Creative effectiveness: how to achieve tangible results

Chris Field | 3rd August 2017

Image: Fickr/Tatinauk

Advertising provides us with so much opportunity to create, to inspire, and to delight. We love being given the chance to do this work – so long as it works. Too much marketing communication isn’t strongly strategically or commercially aligned. It may look good, but what if it doesn’t do any more, if it has no positive commercial impact? Who gains? Maybe the agency, but certainly not the client.

Our business is full of people who have won creative awards, but our business wasn’t built to win awards, it was built to create work that works. Measured by our clients, against their commercial objectives. (See Damien’s article on producing international creative work that works.)

What drives us at Blue Latitude Health is the opportunity to make a commercial difference. We’re in the healthcare business. We are not apologetic about the ‘business’ part. Obviously, ideas are still at the heart of everything we do. Ideas that resonate, that get attention, that differentiate – and always ideas that are commercially grounded.

An attitude shift

Everyone loves the challenge of bringing a new product to market, helping to shape its positioning, developing the messaging, and building the brand. We love to solve all creative problems. So when a client comes to us with an existing campaign, or when a regional client has just been given a global campaign, we see a great challenge.

For many in our industry, this is a frustration; they want a clean sheet of paper and the opportunity to create from scratch. We see the opportunity to use our creative skills and experience to craft a solution that will work inmarket, which will be adopted by the countries and sales teams quickly and comprehensively. We see an opportunity to connect the dots, to extend the idea, and develop a range of activities across channels, which can be easily and swiftly used in-market. This creates a consistency of communications and strengthens the power of the campaign – moving the commercial needle in the right direction.

So how did we get there? What have we learnt in building a business that creates work that works? Since winning our first agency of record (AOR) account in 2014, we’ve been refining our approach.* And here’s what we’ve learnt along the way:

1. First take a look at your time horizon

You need to respect the time horizons that come with different client objectives. These different time horizons, or altitudes, require different approaches. You require agility from your partners to match these approaches – a willingness to match the team and task to the altitude. For example, you might not add an account director, strategist, and researcher to a 6-week optimisation project, and instead, make the analytics consultant and UX designer front and centre. If you’re taking a new product to market, you’re looking at the positioning, branding, and services. for that product.

You need to have a 2-5 year time horizon, senior support and global alignment, and your partners and agencies need to understand the horizon and key milestones on this journey. If you’re currently focused on performance optimisation, then you’re probably looking at the next 3-6 months, and working very closely with people closest to the customers.

You need tightly defined targets and frequent measurement. You don’t want large, connected, multi-organisational teams. You don’t want to recreate from first principles, and you don’t want new campaigns or big ideas. You want action, refinement, and results. In between, lay the nuts and bolts of building the brand. Taking global launch materials forward, developing campaigns, and delivering through a range of channels.

The time horizon here is 6-18 months. You should be building on the strategic layer, yet always questioning and looking to refine it. You should be pushing and building – willing to experiment. You need a range of skills and experience, and you need them to be talking to each other.

Multidisciplinary collaboration really delivers at this point, enabling solutions and deliverables to be tested and validated in an agile way. Doing so throughout your projects will achieve both greater impact and reduced overall costs (remember, late changes in a project can cost 10-100x more than addressing issues early).

Finally, make sure you also can align the time horizon, are you to support your agency on a morning stand-up or a weekly checkin or are you really more setup for a monthly review?

2. Treat adoption as a chronic condition

No matter how good the work is, it can’t have impact until it’s adopted. Do your reps understand the material? Are they using it correctly – or even using it at all? Are your countries fully adopting, and is it integrating with their local activities? Is it being adopted quickly, or taking nine months to filter through?

You need to be continually working to ensure high levels of adoption. This work starts very early and carries on well after Zinc approval. When working with our own clients, we continue to work on adoption beyond the delivery of the project. When time is of the essence, we judge ourselves on time to local adoption as opposed to delivery to Zinc.

*We are not alone in our approach here, for more check out Tom Goodwin’s posts and the recent IPA report on the future of agencies.

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