Creatives: Don’t Be Afraid of Being Effective

Creatives: Don’t Be Afraid of Being Effective

While effectiveness is important in today’s advertising, creatives shouldn’t be scared says Millward Brown’s Jane Ketelbey.

Karen Terranova
Posted by Karen Terranova

The original Mad Man and co-founder of DDB Bill Bernbach once said: “At the heart of an effective creative philosophy is the belief that nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature, what compulsions drive a man, what instincts dominate his action, even though his language so often can camouflage what really motivates him.”

This year’s winner of Australia’s Grand Effie, perfectly encapsulates this.

AJF Partnership’s ‘Stop before the suffering starts’ was a breakthrough campaign for The Australian National Preventive Health Agency exceeding all agreed objectives, including encouraging 180k smokers to make a quit attempt as a direct result of seeing the campaign from April to June 2013.

Central to both its creative execution and ultimate effectiveness was the discovery of a previously unused compulsion’  in anti-smoking campaigns. So beyond exploring the fear of death – as after all smokers are fully aware that smoking kills – the team went onto explore the relationship between fear and death.

Interviews with smokers revealed it was the manner of the death that frightened them most – so the campaign’s simple and memorable call to action ‘Stop before the suffering starts’ was born.

The campaign’s genuine effectiveness in achieving behaviour change thanks to its insights is in keeping with other previous winners of Effies Awards. In fact our Effies Exposed Report issued earlier this year with the Communications Council, found that 81% of Effie winning campaigns showed evidence of well observed insights, while just 57% of finalists showed them. Further 94% of winning cases used research to help solve a problem.

Put simply, campaigns that are grounded in insight tend to be more effective.

In the case of this year’s winning Effie it is slightly odd talking about the target audience as being the ‘customer’ but it is a great example of a campaign ‘brand’ that has put time and effort in connecting with the customer to achieve success (with ‘success’ in this instance being a reduction in consumption vs. an increase).

The campaign also fitted into another of our findings, in that winning entries were twice as likely to have addressed an advertising task perceived as difficult. Speaking to committed smokers and getting them to hear it is hugely tricky but they found a fresh way to do so. As Nobel prize winner “Dr Albert von Szent-Gyorgy once noted “creativity is about seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought” and AJF Partnership nailed this.

Whilst there has been, and will always, continue to be a ‘lively’ debate around the correlation between research and creativity in advertising, the simple fact is that advertising needs to work. And this truism will only become more ‘true’ as we get further into a data driven world where maths men work alongside mad men, marketing budgets are under pressure and accountability is demanded at C-suite level for all campaign expenditure.

In this world, effectiveness, often the poor cousin to creativity when it comes to accolades, will play an increasingly important role. But Creatives should have nothing to fear from this for one simple reason – creativity and effectiveness are not mutually exclusive.

Creativity will and should be the backbone of a great campaign. As you might expect the Effies Exposed Report noted that executing brilliantly on the basics is what makes the difference between a great and a good campaign. Without exception winners ideas were more engaging than finalists and submissions.

However, surely true creativity also includes the ability to use creative brilliance to create value. And I’m proud that this year’s Effie’s finalists showcased so many great Australian campaigns that did just that.

If you would like to find out what the other ‘Habits of Highly Successful Effective Advertising’ are, the full report can be found here.

Jane Ketelbey is the client development director at Millward Brown and was a judge at this year’s Effies.