The Creative Edge

The Zoozoo campaign for Vodafone. A shining example of how great creativity leads to greater sales figures.

Tough times ahead for marketing

The International Monetary Fund predicts lower Asian growth in 2011. This is bad news for marketers. Budgets may fall. In the 2008-09 recession, the global economy shrank by less than 1%, but global marketing spend was cut by around 10%. Marketing budgets are often first under the axe when firms reduce their growth forecasts.

How to get more for less

If budgets come under pressure, marketers need better results for less. There is a way. New research has shown there is an ‘X factor’ that boosts the effectiveness of marketing communications by 11 times for the same weight.

To break that down further, effective campaigns without the X factor grow market share by 0.5% points per unit of communications weight. However, campaigns with it grow market share by 5.7% points per unit of communications weight.

What is this elusive X factor? Creativity. Effective campaigns that win creative awards grow market share 11 times more than effective campaigns that do not win creative awards1.

The implication is clear. Effectiveness alone is not enough. Creativity gives a turbo boost to effective campaigns. Especially in tough times, marketers need to exploit the power of creativity.

Measuring creativity’s value

The new research merged two databases:

a) The Gunn Report, which lists all major creative awards globally, regionally and nationally.

b) The IPA Effectiveness Awards, which holds more than 1,400 effective marketing campaigns from around the globe in its databank – by far the largest collection of effectiveness case histories in the world.

The merger created three cells:

Providing Creativity Sells

So do campaigns that win both creative and effectiveness awards really outsell campaigns that only win effectiveness awards? The answer is yes, by the huge margin of 11 times more per unit weight.

In what ways are those campaigns different from other effective campaigns? It turns out there are two key indicators of creativity. Creative-and-effective campaigns are more likely a) to appeal to the emotions, and b) create more brand buzz.

Logic persuades but emotions motivate

Emotive campaigns are more likely to build the brand than persuasive campaigns, whether in terms of brand commitment, or brand differentiation, or brand image.

Effect on brand

Source: Binet, Les and Field, Peter: Marketing in the Era of Accountability, WARC, 2007

It’s no surprise, then, that emotive campaigns are twice as likely to increase profits as persuasive campaigns.

Effect on profit

Source: Binet, Les and Field, Peter: Marketing in the Era of Accountability, WARC, 2007

Creative juries are also more likely to award emotive campaigns. They have been criticized for this, but in fact their instincts seem sound. Emotive campaigns are much more likely to strengthen the brand and increase profits. They do better for the client. They deserve to win.

Brand buzz makes extra profit

Creative campaigns generate free PR. In the new communications age of consumer-generated content and social media, this benefit is multiplied many times over.

It is important to distinguish between Brand Fame, the result of buzz, and Brand Awareness. Awareness can be bought: brands that spend more are likely to achieve higher awareness. But Brand Fame does not depend on high spending. It reflects the brand’s status in its category. A famous brand is perceived as the category leader. It is seen as the most authoritative brand and defines the category in perception.

Brand Fame derives from the creativity of the brand`s communications, not its weight. A famous campaign is one that is seen to be making waves. It generates strong opinions (not necessarily liking). Online, it gets discussed in chat groups, forums and Twitter; Facebook groups emerge, loving the campaign; it gets searched on Google and other engines; and it gets imitated on YouTube. Offline, it gets cited in news stories, editorials and articles; it gets discussed on chat shows and spoofed on comedy shows; and other marketers imitate it.

Fame is more valuable than Awareness. Fame campaigns outperform Awareness campaigns on all business metrics: profit, sales, market share, penetration and loyalty. Fame campaigns are three times more profitable than persuasive campaigns.

Effect on profit, fame

Source: Binet, Les and Field, Peter: Marketing in the Era of Accountability, WARC, 2007

OK, but does this research apply in Asia?

Yes, we believe it does.

Ogilvy & Mather wins three times more effectiveness awards in Asia than the next best agency. It also wins the most creative awards. Ogilvy therefore has the biggest pool of creative-and-effective campaigns in the region. Around 30 Ogilvy campaigns have won both kinds of awards in recent years.

Effective and Creative Campaigns

From: India, China, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand Base: Won effectiveness And creative awards, 2006-2010

Analysis shows these campaigns work in the same way as the Gunn/IPA campaigns, just more so. They share the same indicators: they are more likely to be emotional and to generate brand buzz.

emotional v rational

Source: Ogilvy research, 2010; IPA, 2010

More campaign buzz in Asia

If creativity works the same way in Asia as in the West, and it seems to, we have reason to trust the other findings of the Gunn/IPA research in Asia. In particular, that creativity grows market share 11 times more.

Why emotions and buzz are stronger in Asia: the science

Ogilvy`s analysis suggests Asian creative-and-effective campaigns are more likely to be emotional and more likely to create brand buzz than their Western counterparts. Why? Science suggests consumers respond differently in Asia.

Psychological studies suggest patterns of attention and perception may differ between East Asians and Westerners.

East Asians seem more likely to detect relationships, to perceive an object holistically in an environment, and to seek a socially unifying Middle Way. Westerners may attend more to discrete objects and logic but for many Asians, ‘To think about an object or event in isolation and apply abstract rules to it is to invite extreme and mistaken conclusions’2.

There are two implications for marketers. The first is that rational, product-based campaigns are less likely to be effective in Asia. Our consumers are more likely to make emotive and collective connections with campaigns. The second is that Asians are more likely to share interesting campaigns with their group, as groups have greater significance than in the individualistic West. This may explain why Ogilvy`s creative-and-effective campaigns work like the IPA/Gunn campaigns, only more so.

Why are so many Asian campaigns inappropriate?

It is curious that many Asian campaigns do not seem to reflect these cultural, psychological and physiological differences. Campaigns in Asia are more likely to use rational products demos, and less likely to appeal to the emotions, than Western campaigns. This is the opposite of what we would expect to be effective in Asia, and what we do in fact find to be effective. When designing campaigns for Asian consumers, marketers would do well to resist the usual.

Incidence of campaign types

Source: Millward Brown, Advertising in China (undated)

Why are so many Asian campaigns inappropriate for Asians? There seem to be three myths.

Myth one. Some argue for product demo campaigns because they believe consumers in developing countries are less advertising literate than in the West. Not so. In fact, Asians see 55% more TV commercials per week than Westerners on average. For instance, consumers in the UK see 293 commercials per week, while Chinese consumers see 600, and Indonesians see 1,000.

No of TV commercials

Source: Millward Brown, Advertising in China (undated) Base: Asia = Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam

Myth two. Some argue that TV is the best medium for communicating basic product information in developing markets. However, today`s multi-channel campaigns may offer better options.

Judging from entries to both the 2010 IPA Effectiveness Awards and the 2010 WARC Effectiveness Prize, today’s effective campaigns use seven media channels – up from 3 channels in the 1990s. This reflects the growth of digital and social media. Co-ordinating campaign messaging across channels has never been more difficult, or more important.

Developing channel architecture requires an understanding of the customer journey and the role each channel plays in changing consumer behaviour. It may turn out that TV is not the best choice for conveying product information. Typically, consumers use TV mostly for entertainment, while the internet is mostly used for information; and TV advertising is mostly processed at low attention levels, while print and the internet are processed at high attention levels. Other channels might do the product information job better – like packaging, in-store at point of purchase or in print and social media such as chat rooms and user blogs.

Ogilvy has developed a new, sophisticated channel planning system that delivers deeply integrated creative work across the most appropriate channels4.

Myth three. Some say Asians are less creative than Westerners, or do not respond to creativity in the same way.

However, recent academic research has challenged this. One study found that creativity was evaluated in the same way in China, Japan and the US5. Another found no difference between how Chinese and Americans judge creativity6. The best evidence available today suggests Asians and Westerners respond to creativity in the same way.

Creativity is every bit as pervasive in Asia as it is in the West, if not more so. Asians use creativity in myriad ways: to solve problems innovatively, to maximise limited resources, to express their collective identity, and often for profit. Ogilvy plans to publish a book this year, Common sense and Bravery – everyday creativity in Asia, a celebration of the creative spirit of ordinary people and businesses. It lays out the evidence that some of the best ideas are born out of collectivism, not individualism. Here`s a taste of some of the images.

Bubble blower

Every afternoon, the bubble-blower appears outside the school, and starts peddling his wares


Between Gurgaon and Delhi (where it is compulsory to wear a helmet; in Gurgaon it is not), helmet sellers set up shop.

Streetside vendors

Streetside vendors in India hang lighters for patrons to light up there and then – with the hope they’ll buy another.

Estate hawks

A frustrated shop owner takes an innovative approach to deter real estate hawks.


Why satisfy hunger with a regular dumpling when you can have a dozen delectable rabbits

Exploiting the creative gap in Asia

Asia lags far behind the West in winning creative awards. Product demo ads can win creative awards, but few do, and few appeal to the emotions.

Creative awards per country

Source: The Gunn Report, The 25 Most Awarded Countries in the World 2009 Base: Asia = Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Singapore, Taiwan

There is an unexploited opportunity. Asian marketers who encourage their agency to win creative awards can expect 11 times more market share growth than those who do not.

Five barriers to producing better creative work and how to overcome them

1. Is your pre-testing system obsolete?

The purpose of quantitative pre-testing research is to judge whether the campaign will be effective. But we now know that is not good enough. Effective campaigns that are also creative sell 11 times harder. Does your pre-test system encourage creativity or stifle it? It`s easy to find out.

You could ask your research supplier for, say, the 10 best-scoring campaigns it has ever tested. Review them with your agency’s creative director. How many of them, if any, are creative award winners?

Or you could ask your agency’s creative director about the feedback from the research company. Does it inspire and stimulate, or reinforce creative mediocrity?

2. Is your creative approval process streamlined?

You could take a long, cool look at your firm’s approval process. How many people and layers does a creative product have to go through internally before it gets made? How many people and layers can only say ‘No’?

Our own David Ogilvy liked to quote a short verse in this connection:

Search the parks in all the cities.

You`ll find no statues to committees.

3. Does your firm appreciate the importance of production values?

Your consumers probably do. High production values send a signal. They signal that you have confidence in the superiority of your brand. High production values are known to produce more favourable brand perceptions7.

4. Do you incentivise your agency for creativity?

Behavioural economics shows that practically all behaviour in business can be explained by incentives. If you congratulate your agency on winning creative awards and make winning them part of the bonus package, it will try even harder. But if you treat creative awards with indifference, so will your agency (at least on your account).

5. Do you practice ‘pervasive creativity’?

Creativity does not live just in the creative department. You will get a more creative product if every stage of the process stimulates and inspires, from the marketing brief, to the creative brief, to the research, to the pre-production meeting. Every contact with the agency is an opportunity to challenge it to do better.

Summary and conclusions

Effectiveness alone is not enough: effectiveness plus creativity delivers 11 times more growth. To maximise campaign potential, marketers must use creativity to exploit the power of emotions and stimulate brand buzz. There is less competition for campaigns of this type in Asia, where product demo campaigns predominate. Yet Asians are highly advertising literate and at least as responsive to creativity as Westerners, if not more so. The opportunity is there. Firms may need to review and, if necessary, change their internal processes to take full advantage.

This is a message of opportunity. Marketers can get more for less. Encouraging creativity will multiply the value of each media dollar.

The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness, IPA, 2010
Nisbett, Richard: The Geography of Thought, How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why, Nicholas Brealey, 2005, 2009
3 Lieberman, Matthew: What Makes Big Ideas Sticky?, in Brockman, Max (ed.): What`s Next?, Dispatches on the Future of Science, Quercus, 2009
4 Please contact Tim Isaac ([email protected]) or Paul Heath ([email protected]) for more information about Ogilvy`s new system, or for a copy of Broadbent, Tim: A New Approach to Campaign Integration, Admap, January 2011.
5 Paletz, Susannah and Peng, Kaiping: Implicit Theories of Creativity Across Cultures, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 39, 2008
6 Chen, Chuansheng; Kasof, Joseph; Himsel, Amy; Greenberger, Ellen; Dong, Qi; Xue, Gui: Creativity in Drawings of Geometric Shapes, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 33, 2002
7 Dahlen, Micael; Rosengren, Sara; Torn, Fredrik: Advertising Creativity Matters, Journal of Advertising Research 48/3, 2008

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