six men and two women awarded “Sketches” the Grand Effie, based on it driving $24 million in incremental sales and garnering $52 million worth of media exposure, all on a budget of just $925,000."
 June 5 2014, Adweek 

Great - that's sorted then.

Let's make creative ads!

Only problem is it's quite hard. Remember that only 0.01% of all ads actually wins an award! 

David Droga, Founder and Creative Chairman of Droga5,  explained why it's so hard going great work, in this interview when his agency was named AdAge's Creative Innovator of 2015: 
"Breaking through the clutter is just part of the Droga5 M.O. Solid strategy supports all of the agency's work -- something Mr. Droga said that for him, has not necessarily always been the case. "There's no question in my younger days, I'd think you could just blink and creative would solve everything. But now it has to be creative on strategy. What's hard is trying to be responsibly creative, versus just creative."

Probably my favourite work of theirs is this one for a cereal, Mondelez HoneyMaid. Watch it and think of the cereal ads you've seen lately.


It's tough. And sometimes we try too hard. Sometimes we're too picky about getting every word in the body copy right, when the ad isn't any good.

"Most advertising isn’t good. Let alone great. Consciously or unconsciously it  assumes its role to bludgeon the consumer into submission.  It tries to argue the consumer into purchase.   It tries – with varying degrees of heavy-handedness – to reason the hapless audience into some kind of Damascene-like conversion. It has no interest in speaking to what interests the consumer. Its starting point is itself, rather than the passions, concerns and inclinations of its audience. It is, I suspect, born a prisoner of marketing superstition."

It requires the right skills, on the marketer side and an on the agency side. It requires the right relationship between agency and client. It requires courage. Fundamentally it requires an unwavering belief that creative advertising is effective.

It's worth it.

The latest work from Peter Field and Les Binet for the IPA is even more justification, although they're worried that our obsession with short term activity is endangering effectiveness in general.

A final word from Creative Circle's first Marketing Champion of Creativity, Geoff Whyte, now CEO of Nandos Southern Africa:

Off you go then. No-ones waiting for you, unless you give them something worth waiting for.

Adtherapy works with Marketers and Agencies to help them work together better so that they create better work. Contact Gillian Rightford on, +(27)(0)832659099 or visit our website if you want to know more.