Creativity? Certainly! - Enigma Marketing Services
Creativity? Certainly!

Creativity and certainty were two of the main themes emerging from the B2B Ignite conference. The feeling was that they this was an either/or choice – but why can’t we have both?

Creativity and certainty were two of the main themes emerging from the B2B Ignite conference. The feeling was that they this was an either/or choice – but why can’t we have both?

The two keynotes that book-ended B2B Ignite earlier this week – from Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland and Velocity’s Doug Kessler – addressed very different topics but raised some of the same issues. Both speakers flew the flag for great marketing and outlined some of the obstacles to making it happen.

The Waggle Dancers

Rory explained that the amount of data now available to us means that we crave certainty. People are fond of saying, ‘don’t let great be the enemy of good’; but too often, good (or good enough) is the enemy of great. So, we end up re-hashing the same campaigns because ‘we know they work’ and ignoring potentially great new ideas because they are – of their very nature – untested.

Rory also talked about the waggle dance – the moves that honey bees use to share useful information with the rest of the colony. There are, apparently, 20% of bees that simply ignore this advice and forage on their own – they may return empty-handed more often than not, but the rare occasions when they find new sources of pollen or water are so valuable that this behaviour is more than justified.

So, we should ignore conventional wisdom and go with untested ideas because otherwise we end up in the same old ruts delivering the same old work for predictable and underwhelming results.

Marketers are great. Marketing is sh**e

Doug took issues with some of Rory’s points: “Don’t take hunches to a data fight” was his memorable advice.

But his main point was around why so much marketing is… let’s say ‘mediocre’; and he focused on great campaigns – Volvo’s ‘Epic Split’ and Metro Train’s ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ in particular. He asked, “How did such outrageous ideas ever get approved?” and spent the rest of his talk answering this question.

The key point about Dumb Ways…  (which Doug held in reserve until the end of his presentation) was that it was based on a fabulous insight. Metro Rail spoke to the young people that might play on train tracks and figured out that they were more scared of embarrassment than death: they had no concept of dying but cared deeply about being cool.

So, peer pressure would do what fear could not – and Dumb Ways to Die was born. Oh, and ‘near-miss’ accidents on Metro Trains was reduced by a third.

Getting Arrested

The day confirmed for me the need to marry great insights with great creative execution and the belief that this will generate great results. (Enigma’s credo is, ‘Great things happen when insight comes alive’ – so we are literally hanging our reputation on this belief!) But you need both of the first two if you want to generate the third.

Great insight alone won’t get you very far. We live in an attention-deficient world in which people are bombarded with messages and information: so, you need arresting campaigns – something to stop you in your tracks and command your attention – if you are to get any cut-through.

Equally, a creative campaign not grounded in insight is simply an exercise in onanism: it might make the creatives concerned feel good about themselves; but it doesn’t generate any value and won’t deliver any results.

Positive Asymmetric Outcomes

If a creative campaign isn’t solidly underpinned by real insight then it’s easy for a client to reject it; but if it is – and it’s clear to stakeholders that this will have a tangible impact on their business – then ‘out there’ campaigns have a much greater change of being green-lit.

So, you can have creativity and – if not certainty, then something that absolutely stacks the deck in your favour. As Rory said of radio advertising, he’s never known it not to work: you might not get exactly what you bargained for, but there will be positive asymmetric outcomes nonetheless.

I believe that the same will happen if you push insightful, creative ideas (even if they are new and untested) into the public domain. In fact, I’m certain of it.


Martin Simcock
By Martin Simcock

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