Can creativity be measured?

Marketers understand the importance of advertising to deliver on key metrics but sometimes get caught-up in the creative execution. Some even question whether one can judge advertising, after all it’s a creative process…..We present a simple 3 point framework to evaluating advertising.

Importance of memorable creatives cannot over emphasized.

Most marketers appreciate the role of memorable advertising to build brands. This has never been truer for the connected consumer of today, who is constantly bombarded with messages, and whose attention is fragmented across multiple media and life events at any point in time. This is further compounded by the fact that the most often viewed screen itself is much smaller and content is available on-demand.

“Creative advertising is more memorable, longer lasting, works with less media spending, and builds a fan community... faster,” says Stephan Vogel, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather, Germany.

But can such memorable advertising be measured?

After all, it's hard to judge creativity. Creating memorable advertising requires not just high creativity, but also a deep understanding of the brand and the product category. It requires a keen observance, and perception, of the consumers’ world, their feelings, aspirations, and their cultural context. Phew, and now triangulate it all back to the brand in a 30-second messaging!

As I write this, several brands and their ads come to mind, like Fevicol, Kurkure, Nike and, in more recent times, CRED’s 'Indiranagar ka gunda'! Some wonder, how can a boring consumer survey measure how good a piece of advertising is?

Presenting a simple framework to evaluate any advert

As a brand custodian, how should we evaluate an advertisement and decide whether it’s good enough even to proceed to testing with the consumers? Even the most experienced marketer sometimes finds it hard to evaluate multiple scripts, or like some elements, like the character in one script, or lean towards another that leverages the brand assets well.

I’d like to share a simple three-point framework for evaluating an ad.

  1. Smile test: Did the ad make me smile or frown or stand up and take notice? Does it elicit an emotion or resonate at any level?

  2. Think test: Wait a minute, what did we set out to do? What is the most important job to be done by advertising for the brand at this time?

  3. Connect test: If I close my eyes and replace another brand in this ad, does the ad still work?

Let us elaborate on each of these:

  1. Response to the advertising: Smile Test: For all the talk around System 1 methods to decode consumers response, we ourselves over-intellectualise our response to advertising. However, the first and most important is our spontaneous, non-rational response.

  2. The Think Test: Then comes the thinking on strategic fit, jobs-to-be-done (JTBD). Perhaps, the least understood is the third aspect around brand connect.

  3. Finally, the magic of memorable ads: The connect test is a litmus test and separates the good from the great, because the beauty is in the creative magnifier being deeply rooted in the brand and category truth. That’s why for me, personally, Fevicol and Kurkure ads have lasting memory. In fact, this essence is also captured in the taglines – 'Mazboot jod' and 'Tedha hain par mera hain' (respectively).

Let’s go back to the CRED creative of Rahul Dravid: When it comes to CRED, it made everyone sit up and take notice, without doubt, so, it does illicit a response. One can argue whether it was bang on strategy. However, gaining top-of-mind salience in a cluttered Indian Premier League (IPL) environment would be a key advertising objective for a fintech company, where the key marketing goal is rapid consumer recruitment.

However, the connect was deep with the insight around (former cricketer) Rahul Dravid, but not with the brand. The story loses nothing if the brand was not CRED, but what if it was Kodak or Bata? Is that, perhaps, why, despite it being a highly creative ad with awesome use of a celebrity, I can’t seem to remember the tagline or end-message and, indeed, the reaction for many consumers on the smile test may have been sheer confusion. What was this ad trying to tell me?

Ad Testing principles

Formal ad testing uses the same conceptual framework and tries to measure advertising effectiveness in terms of the ad’s

1. Clutter-breaking ability

2. Message resonance

3. Brand centrality

Technology around facial expression tools strengthens System 1 measurement, even in quantitative testing. Irrespective of the technique, it’s easier to weed out the rotten tomatoes!

The real challenge is in sieving good versus memorable advertising. This requires not just research expertise, but (equally) an appreciation of the brand, JTBD, and the consumer world. Given the consumer reality of an ever-increasing clutter and lower attention spans, good advertising can only help maintain status quo and will not power your brand beyond short-term salience!

So, the next time you evaluate a new ad, do check it out using the three step test – Smile, Think and Connect. Here is another tip – if one needs a PPT or a long preamble to explain the ad, it ain’t there yet! Great ads are anchored on human insights that are simple and intuitive, almost obvious in hindsight.

(The author Ruchira Jain leads her own marketing insights consultancy, Elevate Insights.)

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