As long as researchers continue to hold out their unvalidated techniques as an objective assessment of creative performance, there will be friction between themselves and creatives.
The Creative Council of the ARF is dedicated to developing a more productive relationship between the advertising fraternity and marketing researchers. The objective is to raise the level of collaboration between those “factors of production” that combine to develop great marketing communications.
There is an underlying assertion that better collaboration between creatives and researchers will result in more effective creative. In the expectation of creating synergies amongst its suppliers, brands have formed brand councils or marketing villages to help raise the level of collaboration amongst suppliers. I am a member of two such councils and certainly, based on those two examples, communications and empathy between creatives and researchers has markedly improved. Perhaps, based on better communications and operational efficiencies alone, the formation of the village can be justified.
Who caused this friction?
In many instances, creatives are correct and indeed justified in objecting to insights practitioners using subjective and invalid means for critiquing their work. Such objections include, but are not limited to, the use of qualitative tools such as focus groups moderated by opinionated entertainers asking participants how the creative “made them feel.”
Estimates are that as little as five percent of emotions actually progress to feelings (an emotion coloured in by memories) and then on to feelings that are consciously accessible. Almost always, the focus group participants are stating how they rationally believe the creative made them feel. The creative fraternity know enough about marketing research to know with complete clarity that often, the qualitative assessment of their work suffers from such methodological shortcomings.
Whilst we are being brutally frank; many quantitative tools are little better or perhaps, no better at all. It is challenging for researchers to be able to point to evidence that traditional, quantitative constructs are predictive of outcomes. The challenge has been in establishing a link between creative efficacy in the form of behavioural outcomes, and those made-up-measures often used to evaluate creative, such as ‘entertaining’ and ‘likable’. As long as researchers continue to hold out their unvalidated techniques as an objective assessment of creative performance, there will be friction between themselves and creatives.
Let’s talk about validity
When it comes to the validation of research techniques, there is a continuum of levels of validity. The lowest hurdle is face validity. That is, does the research finding accord with instinct? Face validity is an appropriate level of validation for purely exploratory qualitative research. The appropriate level of validity in quantitative marketing research is predictive validity. That is, the research findings accurately predict in-market outcomes. The means used for pre-testing creative should be able to clear the predictive validity hurdle. I recommend you keep an eye out for the forthcoming work of the ARF Creative Council.
Econometrically, brand building is achieved when your brand becomes first choice for a growing number of consumers based on the modelling of their rational and emotional motivations.
Does this mean that marketing researchers are the natural predators of creatives? After all, they are commissioned to assess the creative output. In practice, it seems the relationship is analogous to the prosecutor cross-examining the defendant. But if we are to progress this tumultuous two-some toward a more harmonious and efficacious outcome, perhaps the more conducive analogy is found in auditing.
In accounting, auditors seek to raise questions and coach the client toward better future outcomes. Being appointed as a firm’s auditor is, almost always, a long-term relationship. The auditor must be independent but at the same time, maintain a productive relationship. Ask yourself, how many research companies do you know that have a productive relationship with creative agencies? Even in cases where there is cross ownership, there is often an unproductive tension between the two.
The primary role of an insight practitioner is to fence-off a territory and within that geography, allow the creatives to produce their best work.
All in all
Science that correctly measures and models the link between marketing communications and behaviour, contributes to better creative briefs and more objective pre-tests/assessment of advertisements. For the better part, good marketing communications is a combination of brand building and performance marketing. Econometrically, brand building is achieved when your brand becomes first choice for a growing number of consumers based on the modelling of their rational and emotional motivations. The primary role of insights practitioners in driving creative efficacy is to inform the creative brief. That is, to fence-off a territory and within that geography, allow the creatives to produce their best work.
You can be certain that a more productive relationship between the advertising fraternity and marketing researchers will develop when researchers can point to the predictive validity of their pre-testing techniques.
Ken Roberts | Executive Chairman | Forethought