the opinions and musings behind the expertise
Campaigns Cannot Live on Creative Alone
Posted: April 15, 2013
Back in the mid-90s, I launched my career by joining a large agency to learn some foundational skills in the art of marketing and communications. Up to that point, I had studied various disciplines including business for more years than I cared for. I figured I had decent knowledge of marketing and wanted to test things out in the real world. If any of you had the fortune to graduate from University in the mid-90s, you can likely recall the humbling experience of trying to land your first job in a repressed economy. So after much grit and determination, and most of all, persistence, I landed my first agency job as an Assistant Account Executive. After 60 Advertising Age magazines, 144 phone calls, 5 different rounds of interviews, and 6 months of trying, I was determined to make the most of my first career opportunity.
So I listened and attached myself to anyone and everyone who could teach me something about effective communications and promotional campaigns. I learned a tremendous amount about effective marketing and communications from that experience. After almost 17 years and multiple experiences later, some of these early agency lessons and best practices still permeate my approach to business. Perhaps the most salient of the lessons learned is that effective promotional campaigns cannot live on creative alone.
The starting block for a campaign to meet or exceed business objectives starts with a company properly defining its business strategy and direction. If you have not aligned the right product/service to the right people at the right place and at the right time, what are the chances your promotional campaign will yield results? When I conduct branding workshops, the first session is often more about the business strategy because it is the fundamental precursor to deciding the approach to gaining market share. This feeds directly into the positioning statement where you have to determine your target market, the type of business you are in, how you are different from the competitors and why. The resulting decisions then need to be validated by the market via talking to your customers and conducting some form of market research.
Once you have confidence the business strategy is aligned to the market, it must then translate to a marketing strategy and plan. This further refines the process of getting the right product or service to the right people at the right time and place. It translates the business objectives into the marketing objectives. From there, the marketing plan is then refined into a communications strategy.
To move to the next step, the account executive at an agency develops a creative brief that translates the marketing and communications objectives into a single objective. This is perhaps the most difficult step. Companies invariably want to convey multiple messages to the market to ensure the full story is told. They also feel compelled to achieve multiple marketing and communications objectives in one go. However, effective advertising campaigns work best by focusing on one message and conveying it well. The creative brief template forces you to boil everything down to a “Single Most Important Point” from which the creative concepts will be developed by the creative team. It needs to ensure that the key message is effectively communicated to the target audience and that the message will result in the intended response from the potential customer.
Finally, great creative will wrap all of this effort into a nice box with a bow so it gets noticed.
Over the years, the best campaigns I have worked on have resulted from a perfect alignment of all these inputs and factors. They were never a result of creative alone. And now you know why.