We Don’t Need Better Creative

Yes, you read that right.  We don’t need better creative.  We’ve got enough good creative.

What we need is better work…

Let’s face it — in varying degrees (and the peanut gallery can argue about this all day long), everyone does good creative.  And yes, some even do great creative.  But the fact remains that good creative alone will not solve a client’s problems or meet their needs.

When was the last time a client came to you and said “I want an ad, a website, a brochure, a [fill in the blank]” without an accompanying “because…”?  Client’s don’t want or need marketing and advertising just to have — just to sit back and admire.  They want and need it to meet specific needs, address business challenges or solve problems.  Creative alone (usually) does not solve those problems.

Creative, combined with a smart strategy?  Now we’re getting somewhere.

A solid understanding of your customer? Your target audience?  Well defined goals and objectives?  These things are not optional.  They’re the roadmap that guides everything.  They’re what allows good creative (and yes, even great creative) to become effective creative.  The work that moves the needle.  The right combination of message and medium.  Copy that’s written for a specific purpose to a specific audience, not simply because it might be witty or clever.

Good creative doesn’t make up for bad placement.  A killer creative idea is only that if there’s a purpose to it — something that generates that spark in the client’s mind, and more importantly — in their customer’s mind.  That’s when the real magic happens.

Yes, this could go on and on and on.  But the fact remains — we don’t need better creative.  We shouldn’t try to force an idea or a concept.  We need better planning and strategy.  That’s what gives guidance.  It gives the creative a purpose.  That’s what creates action beyond an ad, a website, a concept or idea.

That’s what makes for better work.  That’s what moves the needle.

And that’s my challenge to you.  What can you do to move the needle?

6 Replies to “We Don’t Need Better Creative”

  1. What we really need is agency creative directors and client-side marketing directors who are qualified to be in their positions. Layoffs over the past few years have forced employees of all types to wear many hats – I get that – but it’s happening to the detriment of effective advertising. The best CDs and MDs will know a great idea when they see one, and they’ll effectively sell it to their client or higher-up.

    A number of Boise-area marketing departments (and an agency or two) are run by people with generic business degrees or no marketing/advertising education at all. They make decisions based on what a family member liked or sketched on a napkin. Sounds cliche but I’ve seen both happen in the past 3 months. Also, in my experience, most of these “directors” have no ability to assess national, regional and local conditions and trends and accurately use them to assess their own efforts and results. They’re quick to cave to client/boss demands and just want the job done and billed.

    I’ve been job hunting for a few months and I’m shocked by what some companies are looking for in hiring their next marketing directors. One company didn’t see the importance of showing up in a Google search, and another had been going after the wrong target market for years (and refused to hear it despite a 35% vacancy rate). Neither interviewer was qualified to be making marketing hiring decisions, but they were, so you can imagine the type of people they’ll choose for those positions.

    To answer your question, I plan on moving the needle by sticking with the few companies who truly get it. They’ll grow and prosper while the rest continue to sputter along, leaving bad ads in their wake.

  2. With all the hoopla you give to creative in your blog, I thought I’d never see you state these facts. It is so right, and with the economic times, cheaper ways of bringing in customers is needed than hiring an agency that can come up with great copy and creative. Target markets need to be assessed, someone needs to keep an eye on what meets the needs of the business plan, assessments need to be done on the 4P’s, and marketing mix analyzed, just to name a few. I find clients that want that one great campaign, and they go for the easy stuff that doesn’t necessarily bring in sales. I also agree with everything Chryssa said. It is up to all marketing professionals to bring that extra to the table and open the eyes of the uneducated. Then they’ll understand how they can recoup what we cost.

  3. Brian –

    I could not possibly agree with you more. And, I concur with Chryssa and to a greater extent with Susan. I was thinking many of the same things as I read the critiques on our work for the $1M Raffle for the Idaho Lottery (which was the most profitable in the Lottery’s history). Without a doubt there are some bad ads out there, but ultimately I see far more money wasted on bad media buys, poor targeting (or lack thereof), lack of USPs, uncohesive campaigns and incorrect positioning than poor execution of a good strategy. In fact to your point, I often see great creative where the strategy simply escapes me. However, I try not to critique these ads as such because rarely do any of us truly know the complete strategy behind any campaign.

  4. I would be interested to see national lottery sales stats (lottery sales typically increase during a recession) next to the $1M Raffle increase. Obviously we can never know with 100% certainty what causes a product to sell successfully, but there are multiple factors to consider.

  5. More than half of all states with lotteries have reported booming sales over the past six months. Financial insecurity is likely driving people to risk more of their money than usual on instant scratch-offs and other daily games. Maybe today is my lucky day.
    A growing number of occasional players, 25 of 42 states with lotteries have experienced higher sales of scratch-off and daily lottery games since July, according to Scientific Games, a maker of scratch-offs. (HuffingtonPost)
    These people could care less about creative… and media?… they already know where the 7 Eleven is.

Comments are closed.