Mike Fromowitz
Mar 12, 2015

After a long battle with mediocrity, Creativity died last week.

Sadly, after a long, hard-fought struggle, Creativity has passed away. It died last week after years of room temperature mediocrity.

After a long battle with mediocrity, Creativity died last week.

Creativity, which played a significant role in the advertising industry, left quite a legacy over these past 100 years. Creativity helped to shape consumer attitudes and intentions, move them to the next level of the buying process, and helped to break through the clutter of competing brands.

Just last week, a memorial service was held in its honour, but alas, few people showed up on the day. Well-wishers and mourners who missed the funeral but wish to send their condolences, can do so by tweeting with hashtag #CreativityIsDead.

Creativity was held in high regard by creative people around the globe especially those that fought long and hard for it. Many considered Creativity to be the key attribute most needed and desired to address the business challenges of the 21st century. Creativity was the catalyst that motivated advertising’s creative people to create viable business value.

Creativity leaves behind some award winning advertising campaigns recognized for their brilliance at the many regional and international award shows such as Cannes, D&AD, Communication Arts, Clios and a host of others.

Creativity Laid To Rest

Last week, heartbroken advertising luminaries around the world stopped to remember Creativity and bid it an emotional farewell. Creativity was laid to rest at a light-hearted ceremony sponsored by several marketers and bloggers who predicted the death of Creativity over the past several years. It is believed that those who proclaimed the death of Creativity, are the ones selling some new form of it.

“Creativity left a mark on our game of advertising that needs no embellishment,” a tearful ad executive told the funeral attendees. “I don’t know about you but I keep looking for it.”

A eulogy given by Professor Jef Richards praised Creativity when he pointed out that “Creativity was an advertising agency's most valuable asset, because it was the rarest. There's so much truly putrid advertising out there it's embarrassing. But not all advertising is bad. Some of it is really quite mediocre.”

A eulogy in Creativity’s honour was also given by Divad Yvligo who first quoted the late Leo Burnett: “One of the greatest dangers of advertising is not that of misleading people, but that of boring them to death.”

Mr. Yvligo recalled his days in advertising with a formidable quote by the late David Ogilvy: “The creative process requires more than reason. Most original thinking isn't even verbal. It requires a groping experimentation with ideas, governed by intuitive hunches and inspired by the unconscious. The majority of business men are incapable of original thinking because they are unable to escape from the tyranny of reason. Their imaginations are blocked.”

Mr Yvligo’s final words - a quote by Dave Trott - brought the audience to tears: “Creativity may well be the last legal unfair competitive advantage we can take to run over the competition.”

Creativity’s importance to advertising

An anonymous guest by the name of SuperConsumer wore an all black dress and a pair of dark Rayban sunglasses. She presented the next eulogy with a focus on Creativity’s importance to advertising. “Creativity had stopping power.” she began. “It made people stop what they were doing and pay attention to advertising. Creativity fuelled our memory, left enduring brand associations that are difficult to forget. Creativity made us curious about brands in a way that got us talking about them or wanting to try the product or service. It enhanced perceptions and framed the brand experience. Creativity transcended traditional ideas, rules, patterns and relationships. It was very important if advertising was to be successful.”

Before passing away, Creativity did make sure to send old colleagues, friends, strategists, planners, creative people, CEOs, Account Service Directors and clients, who continued to believe in the importance of Creativity, an emotional Email which read simply: "Please, don't email or tweet me, I'm dead."

Creativity requested that its tombstone should read: "I'll be right back after this short message from our sponsors" which was one of its favourite sayings.

Creativity always thought it ironic that people swooned when they saw a TV commercial or print campaign - some thinking that there were special moments when Creativity in advertising was not just enjoyable but pure genius.

Creativity vs Mediocrity

But that wasn't always the case as many marketers and ad agency executives got in the way of Creativity and reduced Creativity's efforts to bland mediocrity. On it’s death bed, Creativity begged the question: “Has Creativity been undervalued all these years, or simply misunderstood?”

During it's final years, Creativity also believed that the mega-groups that bought up all the super-star ad agencies did little to help the industry be more creative or vitally more effective. Nor did they offer up anything new or different for their clients. On the other hand, they did make heaps of money for their shareholders.

Creativity had an important job to do around the world. It not only had to create TV commercials, radio spots, print advertising, billboards and posters, digital and social media content, it had to come up with great theme lines for scores of clients, theme lines like "Just Do It", "Think Different", “A Diamond is Forever”, “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, “I Love New York”, “Let Your Fingers Do The Walking”, “No FT, No Comment”, “We Try Harder”, “Think Small”, and many more.

During the final moments of the ceremony, a world-renowned creative director spoke of the importance that Creativity played in his working life. “Those who embraced Creativity invited open-mindedness, collaboration, innovation and encourage others to drop outdated approaches and take balanced risks. They embraced the dreamers and gave them the latitude to apply their creativity to best serve their customers and the challenges they faced.

Creativity’s aim for the most part, was to bring wit and intelligence to consumers. Throughout it’s life, Creativity made advertising interesting. Ad agencies hired ‘creative’ individuals who had a special talent for seeing the world differently. They used the power of Creativity to get our attention, and to make products and services interesting and relevant.”

Who’s To Blame For Killing Creativity?

When the economy is down and a client’s sales are under-performing, marketers tend to stop approving smart creative ideas and start demanding more mediocre creative based on their data/metrics findings.

As a result of this, Creativity’s reputation expired.

You could not truly quantify Creativity during it’s lifetime. But let’s not forget that brand preference is built on emotional connections. No metrics tools are going to change that. It’s been Creativity’s new ideas - not numbers - that stuck in a consumer's mind long after the initial experience.

Digital and Social Media are amazing tools, but they do not generate big creative ideas— creative people do. It takes the human mind to challenge conventional thinking and mediocrity. Unfortunately, there are too few people around that have the ability see the big picture, to suss out the game-changing insights that lead to big creative ideas with the power to change the field of play and help to develop a sustainable competitive advantage for a brand.

Bidding A Sad Farewell

Weeks before its death, Creativity reached out to many of the consumers whose lives it touched and said with great sadness: “Sorry. The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock”.

Creativity often claimed that running a successful agency was not difficult. You basically filled the place full of creatively talented people and allowed that talent to bloom. If you produced great creative work and people noticed your brand's smart campaigns, It would attract the best people to the industry.

Creativity will be remembered for its belief that being “creative” certainly wasn't about the money you could make creating advertising ideas, because you could always earn more money in other industries like banking, oil and technology. Creativity, in its time, had gone through many stages of disruption. Radio disrupted the poster, magazines disrupted radio, and television disrupted them all. The whole dynamic of Creativity started to change further when the digital revolution went social. Creativity was hit broadside. Markets around the world were shattered, trillions of dollars evaporated, and crazed consumerism seemingly collapsed with it.

However, these new mediums did not change Creativity’s purpose for being: persuasion.

Creativity. R.I.P.

Personally, I fear the death of Creativity has come at a time when we need it most. I sense a climate of fear developing when there's never been a bigger requirement to be brave. Times are pretty tough for advertising agencies given that the business is ever more driven by shareholder requirements to deliver numbers on a monthly basis.

For the large mega-groups mentioned earlier in this post, there is a requirement to be pragmatic. Today’s agency landscape has never been more competitive. Advertising agencies are looking over their shoulders as clients find themselves with a dazzling array of new name agencies to choose from - Birds and Bees, MoonDoggies, Razorfish, Gravytrain, Pimps, Big Spaceship, The Bank, CrazyKids, BoneHook, Black&Blue, all of them, no doubt, offering temptingly competitive fees.

Against this new backdrop, I wonder how many agencies are still prepared to fight for Creativity. Perhaps the future of Creativity will be characterized by the end of Creativity.

Mike Fromowitz
Partner, Chief Creative Officer
Ethnicity Multicultural marketing + Advertising Inc.

Campaign Asia

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