System1 have been working with the IPA to assess how creativity contributes to long-term growth. The results, released at EffWeek this year, have even begun to put a monetary value on its impact.
Last year at EffWeek 2017, Orlando Wood of System1 presented preliminary findings into research on a particular creative technique that he called ‘the fluent device’, so called because they aid recognition and improve processing fluency. Fluent devices are characters or motifs that drive the narrative of their advertising execution and are repeatedly used by a brand over multiple campaigns or years. Classic examples include the Gold Blend Couple, and more recently, comparethemarket’s Meerkats.
The decline of the fluent device
Using the IPA DataBank, Orlando was able to show that brands using fluent devices in their advertising campaigns were more likely to report higher profit and market share gain.“Fluent devices are a great way of building long-term memory structures,” says Orlando. “When we undertook last year’s work, we had a feeling that advertisers were using them less and less, and we wanted to see if that was true.” Last year’s findings showed that, indeed, the number of fluent devices being used in advertising has been decreasing for some years. “We observed that the declining use of the Fluent Device has coincided with the adoption of online channels. We hypothesised that the perceived need for ‘relevant’ content on those channels might be contributing to the drop in their use – something that we have been able to explore further this year,” he says.
This year System1 have extended the study. First, they have been able to show that campaigns that generate a greater emotional response in people create more value in the long-term than those that don’t. And second, they have set out to determine whether ads with character fluent devices perform any more strongly on empirically measured emotional response than ads that don’t. The research included, amongst other things, the mammoth undertaking of emotional-response testing for every TV ad that aired between July 2017 and June 2018.
Putting a value on creativity
The full study was released during EffWeek 2018. For Orlando, one of the standout results is that they have been able to put a figure on the impact that creativity has on long-term value. “I think it’s a world first,” he says. “I’ve certainly never come across any studies that have convincingly been able to do that using empirically measured emotional response. We’ve built on the shoulders of giants by using Binet and Field’s work connecting ESOV and market share growth, but factored in emotional response to demonstrate the additional long-term growth that can be attributed to creativity.”
The research has raised a number of questions which System1 and the IPA will further explore over the next year. The question of why fluent devices are losing traction is a key one. Is it creative fashion; an aversion to populism; or merely the fact that clients get bored with their advertising before the public do? Orlando is also keen to start categorising the considerable range of fluent devices out there and understand their different effects.
The link between creativity and effectiveness is oft-debated, and a conversation that itself can become subjective and emotional. It seems that we may be on the way to an evidence-based substantiation of its value.
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