Proving the effectiveness of creativity is key to profitable marketing

In the battle between effectiveness and efficiency, the role of creativity and how it can power profitable marketing is being lost.

scales balanceRecently, I was asked to deliver a presentation on marketing effectiveness to an audience of seasoned B2B marketers. Recovering after a shaky start that saw me question my role in explaining where they were going wrong – me not being a practitioner and all – I delivered my, admittedly melodramatic, provocation: the battle between effectiveness and efficiency will define marketing’s very future.

It has absolutely defined my 10 years at Marketing Week, I explained. The convulsions that followed the financial crash prompted the C-suite to question the worth of marketing and marketers. Instead of rising to the challenge of demands for greater accountability by demonstrating how marketing can drive meaningful growth, marketers retreated into a world of ever more meaningless measurement that showed that you could do more with less, without ever defining what ‘more’ meant.

Many have fled to a data-driven digital dead-end, afraid to take risks unless the master spreadsheet says it’s OK, I concluded.

Told you it was melodramatic. As much as it erred towards hyperbole, it did speak to a core truth – efficiency is trumping effectiveness. In large part, this is down to how success is measured. When reckoning the impact of activity, it is media that marketers increasingly look to.

Eyeballs, clicks, impressions, likes and shares will tell a story. They will tell you a really good story of scale at low cost. But they won’t tell you the full tale, and arguably not the most important part. What they will not tell you is the effectiveness of creativity.

Eyeballs, clicks, impressions, likes and shares will tell a story but they won’t tell you the full tale, and arguably not the most important part: the effectiveness of creativity.

As my colleague Mark Ritson recently noted, In modern marketing’s lifetime, there has been a move away from emotional response and resonance as key performance indicator. This is despite the work that McKinsey and Les Binet and Peter Field have done in demonstrating why investment in creative can lead to more meaningful returns over a longer period.

The question of why, in the face of the substantial evidence of creativity’s worth, it doesn’t enjoy the status it once did is explored in this excellent feature. So is what brands are doing to address the challenge of capturing creativity.

READ MORE: Measuring the magic – Why brands need to refocus effectiveness on creativity

Despite the challenges, marketers shouldn’t resort to the safe haven of short-term attributable media. The majority of their time, money and effort should be allocated to long-term brand building that has creative thinking and execution at its core.

As a quick aside, this is not about beating up on digital by harking back to the glory days of television and cinema advertising. Creative execution with a brand’s DNA and long-term objectives in mind is possible even in the most instant of online channels – and we’ll be exploring how brands are using digital to build brands as well.

As Binet and Field have consistently found in their work, the increase in short-term activity that prioritises performance over creativity is eroding the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Proving effectiveness should not be an exercise in being cheaper and quicker. It should be demonstrating how communications can build a strong brand and a more profitable relationship over time.

And proving the effectiveness of creativity in ways that show the kind of success your finance director understands will help in this pursuit enormously. This is not a rallying call for creativity, per se, it’s for a greater focus on effectiveness.