Courage: the core of creative advertising

In the words of Henri Matisse “Creativity takes courage.” Creativity; impossible to define, impossible to miss. Courage and creativity manifest in man’s magnificence; in endeavours, in architecture and in art. Creativity got man to the moon, built the Opera House and left us the legacy of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. It is energy madetangible. 

In the arena of advertising, creativity is the holy grail. Revered and worshiped, we prostrate ourselves before the altar of our gods; Creativity and her twin sister, Clever. We celebrate creativity with prestigious awards such as the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, for the best in branded communication. This is advertising’s answer to the far more famous film festival of the same city and winning is the mad man’s equivalent of receiving an academy award.

Ad agencies dream of clients who have the courage to embrace creativity. So often clients tell us “think outside the box, be creative” they say…but once presented with the concept they falter. Fear of failure takes hold, constraining creativity in a straitjacket of conservatism, leaching the life from the concept, diluting it to a pale pathetic permutation of the original.  Thus, concerns, of ineffectiveness, of management reaction, of public backlash, ensures the “Free set of steak knives” school of “badvertising” continues.

Of course, there are times when the creative misses the mark completely. We have all seen commercials, that, in seeking to be creative, confound and confuse, leaving us wondering what the product was. We would give examples but we cannot recall the products in order to site them.

The best ads, the shiny bright sparkly ones that capture our attention with their creativity whilst generating sales we would sell our souls for, are those where creativity is employed in the service of effectiveness.  These are the dynamic darts of marketing that hit the target market dead centre with a sound satisfying “thunk”.  So how can this be achieved?

The first step is to arm your agency with that sharpest scalpel of effectiveness, data. Know your core customer better than your partner, understand who they are, what they love and loath, where they sleep, what they eat, read and watch. Secondly provide the agency with your objectives. What is the purpose of the campaign, brand awareness, sales, increased market share? Finally take a big deep breath, have the courage to take the creative road and stay the course; we promise you the risk is worth the reward.
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