Making Ads That Make an Impact

Making Ads that Make an Impact: Get Ready to Get Really Creative (and Really Committed)

There’s a scene in the mega-hit movie (based on the mega-hit book) Eat, Pray, Love where a friend tells Julia Roberts’ character that “having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You kind of wanna be fully committed.”

Your campaign is your creative baby, and in order to give it the best possible chance of a long life filled with awards, accolades and international recognition, you need to give it your full commitment. Luckily for you, there won’t be any late-night diaper changes or carpools with the bratty kids next door, but,
just like its real-life version, your creative baby is going to require you to pony up some moolah.

Cannes Lions/WARC conducted a study,
The Effectiveness Code, to get a definition of “effectiveness” that the global marketing industry could agree on. What they found was that the definition of “effective” isn’t universal—it varies based on the campaign’s overall objective and impact, like changing consumer behavior, sustaining sales success, or creating long-term brand growth.


But during their analysis, they made a new discovery that marketing effectiveness (across objectives) is heavily influenced by a campaign’s degree of “Creative Commitment.” Creative Commitment is a composite measure of the media budget, duration and number of media channels applied to a campaign – and it correlates very tightly with effectiveness.
Simply put, the more committed you are,
the more effective your campaign will be.

When it comes to creative effectiveness, it isn’t all about budget. In fact, the study’s authors found that the effectiveness of smaller budgets actually increase at greater levels of Creative Commitment. In other words, if you don’t have a lot of cash but you can increase the duration or number of media channels, you have a pretty good chance
of seeing results.

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So how do you up the media ante without piles and piles of money? Byron Sharp, a professor of marketing science and author of How Brands Grow, found that mass-reach campaigns are more likely to reach the “light buyers” who drive brand growth. In study after study, multi-channel, cross-platform and integrated campaigns have all been shown to be more effective than single-channel efforts. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of social media platforms and virtual communities available, providing you an abundance of opportunities to find the right audience.

Another key ingredient to maximizing effectiveness: creativity. If spend, duration and number of media channels are the three layers of Creative Commitment, creativity itself is the icing on the effectiveness cake. The Cannes Lions/WARC study found that creatively-awarded campaigns are much more effective overall at every level of Creative Commitment.

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Data2Decisions found that, after brand and market size, creativity was the single biggest determinant of advertising profitability, and several times more powerful than the other levers marketers can control.

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A 2016 study conducted for the Advertising Research Foundation found that investing in cross-platform campaigns delivers a significantly higher ROI. Specifically, going from one platform to two increases marketing ROI by 19%.

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Emotional campaigns, and in particular those that are highly creative and generate powerful fame/buzz effects, produce considerably more powerful long-term business effects than rational persuasion campaigns.

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A 2018 study from Kantar Millward Brown showed integrated campaigns are 31% more effective at building brands. As well as incremental reach, integration delivers what Kantar calls a “synergy effect.” For example, digital video and TV working together actually creates an additional 25% of ROI. (Kantar)

Economics professor Werner Reinartz and research associate Peter Saffert found that creativity in advertising got more attention
and generated positive attitudes toward brands, but so far no one had proven that
it could lead to more sales.

So the two set out to conduct their own study, measuring the creativity of 437 television ad campaigns for 90 fast-moving consumer goods (soda, coffee, facial cleanser, laundry detergent — that sorta stuff) in Germany (because that’s where they live) and then linking their creativity scores to sales figures for the products.

What they found kind of blows everything else out of the water. One euro invested in a highly creative ad campaign had, on average, nearly double the sales impact of one euro spent on a non-creative campaign. Reinartz and Saffert are saying you can double your sales just by doubling down on your creative thinking. How’s that for motivation not to go with the tried and true (and boring) stock-footage-with-a-generic-headline advertising approach?

The authors go on to say that the impact of creativity was initially relatively small but typically gathered momentum as the campaign rolled out — more evidence for staying the course when you know you have a winner on your hands. So many of today’s marketers don’t have the patience to wait for results before moving on to the next shiny thing. In fact, the advertising industry has been reducing its Creative Commitment for years now, and thus reducing its own return on investment, not just its clients’.

However, that opens up a great opportunity for those in know (ahem, that’s you, by virtue of just reading this article) to gain an advantage. While competitors are decreasing media spend and duration, you can increase your Creative Commitment and rapidly gain market share — not to mention a fully engaged audience. Combined with great creative and emotional storytelling, you’re solidifying your chances of creating an enduring brand icon. And that, effectively, is as hard to ignore as a face tattoo.

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We know, we know. It’s one thing to say you’re all in and quite another to stick with your campaign when someone over at MetaFaceSpaceGram declares that hologram advertising is the way of the future. Take a pause, do your yoga breathing, and follow our four easy steps to committing with conviction.

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You’ll already be laps ahead of your competitors if you start with a clear objective and tight campaign strategy. What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Although every brand aspires to icon status, sometimes a change in purchasing behavior is what’s needed at the moment.

The important thing is to manage expectations about what the campaign is intended to do. That will inform what creative strategies to use, when to measure results, and, perhaps most crucially, how much to budget. As we’ve seen, creative (financial) commitment correlates directly with (sales) effectiveness.

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It takes courage and guts to step out of your comfort zone and put new ideas out into the world — but a whole new level of success awaits you on the other side. Even though it may seem a bit riskier, there is conclusive evidence that creative work (with award-winning work qualities) is likely to be more effective than ordinary work. (Hurman and Field).

If your advertising is informed by your campaign strategy and objectives, the most original and unique creative execution is your best bet for engaging with your audience.
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Speaking of your audience, make sure you’ve done your research. Because when you have a clear idea of what your audience is reading, watching and listening to, you’ll be able to amplify your media strategy and increase the impactfulness of your campaign — even if you don’t have a giant budget to work with. By landing on the right channels, your media dollars will go even further, increasing reach and effectiveness without wasting spend on the wrong audience.

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This may be the most obvious piece of advice, but it seems to be the most difficult for marketers to follow! We all enjoy novelty, but what humans love even more is the familiar, the predictable and the trusted. We are creatures of habit, and before you try to deny it, ask yourself why your hand magically seems to find a chocolate sweet every afternoon around 3pm, or how many times you’ve listened to your favorite CD (are those still around?) on repeat.