Throughout life, there are many instances where a balance of two factors is required for something to be its best.  Think about it, the heart and head, Yin and Yang, male and female, positive and negative polarities, etc.  In advertising, it's really no different.  For an ad to be its best, it's got to be a function of both strategy and creativity.  It’s got to be about consumer insights and brand strategy and about the “Big Creative Idea” communicated in a compelling way.  Without either, the chances for success are severely limited.

Are there some ads that do well (i.e. that sell product) that don’t have that critical blend at their core?  Sure.  But its like lightning striking.  Does it happen?  Of course, but we all know the probability of lightning striking the same place twice.  

I mention this on the heels of the famed Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity - which seems to be something of an imbalanced homage to only one side of the advertising equation.  As a longtime consumer of advertising services from agencies of all kinds and sizes, my perspective is driven by the perception that advertising folks could benefit by spending a bit more time on the strategic side to better balance the two critical drivers.  To be sure, that’s not a revelation of any kind.  That notion is pretty well established on the "client side".   I have to wonder whether the heavy reliance on “creativity” within the industry - instead of a more appropriate strategy/creative blend - is a part of the problem.

In the NFL, one of the biggest rules of thumb is that while offense is sexy and may be what gets on SportsCenter, in reality - its defense that wins championships.  Now, of course, no one who espouses that axiom disregards the critical role of offense.  You've got to have it to put points on the board.  But in the end, its not simply about scoring points, its about winning games.    Advertising, similarly, is not simply about creativity.  It's about selling product; and doing that efficiently and effectively requires that creativity be focused through the lens of consumer insights and sound brand strategy.


Back to the football analogy, creativity in advertising seems like offense in football.  It’s flashy, is what attracts a lot of the attention and wins lots of awards, but it is strategy - like defense - that wins championships, which in business is driving sales.  In advertising, creativity without strategy is art.  Art is great!  It’s just not advertising - which is strategic brand communication.  

Like no other industry, the advertising business should understand the power of words in defining things and influencing behavior.  With respect, a second thought about "creativity" might be in order.

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Tags: advertising, creativity, marketing, strategy


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