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2018 will be the year that creativity comes back into focus

Paul Everson

Managing Director

J. Walter Thompson

Paul.Everson@jwt.com

2018 will be the year that creativity comes back into focus

 

Over the past ten years marketing has experienced a crisis of faith, and creativity was the casualty. Where ideas once reigned supreme this era worshipped new leaders like data and social media creating a perfect storm of uncertainty. It made the industry question what it thought it knew about ideas and what made them work. Instead of building brands from know-how, we built them through trial and error.

 

Under pressure to maximize new mediums and leverage available data, creative agencies began to throw experience out the window; favoring “new” over “known”. And while experimenting with new mediums and new information certainly led to some of the best work the industry has seen, the bulk of it flailed; sacrificing idea potency for platforms, and creative efficacy for media efficiencies.

 

But a decade has passed and after much experimentation and endless testing we now understand more about how creative works than ever before and finally, we can get back to focusing on ideas.

 

So here’s what we know now, and what it means for 2018:

 

The maturation of marketing science was a gift to ideas

When Byron Sharp’s ‘How Brands Grow’ hit the marketing industry many creatives recoiled from the brutal truth that humans have lazy brains that will never care as much about ideas as we do. So marketers must use information and data to spur creativity and communicate one message well to trigger emotions. And in order for people to remember your brand it needs to be involved in the idea. More powerful than delivering rational claims, creative ideas deliver more SOV (share of voice) and profit growth.

 

All these things tell us what we’ve been wanting to hear, that powerful creative ideas are moving and they need to peak our interest around one key point. When we get this right, the ideas stick. And they pay dividends in business growth.

 

Disruption doesn’t equal social media

If there’s one thing BrandZ has shown us in spades this year it’s that disruption has had a huge impact on the value of brands with only three remaining in the Global Top 10 today since 2006. And while disruption comes in many shapes and forms, from the global financial crisis, to technological change, to geopolitical upheavals, both new and old brands have been infused with purpose. But one vital new reality that isn’t attributed to value change is the simple use of social media.

 

Too often the use of disruptive platforms such as Snapchat or Facebook is equated with disruption itself. Brief after brief asks creative agencies to “be disruptive in social media” in the hope that using a channel in an interesting way will meaningfully shift the value of the brand. What BrandZ shows us is that disruption starts with the business and the way it adapts to the changing dynamics of its operating environment. How we bring this change to life in the brand itself and the way it advertises is evidence of this disruption. Acknowledging this, leaves advertising to do its job, communicating the best of a business or brand in a compelling way.

 

What does this mean going forward?

Our focus should be creative efficacy not efficiency. If we want to disrupt a business, then we need to apply creative thinking to the way it operates and its core mission. If we want to disrupt the way people think about a brand or a topic then we need to apply creative thinking to advertising ideas (which may or may not use social media to get the message to people).

 

While we wait and watch, creativity has a real opportunity. There is no better time than now to show the value of the intangible, to embrace the risk that must be bought along with big, powerful ideas and to demonstrate the inherent magic that comes from a good creative culture. Most creative agencies will tell you this is a potent mix of physical agency environment, a persistent obsession with people and what they want, a range of symbiotic thinkers sparking from each other and a bias toward action.

 

Now’s the time to take big, bold creative leaps.