Communicate creatively and effectively... or give your budget to charity

Great advertising differentiates winners from losers and is a huge driver of competitive advantage, supporting brand growth. Are you truly confident that your advertising will deliver?
09 August 2021
money creative effective
lynne deason

Head of Creative Excellence, UK

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Making the case for the importance of advertising and justifying the expenditure that goes behind it isn’t always easy. This data makes that case very powerfully.

“Creative quality” is the second most important factor in driving the profitability of advertising after brand size. On average, marketers ranked it in 4th position. Be honest with yourself, looking at the other factors in the list... where would you have placed “creative quality”?



When we explore the impact on brand equity and likelihood that the brand will grow in the future, data from BrandZ shows that brands that are perceived to have Great Advertising are more meaningfully different; and we know that the brands that are felt to be meaningfully different to people are the ones that thrive.


You also need to be sure that the creative that you invest in works effectively in the context in which it will be experienced. Getting the right people’s input early and often is key to communicating creatively and effectively. Here we can see the positive impact of getting early feedback on creative quality.

gbbc3This highlights the importance of investing your time, energy, and research budget in making sure that the advertising you are creating will be effective amongst the audience you want to make a meaningful and effective connection with. It also shows that it is critical that your company culture, and ways of working internally and with your partner agencies, fosters the development and deployment of creative and effective content across connection points.

Here we bring to life three key pillars of success, and showcase an award-winning ad that embodies these.

1. Understand people

We pay attention to things that are distinctive, entertaining and that make us feel something. To create a meaningful personal connection with someone you first need to understand them. A nuanced and deep cultural and social understanding of your audience provides the fertile territory from which the most original, creative, and effective ideas are sparked, and helps to ensure these ideas are brought to life in a way that will resonate intuitively.

Ask yourself: Do you really suspend your own personal beliefs and viewpoint to truly understand your audience? Do your ways of working ensure that human insight and an understanding of people is an essential part of the journey to creating great content? Are you seeking the opinion of the right people early enough in the journey?

2. Work with the brain, not against it

Leveraging an understanding of how the human brain works primes you to create content that is effective and works for the brand. This powerful understanding of how the brain works, how advertising works and builds brands is foundational to all the creative work we do and how we approach it; from nurturing the seeds of early ideas with tech fuelled qualitative techniques to evaluating and optimising the final execution in context.

Let’s take one example: brains are lazy. Our brains simply can’t pay attention to everything. Advertising isn’t something that inherently warrants the brains automatic attention (reality check!), so as outlined above, your content needs to work hard to earn it.

Another implication of our lazy brains is that it’s rare people will work hard to figure out what’s happening in an ad and how it all fits together. A feeling of being confused or people misinterpreting your idea will usually have a hugely negative impact on its effectiveness. Your own brain can be your worst enemy here. An effect called knowledge bias means that you lose the ability to see the ad for what it really is; your existing ‘knowledge’ of the ad that shapes how you interpret what you experience, without you being aware of it. You will ‘get it’ but others (without your prior knowledge) won’t.

Ask yourself: Is your ad going to work with the brain, or against it? What is it about your ad that means it will earn attention?

3. Develop a powerful and authentic idea, and commit to it

Brands that have the most efficient and effective advertising combine the power of individually effective executions, with a commitment to the same strategy and vision for years, brought to life in a way that is tailored to the context in which it will be experienced. Brands are merely a collection of associations in people's brains. Every encounter with the brand is an opportunity to enhance those associations - or undermine them. Committing to an idea that is authentic to the brand across all brand-created encounters means people can easily make connections across all encounters with the brand; in effect the encounters 'glue' together to create a more coherent and clearly defined set of mental associations about the brand.

Ask yourself: Is a commonly shared vision of what makes the brand meaningfully different to others truly embedded in your business? Could you explain it to a 10-year-old? Do you have a core communications idea that brings this vision to life in a way that is relevant and meaningful to consumers today? Do you know what the existing brand assets/cues for your brand are and which you want to build moving forwards?

Heineken: Cheers to whatever you ordered

The winner of the 2021 Global Kantar Creative and Effective Awards, this is a truly brilliant and hugely inspiring example of how to get it right. Front and centre is the very powerful and emotive human truth of drink related stereotypes for both men and women. There are also lots of other small moments in the ad, in the sheer detail of how the story is told and executed, that mean the ad resonates powerfully with people and feels real – the way people behave and react for example, means we connect with it intuitively. The ad works brilliantly with the brain.

Vignette ads can be confusing, but the idea is established simply and effectively from the outset and keeps our attention as we enjoy watching the reactions of other women and men in the ad, as they react to the stereotypical assumptions from hospitality staff about their drink (and later food) choices based purely on their gender. The music aids not only comprehension of the idea but further heightens and enhances the emotional reaction and meaning of the story.

“Amazing!!! Perfect. Nice people, good music, gender, races, preferences, desires, everything... since the first time I watch it left very clear how are genius its creators. Congratulations. I haven't seen such an intelligent ad for a long time.”

“Hahaha. That makes me think of all my men friends who don't drink alcohol! I always get the tea or the orange juice they order 😂”

At face value, there isn’t a common story that Heineken ads are pursuing; nonetheless, the essence of the brand is present in terms of its values and the emotional territory it wants to own. Heineken believes that when you choose to take a fresh perspective, you will enjoy life more. The brand wants to be inspirational, light-hearted, and universally appealing in how it tells stories, creating engagement by taking commonly held beliefs and twisting them with a refreshing Heineken point of view, via which life becomes more enjoyable. “Cheers to what you ordered” is a perfect execution of that idea – establishing a great platform to build from if commitment follows and the connections are clear in future brand expressions. Enjoyment of life and respect for people’s true selves shines through, and the idea of premium quality is implicit, told in a very entertaining and playful way. It’s refreshing to see an ad making a positive difference to people and addressing stereotypes in a way that is uplifting and joyful. Bravo Heineken!

Invest in creative that works

Walker’s: Are you Crisps IN or Crisps OUT? and Tesco’s Pop to your local if you can are other recent examples of effective ads that demonstrate these pillars in action. You can learn more about what underpins their effectiveness in these Marketing Week articles here and here – based on a response from the British Public, the marketing leaders that created them and Kantar’s creative expertise.

In today’s world of cognitive overload, ensuring that you’re investing in creative and effective content has never been more critical. Great advertising differentiates winners from losers and is a huge driver of competitive advantage, supporting brand growth far beyond a short-term conversion to purchase. If the creative you’re spending your precious media budget on isn’t creative and effective, you might as well give your money to charity.

Are you truly confident that your advertising will deliver? It is critical that your company culture and ways of working internally and with partner agencies fosters the development and deployment of creative and effective content across connection points.

A version of this article was originally published on The Marketing Society website.

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