Digital Marketing & Creativity

Why should all digital marketers care about creativity?

Quirk's Search & Innovation expert Stephen Sandmann doesn’t work in the creative department, but knows how important creativity is to the success of digital marketing.  

What is creativity? I’ve had the privilege of working with many creatives who helped me understand what creativity is all about, introducing me to leading research and sharing their thoughts on the subject. One thing that stood out for me is that arguments about what’s creatively excellent and what isn’t are purely subjective.

A very talented colleague of mine, Fran Luckin, shared with me the following:

“Academics like Teresa Amabile and Robert Sternberg argue that, although we can probably never achieve an ‘objective’ definition of what’s creative and what’s not, qualified experts in a domain (e.g., digital marketing) can reach reasonable agreement over which work in that domain is more creative and which is less creative. That’s what awards juries like the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity judges do; those judgment calls inform a global creative code (the advertising industry’s, agencies’, or an individual’s internal system of evaluating if an idea is creative or not), and the judges literally curate a winner’s showreel of work for the world to see. Such award-winning work then filters down into individual agencies, and helps them to make judgment calls regarding their own work.” 

Fran expands further on creative codes: “The predominant values common to most creative codes are that the work has to be relevant and original. Creativity isn’t entirely subjective; different domains can have different experts with slightly different interpretations of what’s novel and original.” 

Forward-thinking application of technology or creative idea?

Being an early adopter of the latest technology (with reference to Moore’s Technology Adoption Curve) can lead to forward-thinking digital marketing campaigns. But are they creative or not, especially if they are relevant and original? 

The best way to express my thoughts on this is through an example. The McDonald's campaign I worked on relied on the application of the relatively new “OK Google” voice-activated search technology (not to be confused with “traditional” voice-search technology of the past). 

Google promoted their “OK Google” voice-search technology for the first time in late 2014 via an exceptional campaign by the 72andSunny agency. So, we were early adopters of “OK Google” voice-search technology by launching our campaign on May 8, 2015 – but were we being creative? From an SEO specialist’s perspective, we were creative because what we applied to SEO had not potentially been done before for a third-party brand, and its application was relevant to the campaign. SEO usually revolves around only improving websites’ visibility in “traditional” forms of Google search, not “OK Google” voice search. This video will explain what I mean. From a creative’s perspective, this McDonald’s campaign may not be seen as creative, but rather only as an example of forward-thinking digital marketing.

Interestingly, Cannes has given a creative hat tip to a digital campaign’s application of Google search technology: The Romanians are Smart” campaign won a Cannes Silver Lion in 2012. 

Why should you care about creativity?

I feel that we, as non-creatives (meaning not working in agencies’ creative departments) can understand what it means to be creative in our own right, and strive to produce work that we deem is creative too. We can all be creative in our own way by applying fresh thinking to solving clients’ business problems. While our definitions of creativity may differ somewhat, two things are important to all digital marketers:

First, imaginative thinking is important when it comes to problem-solving.

Second, creative work is critically important, as its objective is to break through competing clutter to provide clients with the best ROI. Non-creatives can help build effective mechanics or frameworks for creatives to flesh out one-of-a-kind successful campaigns. Creatives have strong creative skills because they exercise them often, and are not scared to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

With the above in mind, we, as digital marketers, need to embrace this ideal: to exercise our creative abilities in terms of our different digital marketing disciplines without letting the fear of failure stop us from producing excellent work as a cross-discipline team.

- Stephen Sandmann is Head of Search Strategy & Innovation at Quirk, a Mirum company. You can follow him on Twitter @stephensandmann.

A version of this article originally appeared on BizCommunity SA

Jen Coy