In the Ring: Creativity vs. Research

24 Apr 2007|Added Value

“I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post: for support, rather than for illumination”
David Ogilvy

Somewhere between the consumer and brand communication lies an often uneasy relationship between insight/research consultancies, ad agencies and the client. 

Ad agencies defend their right to deliver advertising that is “creatively led”; asking clients to trust them to develop the kind of inspirational communication that will get consumers to buy more. 

But surely creativity by itself is too hit and miss?

This thinking implies that the creative process is more important than the consumer.  That market research and consumer insight are nothing more than a safety net for nervous brand managers.  A safety net that impedes the creative process.

But I believe that the best “big ideas” are deeply rooted in insight. 

To be honest, we have some sympathy with the notion that poorly conceived and badly run research does little to advance brands and the creative journey.  Traditional research groups are perceived, at worst, as a bunch of sad individuals sitting in a room with nothing better to do with their time than eat soggy sandwiches and drink free beer while they warble on about brands and ads. 

But true insight is about deep analysis, foresight and vision.  It’s built on the opinions of respondents who are articulate, passionate and informed.  It’s facilitated by experts who are trained to prevent group think, who are able to stretch consumers to places that they wouldn’t normally reveal on their own.  It’s about building a view of the market now as well as in the future.

Research needs to be flexible and adaptable.  It needs to move at the speed of the consumers and the market it’s working in.  We use lessons from studies in psychology and neuroscience to discover how people engage with their world and make decisions.  We use academic disciplines for more robust cultural insight, adapting semiotic and ethnographic approaches to unlock innovation, future trends and new brand landscapes.

Only by doing this, can we provide the illumination Ogilvy talks about; delivering the intelligent insight that is the launch pad from which the creative process evolves.  Insight should never replace the creative process, but it can provide the inspiration. 

Insight can help you to understand how your brand fits into people’s lives and how to communicate with them in the most direct and effective ways.  From understanding when and how consumers make decisions to which symbols and sounds and colours and messages will best deliver your particular message.  Insight can help you avoid cultural faux pas.  Can help you align your brand positioning across every element of your marketing and delivery. 

In fact, true insight can be the most powerful weapon in your creative arsenal.  And instead of being another obstacle to the process, insight can be used diagnostically to sharpen the work and generate the next “big idea”.

By Dave Blackshaw, Added Value South Africa.

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