Saturday, 17 November 2012

Creative Strategy

Advertisements are called creative. The people who develop ads (TV commercials or print ads) are known as creative types. Determining what message an advertisement will communicate is known as creative strategy and determining how creative strategy will be executed is often known as a creative tactic.

Advertising creativity is the ability to create solutions to different problems in communicating a message. It is about generating new and unique ideas that can be used to develop these solutions.

There are different schools of thought regarding advertising creativity. Some say it is only creative and thus effective if the product being advertised, sells. Others say that creativity lies in the originality and the artistic value created by the creative types. The later strongly favor that sales should not be a criterion to judge creativity.

Many experts believe that advertising is a process and success follows only if an organized approach is followed in developing creatives. James Webb Young, a former creative vice president at the J. Walter Thompson agency said, “The production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Fords; the production of ideas, too, runs an assembly line; in this production the mind follows an operative technique which can be learned and controlled; and that its effective use is just as much a matter of practice in the technique as in the effective use of any tool.”

Young also defined a model to explain the creative process. Young’s model of creative process contains five steps:
  • Immersion: Getting information through research and immersing yourself in the problem
  • Digestion: Working over the information and grappling with it in one’s mind to digest the problem
  • Incubation: Stop the analysis, put the problem out of your conscious mind and let the subconscious mind work on it.
  • Illumination: The Eureka moment; when you get a potential solution to the problem at hand
  • Reality or verification: Extensive study of the idea thought for the extent to which it solves the problem and giving it a practical shape

Young’s model is similar to Graham Wallas’ four step approach:
  • Preparation: Gathering information needed to solve the problem through research and study
  • Incubation: Setting problems aside to let the ideas develop
  • Illumination: Seeing the solution to the problem
  • Verification: Refining the idea, polishing it and then evaluating it for its appropriateness

Inputs to creative process

Preparation, Incubation and Illumination

Before starting working on the creative, the creative types look for any background information available about the client’s product or service, the target market, the competition, etc. Some of the common sources of obtaining information used by creative types are: 
  • Reading (books, trade magazines, articles, research reports, etc.)
  • Questioning the client and the people directly involved with the product such as engineers, designers, salesmen and consumers
  • Getting hold of few conversations about the product/service; visiting stores, malls, and other public places to listen to what people are talking about the same
  • Using the product or service; your knowledge of any product is proportional to your use of the product
The advertising agencies also provide their employees with sufficient relevant information or sources to obtain such information to perform their job efficiently. This information may be general or product specific and are classified as:
  • General preplanning input – includes books, periodicals, journals, trade publications, magazines, etc.
  • Product specific preplanning input – qualitative and quantitative studies, problem detection studies, focused group discussions, ethnographic studies

Verification and Revision

This phase in the creative process (might also be termed as a pretesting phase) is characterized by evaluation and hence the revision of ideas developed by the creative types for a product/service. The techniques used for evaluation are- focus group discussions, message communication studies, viewer reaction profiles, etc. Any inappropriate idea is scrapped and the ones that need revision are refined and given a more pragmatic shape. The creative is thus finalized and ready for launch in media.

Advertising Campaigns

An advertising campaign is a set of advertisemnets aimed at communicating a series of messages to the existing as well as potential customers. In other words, it is a set of interrelated and co-ordinated marketing communication activities that center on a single theme or idea that appears in different media across a specified time period (Source: Advertsing and Promotion: An IMC perspective, Belch and Belch). In order to ensure that same idea is communicated through all the advertisements, the campaign must have a strong theme for the whole creative process (refer the figure along for some examples). The theme of an advertsng campaign is known as a campaign theme. 

Some latest advertising campaigns

Company or Brand
Thank you Mom
Just do it
Take the stage
Coca Cola
Open happiness
Kuch meetha ho jaye
Jo mera hai vo tera hai

Finding major selling ideas

Figure 1: Use of Unique sell
A major selling idea is the strongest thing that a company says about its product/service. It is a company’s major weapon (in form of an appeal) against its competition in the contemporary marketing warfare. It is extremely challenging for a creative type to figure out a major selling idea and then put it across efficiently through the advertisements. Following approaches can guide the creative team in finding out the major selling proposition for a product/service.
  • Using a unique selling proposition (refer print ad in figure 1 for example)
  • Creating a brand image
  •  Finding the inherent drama
  • Positioning (refer print ad in figure 2 for example)

Figure 2: Use of positioning by Volkswagen for Polo


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