Is creativity still important?

The announcement that Publicis would withdraw from The Cannes Lions Festival in 2018 led to a heated industry debate: Is creativity still important in today’s marketing world?

OMD is renowned for valuing the importance of creativity and awards, having been named Media Agency Network of the Year at Cannes as well as winning the Gunn Report’s Most Creative Network every year for the past 11 years. This debate went straight to the heart.

Somehow, despite having been proven by research, for many people in our industry, creativity and awards are still thought of as a distraction from the business of selling.

We thought it apt to remind ourselves why it is that we believe creativity and creative awards like Cannes are important for our industry.

We are not in this for the shiny Lions, or the pale pink rose (although we do appreciate both). Our passion for creativity is because it is proven to drive results for our clients. Not fluffy, meaningless, campaign outputs. Business results. Effectiveness is our objective and always has been, creativity is our strategy for delivering clients’ growth.

Creative campaigns are better at driving business results

“The extent to which creative campaigns turned out to be more effective than non-creatively awarded campaigns still remains astonishing to me – I still find it difficult to quite believe the extent of that difference.” Peter Field

You may have heard the name Peter Field. He’s a marketing consultant who does a lot of work with the IPA and is a pioneering researcher in our field: he set up the IPA Effectiveness Awards Databank, he co-authored The Long and the Short of It and, importantly, he authored The Link between Creativity and Effectiveness, which brings together the IPA databank and the Gunn Report database of creativity to provide the most robust assessment yet of the value of creativity.

In fusing the biggest databank on effectiveness and the biggest database on creativity, Field was able to do something no one had done conclusively before with such rigour: prove that creatively awarded campaigns are better at driving business results.

In fact, they aren’t just better. They are 11 times better. Yes, that’s right, 11. I’ll give that a moment to sink in.

How is it that as an industry, we are often still struggling to convince people to back something that delivers on average 11 times better business results?

As well as this, creatively awarded campaigns outperform on almost any other metric you care to name: awareness, brand image, brand trust, penetration and market share, more likely to be shared and talked about, increase loyalty, and lead to significant profit gains.

Strong correlation evident between creatively awarded business and share price

More recent research only cements the findings: The Case For Creativity shows a strong correlation between the Cannes Advertiser of the Year award and outstanding business results:

Author James Hurman tracks the Cannes Advertiser of The Year from the year 2000 when Sony won the award and had the year prior, when the campaigns ran, increased their share price by 242 per cent, ten times the S&P 5000, all the way through to Heineken, who won the award in 2015 (now called Cannes Lions Creative Marketer of The Year), having grown their share price by 22 per cent the year prior, double the S&P.

The brands who won the award each year in between were all the same: Anheuser Busch, Swatch, Nike, BMW, PlayStation, Adidas, Honda, P&G, Unilever, Ikea, Mars, Coca Cola, and McDonald’s – they all shared the same thing: strong business results mirroring the timing of strong creative communications performance. The results for the two brands who have won the award since his book was last updated, Samsung and Burger King, show the same pattern.

We cannot claim that creative advertising is solely responsible for this increased business performance, but a consistent trend over 17 years rules out any chance of this being a coincidence.

Creativity has a halo effect on broader business perceptions

Furthermore, as Hurman points out, the creative work not only improves the performance of the campaign but has a wider halo effect on the business:

“…more creative advertising made people conclude that the company was smarter (69 per cent higher), that the company had developed more valuable products (50 per cent higher), that the company was worthy of their interest (88 per cent higher), and that the company’s products were worth purchasing (73 per cent higher).”

OMD UK won’t be moving away from creativity because creativity is not a distraction from selling. It is the answer to delivering brand and business growth.

The real risk for our industry is not creativity, the risk lies in playing it safe.

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Claire Dean

Claire is Deputy Head of Strategy at OMD UK. She has a great passion for connecting brands with people and limitless curiosity to dig for rich consumer and cultural insights.

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