Genuine Creativity is Good for Business—But You Have to Know How to Recognize It


How do you make great advertising?

There are two linked answers to that question. The first has to do with your definition of “creativity” and the second to do with the biases you unknowingly bring to how you judge the work.

Creativity—The Elusive Quality Judges Look for at Cannes

Next week, the marketing industry’s creative elite will gather in Cannes to celebrate the most original communications of the past year. Why should a marketer like you care about award shows like Cannes? Isn’t Cannes just an expensive drunkfest for creative people and senior marketers?

Well, yes. But that’s only a part of it. Smart marketers care about award shows because creativity is good business. In fact, it is an under-appreciated and stealthy competitive advantage.

A couple years ago, the IPA released a study that showed creatively-awarded work is twelve times more effective than work that went unrecognized. That’s the kind of ROI that makes CFOs grin and clap (and approve your bonus). Why does creative recognition pack such a wallop? Creatively-awarded work generates brand fame and social conversation, both of which are tightly linked to effectiveness. The direct connection between creativity and effectiveness is still poorly understood, but at least we know this: creativity works, and award shows are the best proxy we have for an unimpeachable measure of creativity. We make do with what we have. WPP understands. They use Cannes as a key measure of advertising quality. Wall Street, in turn, values WPP highly in part because of how it performs at Cannes.

Ask a few Cannes judges what they look for in award-winning work and they will list off several things. They like work that elicits a strong emotional reaction, links to the brand and bears being watched again and again. But the Grand Prix especially will always come down to one thing above all: genuine originality. Judges will, to a person, say, “I’ve never seen that before”—followed rapidly by “I wish I’d done that.” After seeing one memorable Grand Prix winner last year, a judge was heard to say, “Once I saw that, the shackles on my imagination dropped off.”

If award shows are our proxy for creativity, how do we assess work that is still in development? We use the judging criteria from the shows themselves. It’s flawed, but originality is as good a definition of creativity as you’re going to find in this business. And since creativity is effective (and effective equals employed), you’ll want to look for genuine originality in your next agency creative presentation. Set the bar high. It will be good for you and good for your agency. Resist the temptation to buy work that is safe—the kind that gets through copy testing and management approvals but doesn’t have the stopping power of true originality. If everyone’s content, you’re probably doing something wrong, but it’s awfully nice to sail through without conflict. To guard against that dangerous trait and to inspire the highest possible standard, we’ve set up four bars for your creative to clear:

For the full story on our ogilvydo-Cannes 2013 site click here.

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