It’s July, which means aside from the occasional hot spell we marketers are about to be deluged by an ocean of talks, tweets and treatises on the importance of creativity and her bespectacled, more reserved brother, innovation.

Blame Cannes. Last week, 13,000 marketers descended on the French Riviera to have the overriding importance of all things creative drummed into them. If proof was needed that Cannes Lions was all about the C word, we need only consult last week’s social media analytics. Apparently, more than half of the messages emanating from the event mentioned either creativity or innovation.

But there’s more than just the annual French maritime party to persuade marketers that it’s all about creativity. The digital revolution apparent across our industry has many implications and one of them is to make creativity a more appealing focus for many marketers. In years gone by, a brand manager had to surmount several distinct obstacles to get to a point where they would interact with creative teams and partake in the creative end of the marketing conveyor belt. Today, thanks to ‘real-time marketing’ and the surfeit of digital communication platforms that marketers personally manage, many view themselves as being directly responsible for the creative act.

Back in the day when marketers realized that their main challenges revolved around market research, brand positioning, product strategy and pricing there was a much clearer awareness that creatives were a separate species. Few made the mistake of thinking they were the creative ones. But today, many marketers believe that their main challenge is content marketing and traditional strategic work has been replaced with a more abject emphasis on creativity uber alles.

That’s troubling because in my experience most marketers are hopeless at creative work. I say experience not because I claim any personal creative talent (I have none) but because I have worked for several large, creative businesses at the height of fashion and luxury. It’s difficult not to sound like a braggart in that last sentence but it’s true. I worked for several companies famed for their creative prowess and the irony was that I, and the marketers I worked with at these brands, never thought for a second we were creative in any way. We knew our place – which was at the analytical and strategic end of the process that then fed the creative teams.

The problem with marketers proclaiming creativity and innovation as the keystones of our discipline is that they have not actually worked with any true creative people. Maybe compared to finance or operations you might feel like a creative soul. But spend a day working with genuinely world-leading fashion designers and you will quickly realize that the pure, indelible power of truly creative people is beyond your reach.

That’s ok because, despite what they were saying at Cannes Lions, the idea that marketers need to be creative is wrong. What we do need to do is our job – research and strategy. And then we have to master another thing I learned working for some of the great fashion brands – we have to brief properly. Instead of making marketers more creative, let’s encourage them to be better at selecting and protecting creative talent and then briefing them properly so that they can get on with their side of the agreement.

Too often marketers don’t see the need for external creative or, when they do use them, they over-brief creative people by sketching out their initial ideas and asking them to work from there. Great briefs synthesize the situation, bring to life the target segment and summarize the strategic direction required before stepping back and letting proper creative minds loose on the execution bit. A great brief is like a strategic diving board – strong, solid and weeks in the making – it is ready to be used by creatives to leap from it and perform glamorous feats of creation that will wow everyone. The diving board is integral to the dive, but its builders don’t try for one second to jump from it. They know their place.

Creativity is an amazingly powerful and important element in marketing success. It’s just not something that we marketers should be doing ourselves.

This thought piece is featured courtesy of Marketing Week, the United Kingdom’s leading marketing publication.

AuthorPeak Biety
CategoriesGood Reading

As ad professionals with both client side and longtime agency experience, we've decided to share some pointers on how to keep you aligned for superior communications.

1.   Provide clear direction.

Studies show that a high percentage of problem projects start with inadequate briefings. A lack of candor may factor in, too. Are you spending enough time preparing information? Or, do you just wing it and hope they’ll “get it”? Don’t trust this all-important task to an inexperienced junior. You can’t expect a great outcome if you don’t start with thoughtful, well-organized input.

2.   Make sure all responsible parties agree on the direction.

 All too often, an agency receives direction from one group in the company only to find out later that others (often senior management) have something totally different in mind. Such a scenario not only wastes your valuable time and money, it dampens the spirits of those who’ve labored under misguided direction.

3.   Talk openly and candidly about any concerns you may have.

 Don’t sidestep confrontations just to avoid hurt feelings. Offer constructive criticism and give agency personnel adequate time to respond with a solution. Resolving differences with your current agency almost always delivers a better ROI than starting from scratch with a new one.

4.   If you want a commitment from your agency, offer commitment in return.

 If you hand out assignments to different agencies for every project, you can’t expect any one of them to offer you commitment in return. Agencies rarely make money on short-term relationships. So if you want your agency to care about your business, be sensitive to theirs. Include them as much as possible. If you’re simply looking for a project vendor, you may not need an agency at all. Consider freelance instead.

5.   Show courage.

 Want your agency to provide groundbreaking thinking? Then encourage them to experiment. Be willing to make an investment, however small, on an untried, but potentially lucrative idea that’s on strategy. You don’t have to bet the farm. But do look for ways to show you’re onboard with innovative thinking.

6.   If you work with multiple agencies, be clear about who does what.

 Just as you have a hierarchy within your own organization, you need to appoint an authority among your agencies. Enlist one agency to make integration their key priority, and then make sure the other agencies understand their own roles in the process. Agencies are hardwired to compete. So don’t expect them to just magically integrate and play nice. It’s not going to happen.

7.   Streamline the approval process and provide honest feedback.

Ideally, your approval process should be quick and clear. Don’t wait until the third or fourth review to eliminate a so-so idea. Agencies would rather know upfront when something isn’t right, so they can start over. It’s kinder than sending them through multiple revisions, only to have the work die later. Narrowing approval to a limited group makes quick elimination easier to achieve.

8.   Have frequent conversations with your agency.

Like any relationship, it’s important to communicate concerns with your agency. Give them the benefit of regular reviews. In our experience, it’s good for both sides. You may even be surprised at the constructive solutions such discussions can yield.

9.   Make sure you choose the right agency in the first place.

Sending out a questionnaire or a request for credentials, capabilities and other information fosters one-way communication. If you want your new agency to understand your business goals, marketing objectives, strategies and other expectations, you should start with a dialogue. A two-way conversation helps build mutual respect and should save you time in your search process.

AuthorPeak Biety

As ad professionals with both client side and longtime agency experience, we’ve often wondered about the lack of pretesting done on ad campaigns. Doesn’t it make sense to gauge the perceived value of advertising among its intended audience before final production and media money is spent?

As the size of the advertising budget grows, the stakes get higher. Without pretesting, you may never discover potential messaging flaws. You could easily spend good money failing to get the audience’s attention. Or even worse, you could succeed in getting attention only to create the wrong perception. Either way, a loss of awareness and sales will likely result.

The Sean Cummins viewpoint as published in Ad Age 6/19/15 is another wake-up call for all of us in ADVERTISING.  All the buzz words thrown about in our business tend to obfuscate the fact that advertising is indeed about getting someone to do something. And creating effective advertising, requires a rigorous process and experience—perhaps not available with simply “branded content” providers. We’re proud to be a 4A’s advertising agency.

AuthorPeak Biety

This March, PeakBiety branding + advertising proudly celebrated its 25th year in business. But more important than what this milestone means to us, is what it means to the clients we serve. In an industry where some ad agencies barely outlast the campaigns they create, our longevity gives our clients the assurance of a successful track record.