Coca-Cola's Wendy Clark on the 'artificial divide' between creativity and effectiveness

Wendy Clark
Wendy Clark

In pursuing effectiveness, brands and agencies often disconnect creativity from the process - and marketing testing and measurement tools are partly to blame. This divide must be bridged, Wendy Clark argues in the third of our series on creative effectiveness.

Jim Collins, the author of Built To Last and Good To Great, has a powerful tenet in his thinking. It’s called "the genius of the ‘and’". Collins states that the truly visionary companies of the 21st century are able to embrace both ends of a continuum: continuity and change, stability and revolution, predictability and chaos, heritage and renewal etc. And while he didn’t say it, for those of us in the advertising industry, I’m adding my own "and" here: creativity and effectiveness.

When was it that the word "effectiveness" got disconnected from the word "creativity"? Too often, brands and agencies pursue this outcome called effectiveness singularly without enough regard for how they achieve it through creativity. If you leave creativity behind, you are leaving some measure of effectiveness behind too.

In a socially connected world where more than five billion pieces of content are shared daily on Facebook alone, we can be clear that the world is not suffering from a lack of content. With this in mind, it’s absolutely essential that we use creativity to fuel differentiation, engagement and effectiveness in our work. Clearly, the goal for any brand creating content is not simply more, but more good.

At Coca-Cola, we call this developing "work that matters". Selling products, generating a positive return on our investment and driving our business results in terms of volume, revenue and profit growth are all absolutely critical to us, but it’s not where the story ends for advertising effectiveness. An ad is effective when it impacts sales, yes, but also when the world is somehow different because that ad – that body of work – exists.

Along with brand value metrics, we’re acutely focused on many other measures of effectiveness for our work – such as embracing and growing our fans’ love for our brands and holding a cultural point of view on important social issues. We think about this in the context of the company’s reputation and commitment to creating thriving communities through our local presence. We watch and engage in online conversation and sentiment around our brands, and consider the influence of those conversations and content. And, notably, great work also impacts on our ability to attract and retain the best talent, both at our company and our agencies.

An ad is effective when it impacts sales, yes, but also when the world is somehow different because that ad exists

This is what we ultimately mean by effective work. So it’s truly an "and". Creative, effective work drives holistic value and impact for our brands, company and, at times, the world.  

The artificial divide between creativity and effectiveness in our industry, I believe, exists at least in part because of the strong advancements in marketing testing and measurement. Many of us are using state-of-the-art tools to test, track, measure and calibrate our work. At times, this can lead us to delegate decision-making to the data alone without considering the role of the work in the world, marketplace context, our previous knowledge and experience or the subjective dispositions of our fans. As important and useful as these tools are, brand leaders must remember that testing and analytics are inputs into – but not proxies for – our decision-making. We need to blend them with our equally strong experience, intuition and know-how to fuel the outcomes we expect for our brands and companies.

This year, I have the privilege and pleasure of leading the Cannes Lions Creative Effectiveness jury, where we will be applying this more connected, expanded view of the relationship between award-winning ideas and business results as we review entries. Together, we will identify and celebrate the very best in creatively driven, effective work that is advancing brands and businesses as well as making a difference around the world. I hope this will go a long way towards eroding the divide between creativity and effectiveness.

Wendy Clark is the president of sparkling brands and strategic marketing at Coca-Cola North America and the 2015 Cannes Lions Creative Effectiveness jury president

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