Creative (As We Know It) Is Dead

As marketers, we’ve spent decades leaning on the double definition of “creative” to shirk responsibility. We’ve conflated the traditional creativity of artists, writers, and poets, with the creative side of marketing and advertising — the copywriting, art design, and campaign content.

We’ve argued that creativity has a unique human quality that can’t always be explained or measured, and therefore our creative work similarly cannot be measured.

Perhaps there was a time when such arguments held true, back when the Don Drapers of the world sat atop towering skyscrapers. today, we live in a world where every single aspect of a campaign is carefully tracked and measured — every aspect except the actual content.

Times — and technology — have changed. Now we can finally start holding creative teams accountable for delivering campaigns with impact.

Not only do we have the necessary technology to accurately measure the effectiveness of creative, but after decades of tech-driven advancements in marketing, we owe it to our customers to bring a more rigorous level of scrutiny to what we’re saying to them in our marketing. We also owe it to our organizations — our CEOs, CFO, boards  — to approach marketing with a rigor and scrutiny fitting of the investments we make into these efforts.



The beginnings of these changes can be traced to the advent of A/B testing and its application in web analytics and digital marketing. Though rudimentary, this gave us an option to test and optimize copy, adding at least some accountability to the process. But A/B testing has its limits - whether that’s the time it takes to do the tests or the statistical significance of the findings. And in the end, the people writing those A and B options are themselves subjective creatives.
Fortunately, we are standing at the precipice of great change in our industry.

We’ve created powerful tools that are capable of invading people’s homes and lives through myriad channels. And in response, consumers today demand tailored content that speaks to them as individuals, not only in terms of their demographic makeup (table stakes at this point), but in who they are as individuals and what they believe in.

Within the next decade, I foresee the end of broadcast media marketing as we know it, as we develop capabilities to serve targeted content to viewers and make the viewing experience different for everyone. New technologies allow marketers to speak on a 1:1 level to a million of their customers without the need for a million individual copywriters and without wasting a single bullet. This is true personalization.

While creative endeavors have their time and place, when it comes to marketing campaigns, we have an obligation to provide concrete and data-driven reasoning for our creative choices, and to deliver the best results we possibly can. Creative, as we know it, is about to change, and we must all be ready.

Creative is dead. Long live creative.

6 comments about "Creative (As We Know It) Is Dead".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 24, 2018 at 2:09 p.m.

    Alex, what you are implying is that in the old days---pre-digital----advertisers merely allowed agency "creatives" to put whatever they felt like in their TV commercials and other ads without any research or accountability. That just isn't so. Ever since P&G introduced ad recall studies in the mid 1950s advertisers with any sense---and there were plenty of them---pretested not only their campaigns but also the acceptability of the underlying message---before putting them on the air. They also tracked the ability of their campaigns to create awareness of their message and to motivate consumers to choose their brand. Many brand positionning strategies and commercial executions failed such tests and never saw the light of day. Others made it to the airways but were quickly pulled.

    As to your point about knowing the consumer beyond simplistic age/sex descriptions, this, too, is nothing new. Advertisers may allow their TV time buyers to protect their fannies with age/sex audience tonnage guarantees based on virtually meaningless "demos" such adults aged 25-54, but this is not how they have crafted their positionning strategies or commercials ever since I've been in the business. Much more subtle considerations, especially about needs and mindsets were always part of the equation---a major, not a minor part.

    I do agree with you regarding the application of better media targeting based on the mindset of the audience and how it matches that of the ad's sales pitch but that's going to require the advertiser to wake up and smell the roses where media smarts are concerned. To do that, they must allow brands much more freedom of action where media buying is concerned.

    Finally, I doubt that "broadcast marketing"---- by which you probably mean the use of media without attribution for every single member of the audience----will disappear over the next decade as you predict but that one certainly bears watching.

  2. Tim Rank from blueprint 314, August 24, 2018 at 3:49 p.m.

    A "precipice" is a dangerous area where events can turn horribly wrong. Turning back from the precipice is to move in a favorable direction. While I understand your meaning, I find the word usage ironic in a piece on the power of words.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 24, 2018 at 5:13 p.m.

    Walking into creepy is better ? NO

  4. Ian R Clayton from AXSES INC, August 24, 2018 at 7:55 p.m.

    A fascinating and acurate assesment - Travellers want information and recommendations that are personal. Technology can make that happen by understanding the psychology of travelers  and matching them with hotels and experiences to suite- see example of how this works at

  5. bob hoffman from type a group, August 24, 2018 at 7:57 p.m.

    The same baloney as 10 years ago. How do you even reply to this nonsense?

  6. Jamie Williamson from E.&J. Gallo replied, August 27, 2018 at 3:09 p.m.

    Agreed, Ed.

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