Contemplating the Weird Science of Advertising…

Analytical thought and emotional thought are constantly at battle within a creative firm. We have discovered this battle is at the center stage of our mixed results. One emotional campaign is a winner, but the next fails. One analytical campaign creates sales, and the next flops. This is because the use of emotional intelligence is often at odds with cognitive intelligence behind the scenes; it’s a constant battle over each brand’s message-benefit. What proof points should advertising executives write into the creative brief? The analytical minds drive to talk about brand features while the creative minds want to produce their passion. The marketing manager usually breaks the tie, from an analytical point of view or from a creative perspective depending on their particular bias.

We try to remove bias through research and testing, but that model is flawed, as well. Although few marketing experts disagree that emotion is the most powerful factor in marketing, it has rarely tested well in the development of advertising campaigns. How do we test an emotional concept before we produce it?

This is why emotion is so difficult to sell to the C-suite. Executives expect to review proven evidence to justify the production budget before we spend it. (They are funny that way.) This contributes to the many reasons so many ads lack emotion and effectiveness. It’s easier (and less costly) to sell studies of text-based research programs than to produce full-scale creative concepts for testing. After the study of stale, text-based content, we never get the answer the creative team wants or needs, and that’s why they typically fight the research findings. Perhaps this is why the process is so exhausting.

Due to the opposing forces of creativity and analytical study, there exists a passive-aggressive relationship between the creative department and the strategy department. I remember being an art director at a large advertising agency. When the creative brief came to me dictating a boring message-benefit, I was really good at ignoring the hours of research that the strategist plopped on my desk. Every good creative thinker knows how to interpret the strategic findings without letting facts and mandated product feature inclusions put them in an emotional box.

Creativity is not an analytical process that can be driven by a rational strategy. Like David Ogilvy said, “Big ideas come from the unconscious.” That’s why the output from an overly process-driven team can be so inconsistent. That’s why every once in awhile, a great creative agency breaks through with a success that science will never understand. I got it wrong for years, until I understood the balance between strategy and creative. It’s a lifelong study, and we must all be lifelong students.

– Excerpt from: Surfing The Black Wave: Brand Leadership in a Digital Age