The Case For Creativity

Posted by christian on

As a thought experiment, reflect for a moment on the amount of advertising consumed throughout your lifetime. I don’t mean in one dimension either. Not advertising present solely in TV, radio, newspapers, billboards and the like. Rather, consider every instance in which a marketer attempted to, subliminally or otherwise, get you informed about something they were trying to sell. When both explicit and implicit advertising are considered, the average 40-year-old living today will have encountered over 150,000 pieces of advertising within their lifetime. Now here is another thing to consider, out of the thousands upon thousands of campaigns consumed in your lifetime, how many can you remember? Because if its over 300, you are in a statistical minority. This in broad terms is the problem advertisers have to contend with every day. Every campaign is a drop in the ocean, and dollars don’t increase their impacts proportionally. Intelligent placement and timing are by no means insignificant factors in determining an advertisement’s success, but what is that final factor that pushes a campaign from merely successful, to being remembered? Creativity.

Today, I want to discuss why it is that creative advertising is so important in cutting through the advertising clutter. I don’t want to discuss methodological approaches to creative advertising (a subject in which a whole website could be dedicated to) but rather what it is about creative advertising that pushes an ad from one amongst thousands you see, to one of those few hundred you remember. 


Perhaps the most tangible effect of creative advertising is that of novelty. Novelty is not to be synonymous with anything good or bad mind you, it is merely the quality of being new and unusual. Creative campaigns, whether or not they are themselves of high quality, will always be able to stand out against the thick mire that is the advertising landscape. Part of the problem with reliance on trusted clichés has is that it’s a crutch the vast majority of marketers rest on. With thousands of ads constructed with the same schemas, there is no reason for one specific iteration of a cliché to hold in public thought over the multitude of others. However, when novelty has been engendered through creative advertising, an ad naturally sticks out amongst the crowd.

Less Is More

Advertising is by its very nature bounded by constraints. Be it time slots, column space or budgets, there is always a tremendous amount more that you can’t do over that which you can do. Thus, the window for communication is necessarily small, and is made even smaller when you take fleeting audience interest into account. 

This is where the advantage of creative advertising becomes apparent. All ads are confronted with these constraints, but the creative ones are able to communicate more ideas within these constraints than their surrounding competition. If an ad is creatively brilliant, abstract concepts and a multiplicity of information can be communicated in the space that it takes surrounding advertisements to communicate pedestrian facts about the product.

Artistic Value

Advertising is the manipulation of a consumer to buy something. When I state the goal of advertising in this way, it feels coarse and abrasive. Good ads help consumers forget the fact that an exchange is what is (fundamentally) taking place. Great ads allow consumers to appreciate the artistic value of the ad in it of itself. It seems that the feature that helps ads propel themselves from good to great is that of creativity. 

Ads with a high level of artistic creativity contain aesthetically appealing verbal, visual, or audible elements. As a result, consumers often view these ads as almost a piece of art rather than a blatant sales pitch. This allows individuals to enjoy an ad as a work in it of itself, and not see it merely as a collection of memorable mnemonic devices.

A Comparison

Advertising by its nature draws in the creatively predisposed. Thus many ads have at least the attempt of creativity embedded within their structure. Of course, the vast majority of ads end up merely as one of many. It is in this sense that the creativity in ads mirrors the creativity in people. Many people, hundreds of millions in fact, exhibit a higher level of creativity than the general populous. However, it is only those on the fringes of creative excellence that are able to monetize their natural talents, and only a fraction of those become enormously successful. Similarly, the ads on the creative precipice are the ones that pay dividends, and are the ones, among millions, that are remembered.

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