Creativity wins out every time, say big data experts

Paul McIntyre
By Paul McIntyre | 1 July 2013

It's hardly the news many will want to hear, but a groundbreaking study by the Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising has delivered a series of findings which challenge the industry’s herd-like stampede to social media, audience targeting and short-term ‘response’ advertising campaigns.

The underlying tenet of ADMA’s report, Does Campaign Creativity Influence Business Success?, proves overwhelmingly that more creative brand campaigns which are coupled with activation or response components are far more effective in producing longer-term business profits and sales.

The Australian study – conducted by respected UK strategic planner Peter Field – comes down hard on the side of better creativity in communications campaigns for broader business success, and says the industry faces a mammoth task in turning the momentum away from the accepted norm now of creating marketing activity that delivers fast sales results.

The in-depth analysis of hundreds of ADMA award entries from 2012 throws up striking parallels to a similar research project conducted by Field for the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in the UK. Field told AdNews the study has received strong support from marketers, although some sectors in the marketing industry were fighting the findings.

The IPA’s first report around the effectiveness of creativity was released three years ago, although it only recently published its analysis on the timing of effect between response-driven campaigns and creative-leaning brand and response efforts.

In a nutshell, the ADMA and IPA studies both demonstrate that creative brand campaigns take longer to deliver business success – after six months – compared to short-term response campaigns. But ultimately, creativity wins out with a much stronger impact on the bottom line and for creating less consumer sensitivity to critical areas like pricing.

“There are huge parallels between the ADMA and UK findings, though ADMA is able to look much more closely at short time scales,” Field said. The IPA’s latest report, The Long and Short of It, was released earlier this year. “It is already getting a very supportive response from marketers in the UK but there is some pushback from the digital community.

“The creativity findings were first published in the UK three years ago and have had quite a big impact on thinking. They coincided with the start of the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions so quite a few major blue-chip marketing organisations have come around to the efficiency and effectiveness benefits of creativity and turn up in force at Cannes. Some of them would not have been seen dead there 10 years ago.”

Field has one caveat, however: developing truly creative work is hard. “When brands get it right the rewards are huge. But if you misfire you may have little to show for it. That’s probably an important factor behind why so many brands still pursue the non-creative ‘reason why’ approach to advertising. [Response-driven campaigns] will never achieve stellar effectiveness and may struggle to achieve viable ROI but it is still likely to generate some modest results, however uncrafted the execution.”

Some of the key and controversial findings from ADMA’s study include:

• Short-term response and web and social media traffic do not reliably indicate longer-term business success.
• Campaigns that make use of diverse broad reach channels are more effective. This is further evidence of the ‘false logic’ of tight targeting.
• Traditional direct mail strongly outperforms email marketing. Email may be cheaper but it is associated with reduced campaign effectiveness.
• Optimising campaigns for short-term sales results will not lead to optimum long-term sales or profitability. It is important, too, that success is measured over both short and long term and that short-term results are not used to guide strategy.
• If you measure success over the short term – less than six months – you will not see the benefits of creativity. It does not drive effectiveness over the short term.
• Creativity has a particularly strong beneficial effect on price sensitivity, allowing brands to harden pricing. This has a strong boosting effect on profitability.

Of particular importance in the Australian study is that it was commissioned by ADMA, traditionally an industry body focused heavily on generating hard results from campaigns in digital, traditional media and direct communications.

ADMA’s strategic overhaul last year to leading the charge in data-driven marketing makes its findings around creativity all the more robust. ADMA chief executive Jodie Sangster has been vocal this year arguing the case for marketing to not ignore the central role strong creativity plays in data-driven campaigns.

“Creativity plays a major role and at the moment it is being sidelined,” Sangster told AdNews in the Big Data Report (5 April). “So much is going on with data that it is being overlooked. Creativity is the link between the data and the customer.”

The full report is available from ADMA along with last week’s webcast and Q&A discussion on the report’s findings with Peter Field, Jodie Sangster and AdNews editor-in-chief Paul McIntyre.

This article first appeared in the 28 June 2013 edition of AdNews, in print and on iPad. Click here to subscribe for more news, features and opinion.

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