It’s the classic chicken-or-egg tale. Can advertising campaigns be effective without creativity, and can creativity exist in an industry judged on effectiveness?
The search for effectiveness hasn’t killed the creative star, though, a group of leading industry leaders discussed at a roundtable discussion in partnership with Criteo and ITB Worldwide. Exploring ways to blend creativity and effectiveness is imperative to delivering successful campaigns. You just have to find the right balance.
Back the idea
“You can’t get effectiveness without creativity,” says Mark Brennan, head of marketing, Allianz Ireland: “The biggest mistake creatives make is focussing on the end objective, but creativity has to go all of the way through the value chain.”
Gone are the days when you can come up with one great idea and leave it to do the work. After all, a beautiful piece of creative that doesn’t work very hard is just a beautiful piece of creative that is ineffective. “The creative has to work really hard because, ultimately, it has to perform,” says Julie Doleman, managing director, UK Digital, Entain. “So all of the input that goes into a campaign has to be creative, at every stage of the funnel.”
It’s a two-way street, though. For creative to deliver effectiveness, ideas have to be backed throughout the organisation. Ideas drive long-term brand awareness, innovation, and execution. To succeed, idea development needs to be part of an organisation’s long-term strategy.
“At Diageo, we have ROI, meaning return on investment on the one hand, and then ROI in another sense, which is return on idea,” says Giles Hedger, global consumer planning director, Diageo. “We’ve just written a long-term case for Baileys that isolates the long-term difference that the idea makes. We’re identifying what that idea is worth versus other ideas.”
Get to know your customer
“Understand your consumers,” says Tanja Grubner, global marketing director, Essity. “Make sure you are human-centric and then make sure your strategy is creative, and your creative is strategic.”
Every department at Entain plays a role in getting to know its customers, to get a better grasp of what its audience wants. “I love that we are disseminating the segmentation work through every single business unit, because everyone plays a role in the customer journey,” says Doleman. “Everyone needs to understand the customer — it’s not just the marketing people. Out of those sessions also comes creativity, because creative ideas come from everywhere and anywhere.”
Our old friend data can, of course, play a crucial role in understanding your customer. So, don’t be shy about sharing. “Be open and collaborative,” says Ryan Cook, managing director UK, Criteo. “A lot of advertisers are concerned about sharing first-party data, but being open to sharing one piece of data gets you back a ton of other data from multiple advertisers.”
Understanding the customer means understanding everyone, not just a pool of white, middle-aged men.
“Diversity is so important,” says Crystal Malachias, global growth and development director, ITB Worldwide. “Ensuring where we work is reflective of the outside world means your ads are going to be relevant. We have responsibilities now to understand our customers, hear them, and involve them in how we show up. It’s something we all need to address together.”
A Deloitte study in 2021 showed that people aged 18-25 are often twice as likely as people over the age of 46 to notice representative advertising at the time of purchase consideration. Representation matters, not only because it is ethically right, but because it aligns directly with effectiveness. If you hire people from the same backgrounds, and cast people from the same backgrounds, you end up with the same stories.
“There’s still a long way to go in terms of under-representation behind the camera and in front of the camera,” says Alice Moore, global purpose-led brand director, Reckitt. “The relevancy, the insight, and the human emotion you can bring by talking to different audiences have a significant impact on both creativity and effectiveness. It’s then about translating that into brand growth and positive societal impact.”
Connect with your audience
The ongoing financial pressures brands face mean they can easily fall into short-termism in sales, neglecting long-term brand building. The first victim of short-term thinking is creativity, and this can cause a fear of making mistakes. In this environment, being bold and authentic when connecting with your audience gets even more important.
Allianz Ireland entered the pandemic with a reputation that was ranked at the bottom in its market. That soon changed due to a brave marketing campaign. In response to the horrifying rise in domestic abuse during Covid, Allianz partnered with Women’s Aid and committed to investing over €1m across three years to raise awareness of domestic abuse in Ireland.
“It’s the thing I’ve done in my life I’m most proud of,” says Brennan. “In the space of one year, we went from having the lowest reputation in our market to having the highest.” The creativity behind the partnership was in the planning of the strategy, and the bold framing of the campaign as ‘The World’s Strongest Women'.”
“Effectiveness begins with knowing what people want, and how they tick,” says Hedger. “If you haven’t got that in your marketing culture, then the rest is never going to work; the last two years have really shown that during the pandemic. Brands that innately understood what people needed, and where the world was going, are the ones who found it easiest to tune into the crisis and achieve amazing results in the process.”
As an alcoholic drinks company, Diageo is rooted in people’s social lives. During the pandemic, understanding how people were readjusting to life with limited social contact was key to connecting with its audience. “We managed to tune in to that social mood,” says Hedger. “And we became part of the story of pubs reopening, we became part of the story of convenience.”
The attendees: Maisie McCabe, editor, Campaign UK (chair); Tanja Grubner, global marketing director, Essity; Giles Hedger, global consumer planning director, Diageo; Mark Brennan, head of marketing, Allianz Ireland; Alice Moore, global purpose-led brand director, Reckitt; Julie Doleman, managing director, UK Digital, Entain; Crystal Malachias, global growth and development director, ITB Worldwide; Ryan Cook, managing director UK, Criteo