Empirical Marketing

“Safe” Creative is Just Too Risky


Advertising legend David Oglivy once said, “You cannot bore people into buying your product.”

Dispatch 6 Creative Effectiveness David Ogilvy

Decades of empirical marketing research have proven him right. You cannot bore people into buying your product… unless you’re willing to bludgeon them with so much advertising that they’re forced to pay attention, which will most likely cost so much that you’ll cannibalize all profit and end up losing anyhow.

Still the question gets asked all the time in boardrooms and c-suites: “Is creative advertising worth the investment?” Thankfully longtime agency strategist James Hurman recently set out to answer this question once and for all.

Hurman gathered 15 independent studies (from the likes of McKinsey & Co) comparing the effectiveness of advertising, agencies and companies. The results were unequivocal:

  • Creatively awarded advertising is effective at advancing business goals — and more effective than advertising in general

  • Creatively awarded campaigns are 11x more efficient at generating a market share increase

  • Creatively awarded campaigns are more likely to achieve “very large business effects”: significant improvements in market share, penetration, profitability, etc.

  • Brands who won top advertising awards outperformed the S&P 500 8-to-1 on average during the years they were awarded

The conclusion: creative marketing is not the risky option; on the contrary, it’s much safer than samesy, features & benefits marketing.

So why does creative advertising work so well?

Hurman’s research is also conclusive here: unexpected marketing is…

Another ad legend, Howard Gossage, said it best: "Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them; and sometimes it's an ad."

Further Reading & Listening

The Case for Creativity” – James Hurman

The extraordinary cost of being dull with Peter Field and Adam Morgan” — Uncensored CMO podcast, ep 98

The Socrates of San Francisco (Howard Gossage) — BBC Radio 4