Editor’s Note: The authors of this Journal of Advertising Research article begin with this anonymous creative professional, “It is a roller coaster—you can have a good idea accepted and be on a real high one moment, and the same day a great idea is rejected and you are on a real low.” Their study hopes to provide guidance for improving the creative process.
Why Do Great Creative Ideas Get Killed?
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.
The researchers recommend a two-stage idea-selection process: Identify the most original ideas, even those that seem outrageous (since originality is what both idea generators and observers are most likely to agree on), and identify the strategy that underlies each idea – to support the appropriateness of the campaign. The second stage is the hardest part. “Extra attention needs to go to more difficult-to-understand ideas,” the researchers wrote.
Here’s how they did the research: Qualitative interviews with high-level creative professionals helped shape their research questions. Next, 49 creative professionals and 65 account executives were given a brief describing the requirements of an advertising campaign. They were instructed to create an advertisement idea and assess the originality and appropriateness of their work. Then, judges trained to assess the creative work through the eyes of senior management, scored the creative on originality and appropriateness.
The creators and judges generally agreed on originality, but not on appropriateness. Expression of ideas was a key issue. Agencies need to “address head-on possible weaknesses creative professionals may have in expressing creative ideas,” the researchers wrote. Moreover, creatives should be fully aware of problems that marketing managers face, and the terminology marketing managers use, to evaluate their own performance.
Source: Kilgour, M, (University of Waikato), Koslow, S. (Macquarie University), and O'Connor, H. (University of Waikato). (2020, March 1). Why Do Great Creative Ideas Get Rejected? Journal of Advertising Research.
Member Only Access