Ad creativity works

Last week I shared with you the glad tidings that South Africa’s premier creative awards competition is opening its doors to entries from Africa and Middle East to be precise, but let’s not quibble.
Chris Harrison
Chris Harrison

Last week I shared with you the glad tidings that South Africa’s premier creative awards competition is opening its doors to entries from Africa and Middle East to be precise, but let’s not quibble.

I also shared the opinion that the creative economy of Africa is going to be an important factor in our next stage of development as well as the practice of generating ideas, which effect commercial and societal change. Despite the growth of marketing and advertising capabilities on the continent, it is still surprisingly hard to find supporters of creativity in African Boardrooms.

Perhaps it’s because creativity had other implications in our past, and ‘compliance’ has been the dominant mindset while we get our house in order. But while compliance is necessary, it needs something to balance it. Enterprises do not grow strong on compliance. Sarbanes Oxley does not a better auditor make. Nor ISO 22000 a better box of matches. Just a box of matches produced more consistently.

While we are on matches, let me digress. What is it with African matches? It must have taken a genius to create matches that have just enough head to spark once, and just enough stick to strike once. Sit around any rural hearth, or any urban cigar circle in Africa, and you will find a dozen ingenious product failures. They sure sell a lot of matches….

Anyway, there is now irrefutable evidence, complied over the last 15 years, that creative advertising works better than dumb stuff. Want to hear about it?

The studies were conducted in North America, UK, Europe, Asia & Australasia, and span two decades from 1990 to 2010

They were conducted by university academics, industry researchers, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and McKinsey. Check out the book ‘The Case for Creativity’ by James Hurman for the full story. Here are the highlights.

In 1996 and 2002, while at Leo Burnett, Donald Gunn twice produced his ‘Do Award Winning Commercials Sell?’ study.

In both cases he collected the case histories of the 400 most awarded ad campaigns in the world, along with quantified evidence of their business results. Gunn found that 86.5 percent and 82 percent of those awarded campaigns, respectively, had met or exceeded their clients’ objectives. 

In 2010, Peter Field, an independent contractor to the UK’s IPA, studied the 257 IPA Effectiveness Award winning campaigns since 2000.He contrasted the campaigns that had won a major creative award against those that had not, and measured their relative effectiveness. His first finding was that the creatively awarded campaigns were eleven times more efficient at generating a market share increase.

Field’s second finding was that the creatively awarded campaigns were much more certain to achieve that result. The less creative campaigns were not only less efficient, but also less predictable than the creatively awarded ones.

This suggests a departure from the conventional wisdom that a more creative approach is a ‘riskier’ one.

Field’s third finding was that the creatively awarded campaigns achieved a higher ‘Effectiveness Success Rate’ than the non-awarded campaigns. This is a measure of achieving ‘very large business effects’, i.e. significant improvements in market share, penetration, profitability, etc. The creatively awarded campaigns were shown to be 10% more effective on a high spend, and 27% more effective on a low spend campaigns.

Source: Field ʻThe Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness, 2010   

An analysis of the Cannes Advertisers of the Year of the 2000’s reveals that each had experienced a record period of stock market growth at the time of receiving that award. While the Cannes Advertisers of the Year experienced, on average, 41% stock value growth in the year they won the award, the S&P500 experienced a fraction of that growth at 0.5%.

Further analysis revealed that in each case, the companies had been going through a period of greater focus on creativity and innovation throughout their business, of which award winning advertising and stock market success were symptomatic.

The author is Chairman Young & Rubicam Group Africa

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