The lack of creativity across marketing and PR is a common complaint from clients and agency heads.
We’re meant to create campaigns that get people talking or thinking. Sometimes those people are consumers, sometimes they’re business owners or MPs or budget holders or whatever the target market is. We want them to repeat our messages, take on our opinions and buy our products. We help define the language people use in different sectors and across the country.
But right now, we’re forging a copy and paste culture. Too many campaigns are predicated not on insight but on received wisdom. These campaigns are then put through the creative sausage factory of brainstorms and senior people’s whims and out the other end pop tried and tested, and wholly unoriginal, tactics.
Here are three examples, from corporate to consumer, of some of the tactics that have become lazy and second-hand excuses for real thinking.
Not a day goes by without a company or a sector stating how much they’re worth the UK PLC. The monetary value is always in the billions, the number of jobs is, at a minimum, many tens of thousands, and then there’s usually something about the total contribution to the Exchequer.
Like pieces of the True Cross, if collected together these economic contributions would add up to a sum greater than the whole.
Every time a minister speaks at a conference, they duly spout out the stats as a reason why that particular sector is so important to the nation. For a moment, everyone feels good.
But feeling good and doing something are two completely different things. If every sector makes a significant contribution, then no one stands out.
It was clever the first time someone did it; now it’s just tired. Let’s leave the final word on this tactic to Chris Giles, the FT’s economics editor:
And for any sector, charity etc thinking of spending money on duff economics suggesting your sector is especially valuable DON'T
— Chris Giles (@ChrisGiles_) November 2, 2016
Our survey said
From large polls of businesses to ropey Survey Monkey questionnaires, business-to-business campaigns often resort to opinion polling to drum up an interesting angle where none exist.
The problem with many is that, even after that is done there is still no interesting angle; worse they overstate what they have happened to have found. A poll of 100 self-selecting small business owners is hawked out to the press as representative of the opinions of entrepreneurs. No one notices them, no one trusts them but agencies pitch them, clients approve them and journalists write about them in a dull circle of mediocrity.
Why stop at days? There are awareness weeks, months and years too. A handful have become iconic. World Book Day is a stonking success. It’s played a key role in lifting sales of children’s books and made a massive contribution to childhood literacy. However, British Sandwich Week or British Pie Week are just boring attempts to fill a few more well-fed bellies.
These awareness days might lead to a temporary sales bump but will they lead to a sustained increase in sales? Of course not. Can anyone remember when these weeks are? Can you remember the companies that promote them? They’re like wallpaper, occasionally noticed but always unremarked, while other more interesting campaigns hold people’s attention.
When you take a step back and look at these tactics, it’s obvious that they’re void of creativity and likely to be ineffective yet they persist.
We’re unthinkingly creating a copy and paste culture.
I said, we’re unthinkingly creating a copy and paste culture