11th November 2022

Getting to creative magic

If you have watched Mad Men, you have seen the magic of a great creative campaign. The moment when the Don Draper shows an advertisement that doesn’t just sell a product, but a lifestyle. 

These iconic creative advertising campaigns have become a staple amongst brands and marketers looking to catapult their businesses through their powerful effect. 

In fact, a study by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising showcased that creative-led advertising campaigns were more effective, especially over the long term. 

So, whether you are currently working in marketing or for a brand who is looking to help their business, we’ve created a guide to help you navigate the world of creative advertising campaigns.

Mad Men Campaign

What is a creative marketing campaign?

What makes a creative marketing campaign vs. a general marketing campaign is something that is insightful, emotionally-driven and distinctive. General marketing campaigns tend to focus on functional benefits while creative marketing campaigns take those functional benefits and showcase them in a memorable, emotional and creative way. 

For example, toothpaste advertising tends to lean into more generic-style advertising campaigns. Focusing on stats, facts and rational benefits of the product to sell (i.e. helps reduce risk of gingivitis by 97% or makes teeth 3x whiter than the competition). 

Whereas a creative campaign takes those functional benefits and expresses them in an unexpected and emotive way. 

A great example is the insurance company Geico, an insurance company, who created a gecko with a British accent to tell you about their products and services. In the ads, you understand the functional message, but in a way that feels fresh, exciting, fun and crucially…more memorable!

Geico Ad

What is the first step when creating a creative campaign? 

When creating a creative advertising campaign, the first step is an insight. It is what allows for a creative idea to be born and differentiates a creative campaign from a generic one. 

That’s because insights are, in their essence, a new way of looking at something. Jiulian Cole, a world-rounded strategist, describes it best, “An observation describes something as it is, an insight makes you see it in a way you never have before.”

A great insight makes you see things differently about your consumer (what motivates them? How do they feel? What do they think? What are they doing right now in relation to your brand or product?) culture (what is happening in society that affects the way your brand should present itself?) company (what is happening with your company that you may need to change people's perception of you?) or category (what is happening with your competitors and the space you play in that may need to be addressed?). 

These are the 4Cs and an insight can be generated against any of them. Deciding which one to choose is based on a combination of your business goals/objectives, current sentiment of your brand/product, reasons consumers should believe in your brand or product and more. 

Coming to an insight is not easy and takes a lot of research around each area of the 4Cs. However, it is well worth doing as it can unlock a nugget which can lead to creative magic. 

A great example of an insight which can be used for creative ideation is the Nike running campaign shown below. If you reverse engineer the campaign you can conclude that the insight is a cultural one: 

We stigmatise people who are not currently in shape from getting active, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of. 

The result is an incredibly raw and powerful imagery of someone beginning their fitness journey. A visual never-before seen in fitness advertising which is saturated with imagery of perfectly sculpted bodies in peak performance. 

Nike Running

What is a creative advertising campaign brief? 

A creative advertising campaign brief pulls together all of the elements needed to brief a creative needs to come up with a concept for the campaign. This includes: 

  • Situation and overview 
  • Business and consumer problem 
  • Goals and measurable objectives
  • Target audience(s)
  • Insight 
    • Get / To / By statements are a great way to bring your insight to life
      • Get - define your target audience. Who do we want to get involved 
      • To - what do we want our target audience to do? This might not necessarily be the end goal
      • By - what will motivate them to do the action? What can we show them that will incite the response we are looking for? 
        • Note: Often this is reiteration of the insight 
  • Outputs (where do you want this campaign to live? What will the end product look like?) 
  • Mandatories 
  • Tone, look and feel 
  • Additional comments 

Here is an example of an insight and get/to/by statement: 


We stigmatise people who are not currently in shape from getting active, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of. 

Get: People who are out of shape, but afraid to start their fitness journey for fear of ridicule 

To: Take the first step by downloading the Nike running app

By: Showing them they are not alone and normalising real and raw fitness journeys of people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels. 

It is important when defining your Get statement to focus on the psychographic of the person vs. the demographic information. Just defining your target as women ages 30-45 does not give enough information into your consumers mindset. Once you have unlocked the consumers barrier, you create a By statement to show them how we will break that down. 

This allows for the creative to come up with different unique and interesting ways to express the insight and create something eye-catching and effective.

What is a creative campaign concept?

A creative campaign concept is an idea that tells your brand and/or product message in a unique and memorable way. Once a creative brief is developed, a creative typically will create 2-3 different concept pathways to present. Each pathway will showcase a different creative advertising concept that expresses the brief in a distinctive way. 

These concepts may have a campaign name or strapline (Like McDonalds “I’m lovin’ it”) and then proof of concept executions to show how the campaign comes to life. These concepts may take many forms from Out of Home (OOH) advertising like billboards or bus shelter posters to social media posts or even a Public Relations (PR) stunt. 

Each concept will be distinct and different and therefore require different styles or types of executions to bring it to life. What unites all creative concepts is that they go beyond the rational and create an emotional message that is distinctive, unique and even never-seen-before. Like this Spotify ad: 

Spotify Advert

Why are creative campaigns important?

Creative advertising campaigns are important because they lead to more effective results than non-creative ones. According to The Gunn Report “Creative campaigns are extremely effective and efficient: on average around ten times more efficient than non-creative campaigns.” 

This is shown in Figure 67 below in the Gunn Report, which highlights the business effect (sales and profit) of emotionally driven creative campaigns is increased inline with ESOV (excess share of voice)”. 

This essentially means that a brand's share of voice is larger than its actual share of the market. Showing that creativity can help you get ahead of the competition, even if the competition is larger than you. This is shown further in figure 7 below. 

Creativity Boosts Efficiency
Gunn Report Score

Creativity also takes a brand being heard of to being known. As creative campaigns put brands on the map and make them famous. While awareness growth is linked to ESOV (excess share of voice), fame is more dependent on creativity as shown in Figure 12 below.

Cant Buy Fame

Overall, creativity helps your brand be heard, be known and stand out. All important aspects of advertising. As consumers see thousands of advertising a day, emotional and creative-driven messaging helps to ensure your brand will stand out in the clutter. 

How do you measure the success of a creative campaign?

Measuring a creative campaign is an important part of understanding its success. It is important that when in the planning stages of the campaign, measurement is considered from the start to ensure you have the figures you will need in the end. 

This includes: 

  • Surveys: A survey pre-campaign launch testing against your objectives. This could be gaining an understanding of current consumer sentiment about your brand, current brand awareness (unaided or aided) and any other information you are looking for your campaign to affect. This survey will then need to be distributed post campaign to understand if there has been a lift against the objectives. 
  • Dashboards: It is important to have a hub for all your metrics throughout the campaign. By developing a bespoke dashboard you can capture and measure channel performance on a weekly basis. You can then use this data to further interpret the success of the campaign and adapt campaign activity to improve campaign ROI.
  • Media Monitoring: If there is a public relations angle to your creative campaign, tracking earned media impressions is critical. Whether it is trade, lifestyle or hard news outlets, seeing if your campaign appears organically in the news is a great way to track campaign success.

We hope this guide to creative campaigns has been helpful and inspiring. If you are in need of a creative agency to help handle your next creative campaign, contact Big Cat Agency at [email protected]

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