March 2020 (Vol. 60, Issue 1): CREATIVITY
Why Do Great Creative Ideas Get Rejected? The Effect of Creative Ideation Processes on External Judges’ Assessments
One of the most contentious issues in advertising is the evaluation and selection of creative ideas. The process—central to the success of agencies and clients—can either foster or frustrate creativity, begging the question, “Can people recognize a great creative idea if someone shows it to them?” Mark Kilgour (University of Waikato), Scott Koslow (Macquarie University), and Huw O’Connor (University of Waikato) tackled that question by inviting 49 creative professionals and 65 account executives to take part in their research.
In their “Great Creative Ideas” study, the authors shared a one-page brief for a household-brand advertising campaign. They found that “the originality of creative ideas is relatively easy to recognize and accept.” But there’s a downside: The people who generated the ideas “tended to rate their own ideas as more appropriate than did external judges.” If external judges don’t see the whole idea generation process, they may not be able to judge the appropriateness of the ideas which arise from the process.
To advance the practice of creativity in advertising, Kilgour, Koslow and O’Connor find that the best way forward is “to get rid of the notion that in evaluating ideas, managers need to have confidence in those decisions—at least in the initial stages.” They recommend a two-stage idea-selection process:
- Find the most original ideas, even those that seem outrageous, and
- Identify the strategy that underlies each idea.
Both creative personnel and managers should receive instruction “on the differences between self-evaluations and external evaluations of creative ideas,” the authors argued. This can improve motivational incentives for creative personnel. “The first direction is to address head-on possible weaknesses creative professionals may have in expressing creative ideas.” Moreover, they should be fully aware of problems that marketing managers face, and the terminology marketing managers use, to evaluate performance.
Specifically, agencies should:
- Accentuate training for junior creative staff in the standard media, tools and language of marketing strategy.
- Increase emphasis on the selling-in skills of the idea generator, with a particular focus on the appropriateness of an idea.
- Whenever possible, remove subjective heuristics from evaluation processes; for example, utilize blind judges.