Does Creativity Make a Great Ad?


What makes a great advertisement? There are several elements and things that are put into consideration when thinking of a successful advert. They include, but are not limited to, the logo, font size & type, colour juxtaposition and of course creativity.

The fact that creativity is the hallmark of advertising is to state the obvious. However, creativity is not all it takes to make a great ad. David Ogilvy, the doyen of advertising said, “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.It’s not enough to be creative rather the question should be: does your creativity sell? A lot of times advertisers get into the habit of spending huge amounts of money on supposedly ‘creative’ campaigns which yield little or no result. In a bout of frustration and exasperation, they throw their hands in the air and exclaim “I knew it, advertising doesn’t work…it’s just a waste of money”

The truth is there is nothing wrong with advertising rather the fault lies in the advertisers not paying attention to the essence and the objective of an advertising campaign. In a bid to be creative, advertisers loose out on their target audience by failing to communicate the message inherent in the advert. The audience is left confused as to what message the ad is trying to pass across and therefore has to decipher this on their own. We all know that for most Out-of-Home audiences, they don’t have that luxury of time.

Some agencies have had great successes with pulling off a creative ad while others, in a bid to be creative, came up with bizarre and irrelevant advertisements in which case the essence of the brand was inconspicuous.

Ang Swee Hoon and Lee Yih Hwai, Associate Professors of Marketing at the National University of Singapore Business School, in their article on What Makes A Great Ad, stated that “sometimes, creativity takes a tailspin and brands forget about the important messages at hand, focusing instead on glamorous but tangential matters.” According to the professors, for a campaign to be creatively effective it needs to be novel, connected and meaningful.

Novelty is about being different, unique and unconventional; characteristics that not only capture attention but also generate interest towards the advertisement. Meaningful involves adverts conveying their messages in a logical manner while connectedness involves people’s identification with an issue. These three components were examined in the light of the recent awareness campaign by the Breast Cancer Foundation.


The campaign used tweaked social media logos to remind women that they are spending more time on social media than they are in examining their breasts. “……..the novelty that one sees in the breast cancer awareness campaign makes one take a second look.……..the tweaks made to the familiar Facebook and Instagram icons create a ‘puzzle’ that motivates people to take a closer look, upon which people would realize that the spoof on Facebook’s logo, for instance, shows a hand cupping a breast. The message comprehension is further aided by the appropriate headline – If only you checked your breasts as often.”

The professors opined that such tweaking “makes the advertisements novel because one would usually not expect to see Facebook associated with breast cancer. Yet, this lack of harmony has easily been resolved with the illustration and headline, making the tongue-in-cheek message comprehensible.”

In terms of meaningfulness, the intent behind the breast cancer campaign is to make digitally savvy women realize that they have been spending too little time on something important (checking their breasts) while ironically, spending copious amount of time on social media. “…..this juxtaposition between breast examination and time spent online draws a stark but logical contrast, and makes women sit up and realize the imbalance. The message would have lost its resonance if it had not been meaningfully associated with relevant logos, or if the campaign had used unfamiliar icons.”

When examining how people identified (connected) with the issue, the breast cancer awareness campaign highlights that the time spent on self-examination can mean the difference between life and death. This is an issue that people often get passionate or emotional about.

Creativity Ad

In summary, creativity is not all it takes to come up with a successful advert. It is imperative that agencies and advertisers take caution while trying to be creative so as not to wind up with an ad that projects the company in a negative light or leave audiences confused as to what the brand is trying to say. Creativity is the ambience of all forms of advertising, but it is not all it takes to create an effective ad.

Image Credit: HDWAffirm Your LifeCampaign Brief