Ask any ad-agency creative professional whether their best ideas ever see the light of day, and the answer likely will be “no”. That outcome is a function of a highly contentious, early-stage evaluation and selection process. Researchers in Australia and New Zealand reexamined the process, offering takeaways for moving great ideas forward—and for fostering a more welcoming climate for creative risk-taking.
The idea evaluation and selection process—central to the success of agencies and clients—can either foster or frustrate creativity. It begs the question, “Can people recognize a great creative idea if someone shows it to them?” Both sides—idea generators (creatives) and external judges (in this case senior agency executives) usually can agree on an idea’s originality. Where the idea dies is often in disagreement over whether it’s an appropriate solution for marketing—which either fuels or kills confidence that creative directors and other senior executives have in pitching the idea to the client.
Particularly for highly original ideas, if the idea isn’t expressed in a way that external judges will recognize as work that “fits established patterns” and “has stood the test of time,” it most likely will scare risk-averse clients. The researchers found that the best way forward, may be “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:
The second stage is the hardest part. “Extra attention needs to go to more difficult-to-understand ideas,” the researchers wrote.
Mark Kilgour (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior lecturer of marketing in the Waikato Management School at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Over the past two decades, Kilgour’s career has included private consultancy in Southeast Asia and Australasia. His research focuses on creativity and innovation, social media and omnichannel retailing.
Scott Koslow (email@example.com) is a professor of marketing at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He also has worked for many years in the industry, and his research interests are advertising creativity, strategy and effectiveness, with additional focus in cross-cultural issues and big data and research methods.
Huw O’Connor (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a leadership and transformation consultant and a foundation teaching fellow in the Waikato Management School. His research explores the creative process, especially the roles of structures, networks, interpersonal dynamics, client-agency relationship and the absorption of informational resources.