Is marketers' focus on measure­ment and ROI at the expense of creative thinking?

The Marketing Society Forum: The relationship between creativity and ROI is becoming ever-more closely linked as the media landscape evolves.

Is marketers' focus on measure­ment and ROI at the expense of creative thinking?

Andrew McGuinness, founding partner, Beattie McGuinness Bungay

NO

I’ve always had an issue with people looking for a "better work/life balance"; if work is in opposition to "life", you are in the wrong job. So it is with effectiveness and creativity: the only reason to utilise creativity for brands is to aid effectiveness and increase the ROI. Recent IPA analysis has again demonstrated the symbiotic relationship between the two, identifying a high correlation between IPA Effectiveness winners and creative award winners.

We can therefore say with some confidence that truly creative communication is more likely to be effective than "run-of the-mill" work. Yet a night of watching ads last night confirmed to me that too much of our collective marketing communication output remains "run-of-the-mill". Isn’t now the time to embrace the business-building potential of breakthrough creativity?

Martine Ainsworth-Wells, founder and director, Ainsworth & Wells

NO

"Being creative" and "delivering ROI" should not be considered separate and exclusive disciplines. In fact, the tougher the target or problem, the more creative we can and should be. History has shown that creativity is always at a high when the stakes are high. We only have to look at the extraordinary levels of inventiveness that occur during wars to prove this point.

Any commercial business or public-sector organisation should be spending its marketing budget on delivering results, whether these are sales, financial or engagement targets.

Anyone who claims that creativity is killed by the existence of measurement tools, ROI targets and the need to deliver other tangible outputs is frankly out of touch. We all need to remember what business we are in, and apply a bit of creativity to solving our problems.

Mike Dodds, chief executive, Proximity London

NO

As someone who has worked in "direct response" for 20 years, I see nothing incongruous about the relationship between measurement and creativity.

If anything, I see measurement and a focus on ROI as a catalyst for better ideas. I don’t think I’m alone in this. We are all familiar with Peter Field’s IPA study proving that the most vigorously measured and effective campaigns (IPA winners) were also the most awarded.

There is an issue, however, in that measurement techniques developed for a broadcast "push" era are still being used to measure campaigns developed to build relationships between brands and consumers in an "always-on, multichannel, content-rich" world. For me it is not a question of less, but of more appropriate measurement. Get that right and it will endorse and drive creativity throughout the next decade.

Tamara Strauss, director global cross brand solutions, InterContinental Hotels Group

MAYBE

In today’s prudent and cost-effective business environment, ROI is closely scrutinised. The threat of performance failure adds pressure and dampens creative risk-taking for any marketer.

However, failing to think and act creatively is, in itself, as much a risk in our evolving media landscape, booming across social, mobile and local. Whether strategically, creatively or from a distribution point of view, a proportion of budget should always be allocated to the ongoing trialling of creative ideas.

Measurement does not have to be in opposition to creative thinking. Businesses must let marketers table unusual proposals, and marketers must appreciate the need to demonstrate measurable outcomes.

Progressive teams are finding the right balance, but I fear many are struggling with weighing the unknown against delivering results, risking creativity in favour of measurement.

Martin Brooks, chief executive, Work Club

YES

To quote record producer Rick Rubin: "And slowly, over time, the creative process gets eroded, and it becomes something that’s just a window in the schedule instead of the most important thing that drives the whole train." He should know – his client list includes Johnny Cash, Beastie Boys and Jay Z.

Yes, we need to use logic to amplify the magic, but unless you have something gold to measure, you are optimising averageness. One of our global FMCG clients has decided that its 20-year global process/research crusade, er, hasn’t, er, worked. Wonderfully, its CI department was the one that ’fessed up.

There are too many people in our industry who, deep down, don’t believe in the transformational power of ideas and lack the conviction to make creative leaps. They should get out and make way for people with imagination and energy. Or computers, which will soon do their rational jobs better.

Saj Arshad, marketing and strategy director, Bupa UK

NO

Any marketer ignoring creativity is likely to have a nasty shock when it comes to measuring results and checking the ROI of their activity.

Time and again, the link between creativity and ROI has been proven, most notably by the link between IPA Effectiveness-winning campaigns and creative awards.

The trick is to measure the right things at the right time, allowing enough room in the early stages of a creative process to let original ideas develop and for the lateral leaps that can transform businesses, brands and reputations. Yet creativity is only a means to an end, and we need to be sure whether or not that end has been met.

It’s impossible to do that without a focus on measurement, but knowing where you are starting from and where you have ended up should in no way conflict with the creative thinking employed along the way.