The Creative Conundrum

“Fear of failure limits creativity.”

You think so? That was one of the open-ended comments from an ad agency person in CRN’s recent survey on The State of Creativity in Advertising. Some might argue that fear actually inspires creativity, with apologies to those who prefer contemplative enlightenment over water torture.

As it turns out, only 6 percent of the corporate marketers and agency people who took the poll listed fear of failure as the primary obstacle to developing quality ad creative. The top answer, at 37 percent, was properly understanding what resonates with today’s consumer.

If creative was only that simple.  Years ago I brought together a group of 15 hotel brand marketers and 15 of their target prospects (corporate meeting planners). The idea was to review the brands’ messaging from two separate perspectives. The marketers were smiling and guffawing over clever, humorous ad presentations. The meeting planners sat stone-faced. They were more interested, as it turns out, in straight information about brand attributes and benefits. Go figure. Valuable lesson. The brands weren’t resonating with their prospects.

The marketers and agencies in the CRN study validated that approach in a more general sense: 65 percent said they felt informative creative is the most effective, followed by “touching” at 15 percent and “humorous” at 10 percent. Others added words like “inspirational” and “trustworthy.” Brands were more pronounced in their desire for informative content (75 percent) and less interested in humor (5 percent).

The CRN study was developed not so much to offer projectable data over a wide survey base, but rather to provide a snapshot of opinion and commentary, some food for thought, and to stimulate discussion.

The good news is that overall, 76 percent of the respondents rated the overall quality of creative work in today’s advertising as either excellent or good. The curious news is that only 63 percent attached the excellent or good tag to their own work. Just honest assessment or insecurity issues?

When it came to the quality of creative in radio marketing, respondents weren’t quite as enthusiastic in their praise, with 44 percent calling it about the same as creative for other media but 45 percent calling it worse. It brings up the age-old concern that if creative folks take the same words from, say, a TV ad and try to retrofit them into a radio campaign, the language won’t be right and the radio listeners will not necessarily engage. Radio creative has to be developed as radio creative and nothing else. End of story.

We invite you to check out all the findings and insights from the survey’s corresponding White Paper. Let us know what you think and whether you have any recommendations of your own to help us as an industry take creative messaging to the next level.

Jim Alkon 
Marketing Director