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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.

Orlando Wood at EffWeek 2017 talks on creativity
Orland Wood of System1 talks at EffWeek 2017 on creativity and fluent devices

Watch a playlist of classic TV advertising that uses fluent devices

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.

chart showing the use of fluent devices over time

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.

Watch Orlando present his research at EffWeek 2018

“Just what the industry needs, great collaboration between clients and agencies on the topics that drive business growth.”

Bridget Angear, Joint Chief Strategy Officer at AMV BBDO

“It’s great to see the IPA in the UK bring the whole industry and particularly the trade bodies together to focus on effectiveness. This new Marketing Effectiveness initiative will enable people across the industry to work together to build on best practice.”

David Wheldon, Chief Marketing Officer, RBS

“Effectiveness is a team sport, so it was great to see the industry in the widest sense, come together. In an increasingly diverse and fragmented world, only by using all parts of the brain will we solve effectiveness challenges and design our campaigns to deliver short and long term value. That’s why what happens next is important – if the IPA can help facilitate progress on this with a long-term initiative around Marketing Effectiveness, we’ll definitely crack it.”

Bart Michels, Global CEO Kantar Added Value and Country Leader Kantar UK

“The time spent at #EffWeek was extraordinarily effective. It was great to hear the diverse views from all areas of the industry. All tied together with the common themes of accountability and effectiveness.”

Andrew Canter, Global CEO, BCMA

“It has been a privilege to be part of the inaugural Effectiveness Week. The agenda is one which we at O2 UK feel passionately about. To see and hear perspectives across the industry demonstrates how the breadth of marketing effectiveness is increasingly being valued within businesses. Data, insight, social, customer experience, test and learn, ROI, these are all fundamentals and were covered expansively at the event”.

Sandra Fazackerley, Marketing & Consumer, Telefónica UK Limited

“The full week of effectiveness events brought into clear focus the need for marketers to use data and insight to achieve the key business objectives of growth and profits. Marketers today are in a better position to quantify their knowledge of customers and measure the ability of investments in marketing to increase brand and shareholder value.”

Chris Combemale, Group CEO, DMA