Creativity – all in the delivery?

Creativity – all in the delivery?


For those in adland who bemoan the supremacy that technology is enjoying over creativity, John Gapper’s article in the FT on the Cannes Lions festival  (“Advertising’s creative vision is old fashioned”) ) will be a less than edifying read. In fact, the world’s premier knees-up for advertising creativity reads more like a tech fest. Where once the applause was reserved for lavish artistic work, now the garland goes to the most innovative means of delivering it.

As Gapper reports, “Most advertisers simply want to find people as efficiently as possible and persuade them to buy things, whatever the format. That leaves the copywriters and video auteurs in agencies feeling unloved.”

A telling example is given of KFC struggling to sell its fried chicken in China. Whereas before the default solution might lie in a stand-out creative, in this case the brand relied on a loyalty scheme tied to a mobile phone ‘super app’ allowing you to pre-order food, select music in the outlet, and a play a version of fantasy mobile game with their friends. Nor was this the brainchild of a conventional ad agency, but a ‘digital transformation’ provider.

Gapper makes the point that broad brush brand advertising is being replaced by engagement with people who already like the product – as delivered by online algorithms in mobile display advertising.

“Anything on which the return cannot be measured is vulnerable.” Concerns are expressed that the ad industry may become ‘juniorised’ with big thinkers being substituted by cheap copywriters because there is “not enough in the kitty for the magical.”

There are learnings on both sides. Agencies need to accept that brands are no longer modern-day patrons of their art. They won’t stand for the prima donna practices of old.  For their part, brands need to realise that reaching the audience is one thing, but it is rarely a long term differentiator in itself. Ultimately it is the art of persuasion that seals the deal, and this only happens with creative magic that resonates in a unique way with your audience.  And that’s art, not science.