Being original is not enough

Lana Daniela Giorsetti, International Network manager at Café Communications

When I am dating someone I really do care if the guy is cool (according to my taste and definition of course). When I hire someone for a certain job and moreover pay for it, I just want this service to make ME cool (profitable, known, whatever). The principle is quite different from the dating and this difference is quite obvious. Actually it is so obvious I would like to borrow a phrase I noticed in a famous men’s magazine. They use it for quoting some research that proves already well known things. “Ministry of the bloody obvious” they call it. And it is. Then WHY there are still so many presentations out there that show the client how cool, different and original WE, the advertising agencies or our creative directors are? Because who, apart from ourselves, cares?

It’s him, not you

The client doesn’t care if you are original as long as it is only your own uniqueness and differentiation that you care about. The client cares that you want and can make HIM achieve certain strategic communication and/or sales goals. Sometimes it means that you can make him original, but not always and necessarily the originality is the main goal. The cooperation with an agency that is cool, is well…cool, but the cooperation with one that wants the client’s company and their products not only the advertising campaign to succeed, is enriching and profitable. And yes, it can mean the best executed and targeted adaptations. If that is best for the client’s strategy, the best possible return on investment he will get, then that is what you have to do, especially because very often it is what you will have to do in the end anyway. And sometimes you just have to admit that the original for adaptation is just really good and just your inner ego wants to show that you can do better, but looking from the neutral perspective; the investment probably won’t pay off. Working several years on the client side just made me even surer about this.
The client probably knows less on how to create a campaign, that’s why he hired you in the first place. And there are for sure bad clients, there are reasons why every person in the agency has complained at least once, how the client doesn’t understand or appreciate his efforts. Yes, there are bad briefs and efforts to save money on marketing expenses from the client side. But sometimes, just sometimes the client can be right. As much as it sounds “the ministry of the bloody obvious”, sometimes just think for a second that the client knows his company or product better and your campaign might be great, just not for him. Especially if all you say in the presentation is how original the idea is.

Some hard proof

Don’t get me wrong. Creativity is great! A great research recently published in Harvard Business Review actually finally PROVES that creativity pays back for the client as well. Researchers Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert developed a consumer survey approach for measuring perceived creativity along five dimensions. A euro invested in a highly creative campaign had, on average, nearly double the sales impact of a euro spent on a nom creative campaign. BUT, creativity is not originality. Originality is just one of dimensions of creativity and those dimensions have varying levels of influence for measuring the effectiveness of the campaign. For example, elaboration and artistic value have better ROI than originality by itself. Yet the study shows that agencies use originality and artistic value more than elaboration (unexpected details, extension of simple ideas into intricate and complicated ones). Possible reason for this is that in the agencies we often think that originality IS creativity. In reality it is but one very important dimension. According to the study originality is often part of the most effective creative dimension combinations, but being original is not enough – it boosts sales only in the presence of additional dimensions. So now when you have some hard proof, it is probably just oh so obvious that originality should be a tool not a goal by itself.
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