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Why you should never compromise on creativity

Guest post by Sophie Wilson, CEO and Founder, Tuesday Media

Every day, an overwhelming number of new campaigns are launched. They range from advertising to email marketing to PR; from big to small, flippant to serious, conscience raising to product touting. As a career creative and now CEO of communications agency Tuesday Media, I’ll admit to having developed a debilitating campaign habit. I devour new campaigns with a passion, examining them to see what the special ingredient is that makes some shake things up, others push a brand into the spotlight, and a select few even change the world. The answer is simple. Successful campaigns all have creativity at their core.

As Jonathan has already discussed on this blog, creative ideas aren’t as much new in themselves, as a combination of things that already existed. This is also true of campaigns; the issues, products and ideas that they deal with aren’t new, but the fusion of subject and approach is what makes creative sparks fly.

With all this in mind, I’ve drawn together a list of thoughts, or a stream of consciousness if you will, on the common features of the most brilliant creative campaigns.

1. Creative campaigns don’t just rehash what others have done
How many times have you seen an iteration of ‘Keep Calm and…’? Some concepts may have been novel to begin with, but they have since been flogged more times than the proverbial horse.

I often encounter brands that want to launch campaigns based on things that have worked for others. But the clue is in the past tense – they’ve already been done. On these occasions, we have to be clear in our convictions and challenge potential clients – at the risk of losing business – to be bold and to place genuine creative thinking at the centre of what they are doing.

2. Creative campaigns engage with the thing that makes a brand special
If a brand has nothing special about it, it won’t last long. Businesses that stand the test of time do so because they have a unique reason for being. Even so, there are thousands of campaigns that fail to interact with their organisation’s special quality. The best campaigns I have seen use the brand’s essence as a springboard for creativity – creating campaigns that aren’t just interesting but embrace their raison d’être.

3. Creative campaigns are bold
On occasion, a campaign may need to ruffle feathers. A strong creative campaign will be bold, clear and willing to challenge, provoke or even upset some people to drive its point home. A good example of this is Blood Normal, BodyForm’s recent campaign to normalise periods. This has shocked, appalled and delighted in almost equal measure – and most importantly, has sparked endless debate and set the wheels of change in motion.

4. Creative campaigns feel fresh – even when they’re dealing with tired material
A mark of excellent creative implementation is when ideas that aren’t new are presented in a way that feels innovative and fresh. Take Trash Isles, the campaign led by Plastic Oceans Foundation and LADbible, as an example. The looming catastrophe posed by the mass of plastic in the ocean is not a new discovery – plenty of people are talking about it. But by flipping the issue on its head and running a campaign that aims to gain nation status for the floating island, the team have got the attention of members of the UN Council and the buy-in of the public.

5. Creative campaigns are on board with changing times
It may have taken a while, but the creative world is moving away from boozy client lunches and the ‘be here to be seen’ office culture, towards digital nomadism and atypical structures that allow the expression of talent at work. In short, traditional PR and marketing office culture is dying, and with it, is withering the traditional model of campaign. Tired-out ideas that focus more on the tools than the reason for using them are doomed to failure. The most brilliant creative campaigns I have seen take a step back from the way things have always been done and embrace new technologies, new practices and new attitudes.

Even with all this in mind, there is no magic formula for creativity. Coming up with a successful campaign takes time, effort, engaging in the creative process and a stack of false starts. But if you want to generate something that stands out from the crowd and tells your story in the most compelling way possible, it has to be driven by an idea. And that’s ultimately what you buy when you buy an agency – creative thinking from creative minds.

Sophie Wilson is CEO and Founder at Tuesday Media

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