Everybody seems to be complaining about the quality of ad creative these days, whether it is lack of a great idea, poor taste, poor production quality, mismatched message and product or brand, or too much copycatting. In fact, I don't believe that I have been at a media or advertising conferences this year -- and I attend a lot of them -- where complaints about the quality of the creative in media today wasn't a significant topic of discussion.
I must confess I agree. I believe that ad creative is suffering today, and here is why:
Can't keep up with explosion of channels and placements. Producing ad creative today for large consumer marketers is much harder than it used to be. Today, not only do you need executions that can run in print, radio, TV, on PCs, on phones, on tablets, outdoor, direct mail, in-store, and any other number of new media platforms, but you need them to be complementary to an exploding number of new kinds of contextual and audience-centric placements. The creative is expected to appear native to each and every medium and each and every placement. It's not possible, and it shows.
Separation from rest of the agency functions. The death of the full service agency has hurt the quality of creative. Not only do different agency folks control creative than control marketing strategy and media, but all too often, they aren't even in the same agency companies. In fact, many times they are being managed by companies owned by competitive holding companies. How can you reliably deliver truly integrated marketing when creative, strategy and media are not only separated, but many times are competing?
Declining budgets. Everyone in marketing today, it seems, wants more for less. Of course, few things actually work that way -- unless you are talking consumer electronics or 7-Eleven soft drinks. Much of the bad creative that we see today on the Web and on TV is a result of those cuts. Certainly, operating in a world of increasing competition and maturing markets means that many consumer marketers in the U.S. need to better manage their marketing expenditures. However, across-the-board cuts in marketing and advertising (and creative production) are lazy ways to solve important problems. Great marketing should be a growth engine -- a profit center -- and should be run that way.
Flavor-of-the-month focus. Too many folks making decisions around marketing communications strategy get too focused on fads. At the moment, when you talk to brands and their agencies, it's all about social -- unless, of course, it's all about mobile. It used to be all about multiplatform (OK, maybe it still is) and consumer-generated media. Before that, it was all about search; and, before that, it was all about the Internet. To long-term winners, it's all about the customer, the product and the service. Marketing communication is just about you and your customers, and partners share that success with each other.
Short-term focus. This point relates to the last one. Today, in an era of "do-anything-to-get-attention" marketing practices and too many folks following the precepts of books like "Bang! Getting Your Messages Heard in a Noisy World," too many companies and too many creatives are only looking for a quick hit and to stand out in the crowd. They aren't spending nearly enough time and money thinking about building long-term consumer favorability and purchase intent.
Lack of strong brand message. Great advertising starts with the brand and its message. If advertising and marketing agencies are no longer sure who they are any more, it's even worse for many of today's large consumer marketing brands. The helter-skelter, financially driven portfolio management approaches that many of them take to running major families of consumer brands generate little or no regard to how they relate to consumers. If you don't have a clear and strong brand message, it's hard to have clear and strong creative.
What do you think? Is there a creative problem today? If so, how should we solve it?