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February 2005: Volume 47, Number 2

Creativity Defined
by Peter Hercky and Michael Pasqua

If you ask people to identify the driving force in advertising, they’ll tell you it is creativity. Although creativity is important, it is but one of the three legs upon which successful advertising needs to stand (the others are message and medium). Ask those same people to define “creativity” and they’re likely to say it’s something of which they themselves would not have thought.

Is creativity an innate talent reserved for a select few, or can it be learned like juggling, or riding a monocycle? Before we answer that question, let’s define creativity in advertising and differentiate it from creativity in art. Creativity is defined as “the melding of two or more disparate concepts into one.” Ponder for a moment anything you’ve ever considered creative and try to identify the diverse concepts. It’s an interesting mental exercise.

Creativity in art is more difficult to delimit because, in fact, it has no limitations. Haphazard paint splatters on a canvas and music played by a blindfolded chimpanzee may be considered artistically creative by some. However, that kind of creativity need not necessarily have an objective in mind before its creation, even though it may well evoke an emotion or reaction at its completion.

The purpose of creativity in advertising is three-fold.
* It needs to capture the attention of the intended viewer.
* It must be memorable beyond the moment of exposure.
* It must be relevant to the target market segment.

Unlike art, creativity in advertising must have a destination in mind. Such a destination or goal falls under two major headings: image/brand building and immediate action. Under those headings we need to decide what that image/brand should be and/or what action do we want the audience to take.

Once we know our desired destination with a clearly defined communications goal, the creative process can begin. The best creative starts with brainstorming. Pack a room with half a dozen free thinking individuals and tell them where you want to go. Let them come up with dozens, if not hundreds of ideas and jot them all down. At the end, choose the one that best meets the stated goal along with being relevant, memorable and impactful.

We italicized free thinking because that is what makes one creative: having the ability to think outside the box. Where some people have a natural affinity to think that way, others can actually learn it by using the proper tools. Here’s how.

Let’s say that our message goal is “Chopped beef for 99¢ per lb. at Fred’s Meat Market.” There are nine techniques we can use to make that simple message creative. These techniques include: adaptation, exaggeration, comparison, elimination, demonstration, borrowed interest, slice of life, reversal and substitution.

Using exaggeration in this example could show a couple barbecuing in the back yard of their mansion when old friends arrive and are astounded at the opulence of their hosts’ dwelling. The payoff comes when the man of the house reveals he can afford this lifestyle because he buys, “Chopped beef for 99¢ per lb. at Fred’s Meat Market.” Add Ed and Trixie Norton as the hosts and Ralph and Alice Kramden as the guests and you’ve got borrowed interest.

Think about advertising you’ve enjoyed over the years and you are bound to see examples of the other techniques. Comparison is probably the most familiar, thanks to taste tests and the like. Demonstration is time-honored as well, whether it’s floor wax or investment banking. The sly humor so favored in European advertisements often plays upon reversal and substitution set-ups designed to surprise the viewer and elicit a chuckle in the process.

Many public service announcements feature slice-of-life spots, vignettes of average daily activities of one sort or another. Elimination is often used in political advertising—the viewer is asked to remove a candidate who is shown lying, leaving only the truthful candidates. The same process is used for consumer goods where by eliminating the high fat cookie, then the high calorie cookie, then the high priced cookie, we end up with one perfect cookie, which is the cookie we want you to buy.

Will one of these techniques best suit a water business’ needs? Not necessarily. Yet they may all be used from time to time to reach your annual goals. There are companies who create a very specific image through the repetition of a particular commercial, using a particular technique repeatedly and over a number of years; others who make use of a new style and technique for each campaign. Both methods can and do succeed admirably.

About the authors
Peter Hercky and Michael Pasqua are founding partners at Hercky Pasqua Herman, an award-winning full service advertising, marketing and public relations agency specializing in business-to-business clients. The firm offers a full range of services to clients in every budget category across a broad span of industries. You can reach them at Hercky Pasqua Herman, 324 Chestnut Street, Roselle Park NJ 07204, telephone (908) 241-9474, email peter_ hercky@hotmail.com and michael_pasqua@ hotmail.com.