New Study Sheds Light on Quality of Creative in Advertising

Marketers, agencies give high marks, but are more critical of their own work

NEW HAVEN, CT -- Corporate marketers and ad agency personnel feel pretty good about the quality of creativity overall in today’s advertising – just not quite as good, apparently, about their own work.

In a just-completed poll by CRN International, 76 percent of respondents rated the overall quality of creative work in today’s advertising either excellent or good. Asked how they would rate the quality of creative on the brands with which they are associated, that satisfaction indicator dropped to 63 percent.

The survey comes at a time when radical changes in the advertising business threaten to trump advertising creative as the primary focus. While new technologies alter media procurement, new devices revolutionize consumption habits, and new generations of buyers prompt shifts in branding strategies, creative content remains the constant in engaging consumers.

The findings in general cast a positive impression on the quality of creative produced by today’s advertising community, from both a corporate and agency perspective:

  • 76 percent of the survey base rated the quality of creative work in today’s advertising as either excellent (7 percent) or good (69 percent). Less than 2 percent said the quality is poor.
  • These numbers were relatively the same among brand marketing respondents and agency respondents.
  • While the majority of respondents (61 percent) said their assessments were about the same as they would have been a year ago, 27 percent said they feel the quality of creative has improved in the past year while 12 percent feel it has gotten worse.

While respondents were positive about the creative being done on their own brands, their enthusiasm was not as high as it was for the quality of creative in the industry as a whole:

  • Slightly more than 63 percent of the respondents rated the quality of the creative work on their own brands either excellent or good.
  • About 67 percent of the corporate respondents feel their own brand creative was excellent or good, while 59 percent of agencies gave an excellent or good score to the brands with which they are associated.

What did the marketers and agencies say is the biggest challenge to developing quality creative? Overall, 37 percent said the number one challenge is properly understanding what resonates with today’s consumers. In second place, at 31 percent, is the lack of proper corporate culture/environment to foster and support creativity. To a lesser extent, respondents noted too many other priorities (13 percent), the availability of high-quality creative talent (6 percent), and the fear of failure (6 percent).

Interestingly, brand managers and agencies had slightly different takes on the question. The brand managers cited the lack of proper corporate culture (37 percent) as their top obstacle to quality creative, with understanding the consumer second, at 30 percent.

For agencies, however, understanding consumers is the biggest obstacle, at 46 percent, almost twice the number (24 percent) of agency respondents who cited corporate culture.

The survey asked respondents what type of creative content they feel is the most effective in matching their marketing objectives. The answers overwhelmingly supported “informative” ads as the most effective, at 65 percent, followed by “touching” ads (15 percent) and humorous ads (10 percent). Some respondents choose to write in their own top characterizations: “inspirational,” “compelling,” “relevant,” and “trustworthy.”

When it comes to the quality of creative in radio advertising vs. other forms of media, the respondents were not quite as enthusiastic, with 44 percent calling it about the same, 45 percent regarding it as worse than other media, and 11 percent saying it is better than other media.

Radio creative is not a priority at many agencies, where the focus tends to be on creative for other media, such as television.  With the tendency to take the words from a television ad and use them in a radio campaign, the language often isn’t properly suited for or aligned with what radio listeners would be expected to respond to favorably. The result is predictable.

The full White Paper from CRN’s research offers more data and analysis, anecdotal responses, and suggestions on what organizations can do to keep creative work at high levels.

About CRN International

CRN International ( uses radio differently to solve marketing challenges for major brands. It excels in using non-traditional promotional tactics to separate brand messages from the clutter and generate measurable results. It is based in Hamden, CT, and has offices in New York; Minneapolis; Detroit; and Hershey, PA.

For more information, contact: Jim Alkon, Marketing Director, CRN International,, 203-407-3341.