Five Things to Ban for Better Creative Work

It is said that when you’re holding a hammer, everything suddenly looks like nail. The context and tools we have in front of us often defines the mindset that we have, and how we (consciously or not) view the world.

As such, there is an increasing tendency to use the wrong tool for the wrong job, simply because it is the flavour of the month. And there are some tools that are so overused or misunderstood that creative work will be much better if they were removed from the table.

If you are working on any of the following five on your briefs, then please just stop. Stop now.

1.  Flash mobs. There was a certain charm when these first came out, but they now just reek of lame, staged marketing. Having consumers spontaneously doing interesting things around your brand is cool. Having a bunch of actors forced to do a cringe-worthy song and dance routine is not.

2.  Viral videos. Let’s be frank here – this is just a code word for ‘low budget’. It means a TVC that doesn’t have enough of a media budget, or even worse, no budget to even do the production. Asking for a viral video is no different to asking for effective advertising – it should be the result of great work, not a standalone component. Great work will always be talked about and shared, regardless of whether the brief was to “make it viral” or not.

3.  ‘Fans’ and ‘Likes’.  We all want our products and brands to be popular. We want them to be the cool kids that everyone looks up to. But the trending obsession with collecting fans and likes on social media is no different to the vacuous teenager desperately seeking self-validation by treating Facebook as some online popularity contest – you may end up with a lot of followers, but it’s ultimately shallow and meaningless.

Fans are not the same thing as customers. And Likes are not sales. They are opportunities to have meaningful dialogues with people who have an interest in what you have to say, so respect them accordingly, rather than treating them as a way to keep score.

4.  Integrated campaigns. The Internet as we know it (i.e., the World Wide Web) was announced on 6 August, 1991 – more than 20 years to the day. So these days, it should go without saying that campaigns should be integrated. The problem is that this often still means a check box to marketing, rather than a holistic one. The right answer may often been to be focused, rather than spread a budget too thin. So rather than asking how we fill up a blank spot (be it a TVC, a billboard, or digital banner) with a piece of advertising, we should be asking how best to engage our audience with interesting cut through work.

5.  Click-through rates. Some things are hard to get rid of. It took the industry years to lose “hits” as a benchmark for KPIs. With average CTRs now hovering around 0.1 percent, it’s time to rethink these as well. To put things into sobering perspective, it means 99.9 percent of your advertising is not being clicked on.

If you’re the gambling type, you are over 40 percent more likelyto win a bet that someone will be dealt a full-house (0.144 percent) from their first five cards than to click on a banner ad.

Even more embarrassingly, you’re 40 times more likely to get hemorrhoids than to like an ad enough to click on it. Ouch.

Just because we can measure something easily (and CTRs are easy to measure) doesn’t mean that it’s useful or necessary. Perhaps our focus needs to be much more on the minds of the 99.9 percent, rather than the 0.1 percent, and treating banner advertising as the broadcast medium it is, rather than ‘digital’.

As a parting thought, I think the Magician’s Code is an interesting parallel we now face as an industry. The Magic Fraternity doesn’t like to reveal its secrets, because once the audience knows how the magic is done, the magic is lost. And yet, there are many magicians who do reveal the tricks (notably Penn and Teller), and they do this for a simple reason.

By exposing tired and old routines, they force every one in the community to innovate and create new methods. Methods, which ultimately benefit the whole community and the audience by seeming to be more magical, and inspiring – precisely because it’s different.

It’s a good a time as any for our own industry to look at it’s toolbox, and update our tired old routines to bring some new magic in.

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