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In a world of marketing science, algorithms and rationality, many marketers feel embarrassed to mention the c-word – creativity.

We all know though that as humans, emotional engagement is still the greatest motivator don’t we? An expert panel from Google, John Lewis, AMVbbdo and Unilever, debate their understanding of creativity as an effectiveness driver and how they structure their organisations to leverage it.


What is the role of creativity today?

  • Creativity and innovation remain crucial for marketing effectiveness and broader commercial success, but risks being undervalued and underexploited due to increased short-termism.
  • Creativity is about continually surprising and delighting people, and is a process as well as an end product – John Lewis defines it as being ‘Constantly Restless’.
  • Marketing plays two roles in delivering value: Demand Creation is aimed at non-customers, those out of the market; and Demand Fulfilment, which is aimed at customers, those in the market. Creativity is particularly important for Demand Creation, because you are targeting an infrequent buyer, who is largely disinterested, or may not even know you. You are competing with a world of so much choice, competing for attention and engagement.

“It’s about building brand memorability. It’s about talking to infrequent buyers who are just not that into our brands. That is why creativity is so important.”
Dan Izbicki Unilever timecode 5.23

Illustration showing customers faced with so much choice and brands struggling for attention

Creativity as content, experiences and entertainment

  • In an increasingly user-first world, creativity, understood here as great experiences and content, is king.
  • Youtube is the crucible of change in these terms – a billion views a month and no editor. Certainly a minority of views as functionally driven (e.g. how to videos), but the great majority are driven by creativity, fame and sharing.
  • One definition of marketing effectiveness is ‘making things that people want to watch’. ‘Entertainment’ shouldn’t be dirty word; we are in the entertainment business and always have been. In the Youtube world, now more than ever, entertainment is an effectiveness accelerator. Indeed Unilever have recently set up a ‘You Entertainment’ division.

Fame… the best proxy for creativity?

  • Fame is in many ways the best proxy for creativity. A driving factor of brand growth is the pursuit of FAME – based on content and behaviours that people want to talk about and share.
  • Youtube can be defined as a cultural engine, a mechanism by which ideas are formed and spread and become famous.
  • In terms of communications Unilever apply the acronym ART, Authenticity, Relevance, Talkability. Effectiveness depends on delivering all three, with creativity fundamental to delivering the T – with high Talkability dependent on creating fame, cultural connection and influence, and (at scale) ‘touching the nation’, or indeed the world.

“Fame is a defining capability of YouTube, brands which can harness that will be very effective”
Charlotte Morton Google timecode 27.40

The characteristics of a creative approach today

  • Creativity is, and will always be, a combination of insight and gut – analyticals help focus cultural immersion (on and off line) and can provide fantastic stimulus. But you still need to make that creative leap
  • Creativity can be short-term and stunt-like, as well as more sustainable and brand building – it’s a multiplier over the long term.
  • Creativity can often make marketing expenditures hugely more effective, but is not a replacement for expenditure in the first place.


(Chair) Bridget Angear Joint Chief Strategy Officer AMV BBDO
Dan Izbicki Global Director of Creative Excellence Unilever
Charlotte Morton Head of Creative Agency Relationships Google
Rachel Swift Head of Marketing, Brand John Lewis

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“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