At Cannes this year, we saw a lot of agencies scale back their involvement to try and cut costs. And on the heels of Publicis’ announcement that they are pulling out of major award shows next year including Cannes, SXSW and CES, other large agencies are considering following suit. This says a lot about the turbulent time in our industry–not only are agencies cutting costs wherever possible, but in order to do so they are also de-prioritizing awards shows. The direct connection between agencies winning awards and obtaining great clients is fading, and more agencies are beginning to look at creativity as a business tool rather than part of an awards submission.
Creativity for creativity's sake is like the classic car driving down the street. Sure, it’s still on the road sometimes, but it’s very rare and often reserved for owners themselves who are classic or icons.
Every year the industry makes a commitment to become more and more creative. But is this version of creativity focused on only making the ad look aesthetically pleasing, or is it really impacting the bottom line for the client in the long run?
Every client wants a return on investment—that’s why they’re advertising in the first place. And most want the best, most creative work their agency can produce. In the hands of a skilled partner, these things are not at odds with each other, but rather in perfect alignment.
The following are five ways to deliver the best "Return on Creativity" money and minds can offer.
Be an arrow, not a brick. Creativity cannot start without sharp strategy. In other words, if you throw a brick at the target (i.e. work from a broad, undefined strategy) you may hit the target but you’ll likely break a lot of windows, too. Take the time, the rigor and the discipline to create the sharpest strategy possible, and your arrow will sail through the air to hit the brand bullseye.
Finding insights in the data is an art. Data is often seen as the path to ROI, but without a creative mind to understand the cultural landscape and pull insights from the numbers, brands can’t move on any of it. Using this rich data, agencies have insights to pull from to justify creative campaigns to clients, proving that they will not only win awards, but they will also improve the bottom line.
Define attainable goals with your client. Pushing back is often viewed as risky when dealing with a client, but the truth is there is nothing better than "healthy tension," and at the end of the day, defining attainable goals with them is best for your relationship. As The Harvard Business Review reported, "Managing business tension is like squeezing a balloon in one place only to find that it expands elsewhere." By pushing a client to clarify or sharpen their campaign objectives, you can weed out campaign ideas that have no direction. Plus, how can you prove your idea is the right one if you haven’t agreed on what it will be measured against? Often, agencies can be so excited by a new campaign or their client that they jump right in on an idea, but you can’t forget to take the critical step of setting expectations.
Today’s marketplace demands creativity. It’s impossible for a brand to break through the noise today without creative strategies to help them stand out. The current states of technology and media have created huge challenges for brands, but they have also created a playground for creativity. Right now, it’s cheaper and faster than ever to execute on almost any idea–but only if you’re willing to do the work to dream it up and make it a reality.
Brands aren’t relevant if they aren’t influencing culture. Awareness is no longer enough to keep a brand afloat. Brands need to be actively creating and influencing the culture we live in, or consumers will move on to a brand that is. With so much in the marketplace, consumers are looking to engage with brands that truly offer them something unique and useful, and creativity is a huge tool in setting brands apart from their competitors and proving their utility.
Creativity will always be an important part of advertising, and the more we can use creativity to solve real business problems and help our clients’ bottom lines, the better off we will all be.
Rachel Spiegelman is CEO at Pitch, a creative agency that’s part of the Project Worldwide network.