Going for gold: What makes for great creative?

On a recent Saturday, I spent the day searching for gold. Creative gold.

A quick backgrounder

  • We are members of the Dallas chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF), the national advertising trade association
  • The vibrant, active Dallas chapter is one of 200 locals across the USA
  • The AAF sponsors the annual ADDY Awards, a tiered local-regional-national program recognizing the best in advertising and promotions
  • The ADDYs are blind judged by industry professionals from outside the entrants’ area chapters
  • That means creative types critiquing, comparing, complaining and crowning the best work of other creative types; yikes

Judging ADDYs for another market

I was invited to judge the local ADDYs for a chapter outside of the DFW area, and was happy to help. On a recent Saturday, I flipped, rotated and examined hundreds of entries from agencies and in-house creative departments. It was a creative salad bar with categories including:

  • Television
  • Websites
  • Digital advertising
  • Outdoor
  • Brochures and collateral materials
  • Posters
  • Print advertising
  • Logos and branding

At the end of the day, after every entry in every category was scored separately by different judges, those scores were averaged for possible wins on the Bronze, Silver or Gold level. Then it came time for our group to select the best-of-show winners for the market-chapter we had been assigned.

That’s when it became strikingly obvious to me how easy it is to identify great creative. Selecting the best of the best were by far the easiest decisions my group of judges made that day. We were unanimous in our picks from all the hundreds of entries, even though no individual judge was aware of how the other had judged any one piece in the entire show.

My take away: There are two Big Rules that define great creative.

My first Big Rule of great creative: Be memorable

After judging hundreds of entries for hours, when asked for the best-in-show category winners, the most memorable creative pieces of the day quickly popped into my head. Even now, I can vividly see each best-of-show winner. Through a combination of unique, compelling visuals, headlines, messaging and strategy, the best entries managed to take over some of my brain’s limited RAM (randomly accessed memory) space.

Every successful brand or campaign has won the war for RAM space in your short-term memory. Marketing and communication research has proven that people have limited memory when it comes to advertising. Every time a particular brand becomes top of your mind, there’s a good chance that your brain deletes a previous brand favorite.

The not-so-great creative easily gets lost in the noise. Weak creative campaigns – safe but without a clear identity – are tough for us to remember. Playing it safe and trying to be like everyone else, makes your campaign look, well, just like everyone else.

It’s like meeting triplets for the first time at a party and trying to remember which was which, a week later. Good luck with that.

My second Big Rule of great creative: Communicate one key message

Great creative is like the reduction sauce for a gourmet meal. It has been condensed down to one delicious, irresistible key ingredient; the single most compelling message that will resonate with the target audience. Again, it comes down to limited memory space.

As people, most of us can only remember one story at a time. Imagine Robin Williams doing stand-up comedy. While it’s funny how he jumps from one thing to another in rapid-fire action, it’s nearly impossible to recall everything he said. And the whole point of marketing and advertising is for consumers to remember you.

If they don’t remember you – and your one key message – you have failed. Why not just do the craziest stuff in the world, with no marketing strategy or key message because you don’t really care anymore? Sort of like many of this years’ Super Bowl commercials.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Imaginuity Interactive is a proud sponsor of the upcoming AAF-Dallas chapter ADDY evening, Feb. 20 at the Hyatt Regency downtown. We really connected with this year’s Dallas chapter theme: “Trade Your Baby for a Trophy.” The teaser videos are sublime. Look for tweets from @Imaginuity throughout the evening.



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