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Advertising Creativity Matters

Advertising Creativity Matters MICAEL DAHLEN Stockholm School of Could “wasteful” advertising creativity that does not add to the functionaiity of the advertisement (i. e. , it neither enhances recaii and iiking of the advertising, nor Economics micael,[email protected]

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se increases comprehension and persuasiveness of the communicated message) be useful? An experimentai study shows that it can. By signaling greater effort on behaif SARA ROSENGREN Stockholm School of Economics sara. [email protected],se of the advertiser and a greater ability of the brand, advertising creativity enhances both brand interest and perceived brand quaiity.

The effects are mediated by consumer-perceived creativity, suggesting that consumers are important Judges of FREDRIK TORN creativity. Bringing advertising creativity into new iight, the resuits provide impiications Stockholm School of for the development, measurement, and positioning of creative advertising. Economics fredrik,[email protected] se INTRODUCTION There is no guarantee that creativity in an advertisement makes it more memorable or appealing to consumers (Kover, Goldberg, and James, 1995). In fact, research by, for example, Kover, James, and Sonner (1997) suggests that many creative advertising efforts may be wasted, in the sense hat they do not add to the functionality of the advertisement (i. e. , they neither enhance consumer recall and liking of the advertising, nor increase comprehension and persuasiveness of the communicated message). However, this article argues that such wasteful advertising creativity may have other positive effects. Previous research on advertising spending has found that, when bypassing functional aspects of high spending, for example, that bigger advertisements increase attention or that repeated exposures facilitate comprehension and breed liking, wasteful expenses have positive effects on brand perceptions (e. g..

Ambler and HoUier, 2004; Kirmani and Rao, 2000). The present research investigates whether or not the same conclusion follows with respect to advertising creativity. A common view is that creativity is a mission of the entire advertising industry, its raison d’etre (Koslow, Sasser, and Riordan, 2003). The fact that 3 9 2 JDUBOIIL OF (IDUERTISinG BESEflRCH September 2 0 0 8 advertising agencies spend a great deal of time and energy competing for creative awards, even though they are not sure that these efforts actually increase the functionality of their work, suggests that creativity is perceived to be important in its own right (e. g. Helgesen, 1994; Kover, James, and Sonner, 1997). In a frequently cited study. Gross (1972) showed that wasteful advertising creativity in advertising agencies, in the form of an abundance of creative ideas, yield more effective advertisements in the long run. This article takes the notion of wasteful advertising creativity to the level of the individual advertisement to see whether an abundance of creativity (that does not enhance functionality) in a single advertisement yields positive effects. Building on the research on marketing signals, we suggest it does. Studies show that the very employment of various marketing elements, such s warranties (long-lasting) or price (correlates with quality), sends signals about the brand that guide consumer evaluations and choice (e. g. , Kirmani and Rao, 2000). Advertising expense has been found to be a signal that consumers interpret as the marketers’ efforts due to their belief in the brand (Kirmani, 1990; Kirmani and Wright, 1989) or as proof of the brand’s superiority or “brand DOI: 10. 2501/S002184990808046X ADVERTISING CREATIVITY MAHERS fitness” (Amhler and Hollier, 2004): The greater the expense, the more confident the marketer and the more fit the brand. Categorizing advertising creativity as a arketing signal, we expect that greater creativity signals more effort (as creative advertising is harder to produce than “nofrills” advertising) and greater fitness (as the sender must have the knowledge resources to take the extra communicative leap and communicate in a nontraditional marmer) and thus produces more favorable brand perceptions. By investigating the signaling effects of advertising creativity on brand perceptions, we bypass the functional aspects that have previously been in focus in creativity research. Previous research focuses on intermediate effects such as advertising recall, liking, and comprehension (e. . , Kover, James, and Sonner, 1997; Stone, Besser, and Lewis, 2000; Till and Baack, 2005), or different facets of creativity, such as originality, meaningfulness, and emotions (e. g. , Ang and Low, 2000; Kover, Goldberg, and James, 1995; White and Smith, 2001). As advertising (and creativity) can take many shapes and forms, it is not very surprising that most authors seem to agree that the research on advertising creativity to date is troubled by contradictory and inconclusive findings (e. g. , ElMurad and West, 2004; Koslow, Sasser, and Riordan, 2003: Stone, Besser, and Lewis, 2000).

For instance, some (awardwinning, which is often the criterion in these studies) creative advertising may be very original and yield high recall, but low liking, whereas other advertising could produce strong emotions and liking, but be harder to recall. Avoiding such obstacles may be achievable by focusing on creativity as a signal in itself, rather than its facets and intermediate effects. The present study includes a number of elements that are novel to advertising creativity research. First, rather than using real advertisements as representatives of more versus less creative advertising, the tudy manipulates advertising creativity in the same manner as Ambler and Hollier (2004) manipulate advertising expense. Thus, we are able to compare advertising for the same brands with the same messages and control for the functionality of the tested advertisements. Most research to date has employed real advertisements, which makes it harder to discern the effects of the creativity in itself, as it also becomes a matter of different brands with different messages. Second, our manipulation does not produce creative advertising that is “outstanding,” but rather moderately creative. As noted by Haberland and Dacin (1992), the focus n awards creates a dichotomous view of advertising as creative yes/no. It is more likely that advertising varies in its degree of creativity. Not all advertisements win prizes for creativity, but that does not mean that those advertisements are not creative. Third, in addition to manipulating advertising creativity, we also measure consumer-perceived creativity. Previous research has usually kept the degree of creativity “hidden” from consumers, utilizing awards and expert judgments as assessments of creativity. Whereas advertising effects materialize to a considerable degree without consumer awareness (e. g..

Heath and Nairn, 2005), the present study tests the notion that consumer explicit thoughts about advertising creativity matter. ADVERTISING CREATIVITY AS A MARKETING SIGNAL Most markets are flooded with products for consumers to choose between. As consumers are unable to sample all products that are available to them, or even assess the quality of all the products they have actually consumed, they rely on marketing signals (Kirmani and Rao, 2000). Ad- vertising expense is the marketing signal that has gained most attention in advertising research. According to Kirmani and Wright (1989), advertising expense is an ndicator of marketing effort: The more money spent on advertising, the greater the effort—meaning that the advertiser must really believe in the product. Spending a great deal of money on advertising is a more powerful signal to consumers about the quality of the product than the content of the advertising, as the advertiser “put their money where their mouth is. ” More money means greater risk, and thus consumers feel safe that the advertiser will deliver on her promise (Kirmani, 1997). In tests of advertising expense, Kirmani (1990,1997) manipulates advertising sizes, colors, endorsers, and repetition and finds hat they may all increase perceived marketing effort. Interestingly, Kirmani (1990) notes that it is possible that perceived advertising quality (“includes the care and creativity used to design the ad”) could also have an effect on perceptions of marketing effort. However, Kirmani (1990) does not manipulate advertising quality (and more specifically, advertising creativity). Such a manipulation would result in perceptions of greater marketing effort. Coming up with a creative concept is more demanding for the advertiser than simply applying a standard solution based one’s own or others’ previous efforts.

Consumers are “advertising literate” enough today to infer that creative advertising is probably the result of a development process that is both longer and more costly (they may even refer this to the employment of a “fancy advertising agency”). HI: Advertising creativity increases perceived marketing effort. Ambler and Hollier (2004) suggest that advertising expense may not only serve September 2 0 0 8 JDUIIOIIL OF HDUERTISIOG RESEHRCH 3 9 3 ADVERTISING CREATIVITY IVIATTERS An extra degree of creativity may send signais about tiie advertiser tiiat rub off on consumer perceptions of tiie brand. as a signal of effort, but also as a more irect signal of “brand fitness. ” Referring to the biological theory of handicapping, they argue that advertising expense may be a signal of wealth—arguably, the advertiser can afford such wastefully expensive advertising. The wealth, in tum, could be interpreted as proof of previous success due to the brand’s great ability to serve the market. Extending the reasoning to advertising creativity, wasteful creativity (i. e. , the surplus creativity that does not add to the functionality of the advertisement) could work as a signal of wealth as well, wealth in the form of knowledge and smartness. For example, the literature n rhetorical figures (which are a form of wasteful creativity as they convey nessages in unnecessarily clever ways) suggests that they may signal smartness on behalf of the sender (e. g. , Toncar and Munch, 2001, 2003). However, this notion has not been tested. Ambler and Hollier’s (2004) concept of “brand fitness” is especially interesting in light of the growing body of research on perceived corporate ability. Perceived corporate ability refers to consumers’ beliefs that the company is able to improve the quality of existing products and to generate new products innovatively (Luo and Bhattacharya, 2006).

Studies show that perceived corporate ability influences the success of new-product introductions and marketing activities, as well as the market value of the entire company. In fact, perceived corporate ability may be the most powerful source of sustainable competitive advantage (Brown and Dacin, 1997; Luo and Bhattacharya, 2006). Advertising creativity could be a signal of brand ability (the equivalent of corporate ability on the individual, advertised, brand level). Coming up with a creative advertising concept signals the ability and desire to “think outside the box” and think in new and different ways compared to he competition and compared to the brand’s history. Thus, advertising creativity says less about the brand’s historical success and more about what could be expected from it in the future. H2: Advertising creativity increases customers’ perceived abuity in the brand. ADVERTISING CREATIVITY’S EFFECTS ON BRAND PERCEPTIONS Recent advertising literature argues that the most important and reliable measures of advertising effectiveness are consumers’ perceptions and experiences of the brand rather than of the advertising itself. This influence is due to the facts that consumers are not able to remember r discern all the advertising they encounter (e. g.. Heath and Nairn, 2005; Weilbacher, 2003). Powerful advertising affects consumers’ perceptions of the brand immediately (Hall, 2002). As creativity is supposed to make powerful advertising, the expectation is that more versus less powerful advertising results in immediate effects on brand perceptions. The main brand perception that has been uncovered in previous studies of marketing signals is perceived quality. As mentioned previously, perceived marketing effort signals confidence on behalf of 3 9 4 JOUIIIlflL DfflDUERTISinGRESEflRCH September 2 0 0 8 he advertiser (e. g. , Kirmani and Rao, 2000). Perceived brand ability would also signal high quality, as corsumers expect the brand to improve quality over the competition. Therefore, the hypothesis is that advertising creativity enhances perceived brand quality. H3: Advertising creativity enhances customers’ perceptions of brand quality. Conventional wisdom holds that creative advertising pushes the message into consumers’ minds (e. g. , El-Murad and West, 2004; Kover, James, and Sonner, 1997). However, recent literature argues that the individual brand does not really have much to say (e. g. Ehrenberg, Barnard, Kennedy, and Bloom, 2002; Heath and Nairn, 2005). In the massive marketspace and mindspace competition, it is increasingly difficult to be unique and virtually impossible to persuade consumers to buy your product (Weilbacher, 2003). In line with this notion, a survey among top-level agency creatives ranked the sameness among brands as the number one reason for improved creativity; rather than communicating a specific message (which is likely to resemble competitors’), advertising creativity must make the brand interesting and exciting (Reid, Whitehill King, and DeLorme, 1998).

This goal is particularly relevant to established brands, which make up the majority of the marketplace. The greatest enemies to these brands are predictability and consumer disinterest (Machleit, Allen, and Madden, 1993). Brands must continuously reinvent themselves and challenge expectations to stay in touch with consumers. This touch could be achievable with creative advertising. Creative advertising in itself suggests that the brand has something interesting to offer, as it signals effort and confidence, and ability to deliver ADVERTISING CREATIVITY MAHERS something different from the competition. Therefore, the study expects a positive elationship between advertising creativity and brand interest. H4: Advertising creativity enhances brand interest. CONSUMERS AS JUDGES OF ADVERTISING CREATIVITY Most research on advertising creativity conceptualizes it as a “hidden tool” for advertising professionals to create powerful advertising. That is, it is important that the professionals perceive the advertising to be creative for it to be effective, but consumers are not supposed to think in such terms, rather just to like the advertising, remember it, and select the brand (e. g. , Koslow, Sasser, and Riordan, 2003; Stone, Besser, and Lewis, 2000; Till and Baack, 2005).

However, a professional judgment of advertising creativity is no guarantee that the advertising will be successful (e. g. , Kover, James, and Sonner, 1997). For instance. Stone, Besser, and Lewis (2000) found that while 70 percent of the advertising that consumers remembered and liked was categorized as creative by trained judges, 47 percent of strongly disliked advertising was also categorized as creative by the judges. White and Smith (2001) compare creativity ratings between advertising professionals and the general public and found that the two groups differed in their ratings. The question is, who is the better judge?

Kover, James, and Sonner (1997) argue that less professionalism is needed in the judgments of creativity, as at the end of the day, consumers’ perceptions are what matter. The present study puts this argument to the test by testing whether manipulated advertising creativity (pretested on advertising professionals) has a direct effect on our hypothesized variables, without consumers being aware of this “hidden tool,” or if consumer perceptions of advertising creativity are necessary and mediate the effects. The hypothesis is that consumer perception of the advertising creativity is the first step n the process that leads to all the hypothesized effects in H1-H4: H5: The effects of advertising creativity are mediated by consumerperceived creativity. METHOD To test the hypotheses, we must be able to compare responses between consumers who have been exposed to a more creative versus a less creative advertisement for the same brand with the same message. Furthermore, to test with certainty whether consumer-perceived advertising creativity is an intervening, mediating step between manipulated creativity and our hypothesized effects, we must measure creativity perception before versus after he other variables (for H5 to hold, creativity perception should have a greater effect when measured before the other variables, cf. Kenny, 1975). To this end, we chose a 2 (more creative/less creative advertisement) X 2 (perceived creativity before/after) experimental design where informants were randomly assigned to one of the four cells. To avoid stimulus specific effects, four different brands and accompanying messages were used for a total of 16 experiment cells. All four brands are established and well known in their respective product categories (pain relief, coffee, vodka, and condoms). We chose well-known rands for two reasons. First, the majority of advertising in major media are for established brands (e. g. , Kent, 2002). Second, as consumer perceptions of wellknown brands are harder to influence than those of unfamiliar brands, the test brands make a more robust test of our hypotheses. Research instrument development Similar to Ambler and Hollier (2004), we wanted to ensure that only the wastefulness of creativity would differ between advertisements, not their functionality with respect to what was communicated. Therefore, we needed to develop advertising stimuli differing only with respect to the creative execution.

To this end, a method similar to that of Toncar and Munch (2003) was used. Four pairs of print advertisements were developed, one pair for each brand. Print advertisements usually have three main elements: the brand, text, and pictorial. In our manipulation, the brand and the pictorial was kept constant, while the text was varied to communicate the same message in a more (employing rhetorical figures, cf. Tom and Eves, 1999) or less (without rhetorical figures) creative way. The number of words was kept constant. The advertisements were pretested to make sure that the pairs communicated the same message, and equally strongly.

Twenty plus twenty consumers from the target population (below) were asked “how well do you agree that the advertisement’s main message is. .. ” and rated one of the advertisements from each pair on a scale of 1 = totally disagree/ 7 = totally agree. There were no significant differences within the pairs (A^more creative = 5. 4 verSUS Mjess creative = 5. 5). Next, 12 plus 12 advertising professionals from eight major agencies rated one of the advertisements from each pair on creativity (scale: 1 = not at all creative/ 7 = very creative). The more creative advertisements rated significantly higher than the less creative advertisements Mmore creative = 4. 0 verSUS Mjess creative = 2. 7, p < 0. 01). Notably, although significantly different from each other, neither of the two groups of advertisements was seen as particularly creative. However, September 2 0 0 8 JOURIIIIL OF HDUERTISIOG RESERRCH 3 9 5 ADVERTISING CREATIVITY MAHERS By focusing too much on award-winning advertising and treating creativity as a yes/no variabie, one misses out on ail the improvements that can be made and effects that can be attained at more moderate leveis. “How much do you think development of the advertisement cost? ” (1 = very cheap/7 = very expensive), and “How uch time do you think has been devoted to the development of the advertisement? ” (1 = very little/7 = very much). We included the variables both separately and as an index (r = 0. 52) in the analyses. Perceived brand ability ( H2) was mea- we are not interested in the absolute levels of creativity; the goal is to compare differences in degree of creativity. This approach differs from most previous research, which often employs “outstanding” (award-winning) creative advertisements. The fact that the degree of creativity is fairly low in our more creative advertisements makes our test of the effects of advertising creativity more robust.

It also makes the results more applicable in practice, as most advertisements do not win awards, but may still be creative (e. g. , Haberland and Dacin, 1992; Kover, James, and Sonner, 1997). Procedure We employed a procedure similar to Ambler and Hollier (2004). The participants were part of an internet panel of a professional market research firm and recruited to represent a cross section of the working population (56/44 female-male breakdown, age range 18-65 years, average 39 years). In total, 1,284 consumers participated in the study, making a cell size of approximately 80 respondents. Asked to participate in an advertising retest, consumers were randomly exposed to one of the stimulus print advertisements online and then directly filled out a questionnaire. Measures A number of measures were employed to test the advertisement’s functionality (which is supposed to be the same across conditions): Brand identification w as measured as an open-ended question, where respondents typed in the brand name they believed was featured in the advertisement. Key message identification w as measured by asking respondents to tick the correct message out of four alternatives (the alternatives were the same across all cells and were designed to be plausible for all four rands). Furthermore, we measured difficulty of comprehension (1 = very easy to comprehend/7 = very difficult to comprehend), advertising attitude (“What is your opinion about the advertisement you just saw? “), and brand attitude [“What is your opinion of (brand)? ,” both on a scale from 1 (very bad) to 7 (very good)]. We also measured brand familiarity and price estimates to rule out confounding effects of consumer knowledge or competing signals (cf. Kirmani and Rao, 2000). Similar to Till and Baack (2005) familiarity with the brand was measured before exposure (1 = never heard of it/7 = know t very well). Price estimates were measured after exposure with an open-ended question where respondents were asked to type in how much they estimated that the advertised product cost (employing familiar brands and products in the study, we expected no differences between conditions). We calculated differences in price estimates within the advertising pairs and compared them by product category. The following measures were used for the hypothesis tests: Perceived marketing effort ( HI) was mea- sured with two items on a 7-point scale. 3 9 6 JOUBflflL OFflDUERTISlOGflESEflRCHS eptember 2 0 0 8 ured with three items (1 = do not agree/ 7 = agree completely): “(Brand) is smart,” “(Brand) is likely to develop valuable products in the future,” and “(Brand) is good at solving consumers’ problems. ” We included the items both separately and as an index (Cronbach’s alpha = 0. 83) in the analyses. Perceived brand quality (H3) was as- sessed by asking: “What is the general quality level of the brand? ” with answers given on a scale from 1 (very low quality) to 7 (very high quality). Brand interest (H4) was measured with two items on a 7-point scale: “I find (brand) interesting,” and “I want to buy the brand” 1 = do not agree/7 = agree completely). We included the variables both separately and as an index (r = 0. 68) in the analyses. Perceived advertising creativity (H5) was measured by asking: “To what extent do you think that the advertisement you just saw is creative? ” (1 – not at all creative/ 7 = very creative). The question was placed before the measures of perceived effort (HI) and brand ability (H2) in one-half of the questionnaires and after the same measures in the other half. This design enables us to test the direction of causalities between the variables (Kenny, 1975). It has been used in previous research on, for xample, the causal effects between slogan evaluations and brand perceptions (Dahlen and Rosengren, 2005). RESULTS Manipulation and confound checks Comparing the groups of more creative versus less creative advertisements. ADVERTISING CREATIVITY MAHERS perceived creativity rated significantly TABLE 1 higher for the group of more creative ad- Effects of Advertising Creativity vertisements (M = 3. 94 versus M = 3. 37, p ; 0. 01), suggesting that our manipulation of advertising creativity was successful. See Table 1. Furthermore, the analyses include testing for differences in function- More Creative Less Creative

Advertisements, Advertisements, Planned M {SD) M (SD) Comparisons ,. . ,. Manipulation check ality between the groups with respect to • ^ 5 iF brand identification, message identification, comprehension, and advertising and brand attitudes. Only comprehension and advertising attitude differed between conditions, suggesting that the more creative advertisements were more difficult to com, , . , ,. , , , , prehend and were better liked than the less creative advertisements. To rule out competing effects from these variables. they were included as covariates in the subsequent analyses, meaning that these ^ •; ° ifferences were accounted for in the re- r, • ^ •• Perceived creativity 3,94 (1. 51) 3. 37 (1. 64) p ; 0 . 01 ^^’^^ °^ advertising functionality …. ^rapd identification 0. 99(0. 26) iVIessage identification 0. 99(0. 18) Comprehension 4. 96 (1. 71) 0,98(0. 28) 0,99(0,11) 4. 64 (1. 79) n . s. n,s, p < 0 . 01 Advertising attitude ° ….. ^. ‘[^uf?.. ^. ^^. ‘! ^. ‘^. ^.? Confounding variables Brand familiarity ^ ^. ^ . . ,. „ Estimated pnce, difference ,. ^ by product category 4. 08(1. 47) • f^. :^l. ‘ih^^). 3. 81(1. 28) p < 0 . 01 • • • • • ^. ^^.. {hf! ‘^). “. :! ; 4-,58 (2,23) „„^ +0. 04 4. 44 (2. 23) :28. (1:45) 3. 14 (1. 54) 3,41 (1,75) 2. 96 (1. 58) 2. 78 (1,50) 3. 16 (1. 71) p < 0 . 01 p < 0 . 01 p < 0 . 01 3 . 67(1,71) • • 3. 22 (;i. 26) 4. 25 (1. 19) ^ . . ,^ ,-^^ 3. 44 (1. 51) 3,42(1. 40) • • • 3. -. 04. (1. 37) 4. 00 (1,70) ^ ^ , r-^ 3. 12 (1,50) p < 0 . 01 • • P… ; p < 0. 01 ” r… 7. Smart 4. 02 (1. 53) 2. 37 (1. 40) p ; 0. 01 significantly greater when consumer- Develop valuable products 5. 02 (1. 25) 3. 35 (1. 55) p ; 0. 01 perceived creativity precedes the other vari- Good problem solver 4. 20 (2. 44) 2. 29 (1. 67) p ; 0. 01 Perceived brand quaiity 5. 48 (1. 16) 4. 02 (1. 0) p ; 0 . 01 DiSCUSSION Waste in advertising creativity matters. Brand interest 4. 62 (1. 51) 2. 56 (1. 41) p ; 0. 01 The results of the present study show that Interesting 4. 50 (1. 62) 2. 39 (1. 43) p ; 0. 01 Purchase intention 4. 73 (1. 71) ;. ! 2. 73 (1. 78) . ; p ; 0. 01 ” r:.. 7. ^^^ ” “^^ ^”‘^^^^ ^ ^ * ^ ^^^^- ^^^^^’ * ^^” improving the functionality of the adver.. ^ j u .. u tisement and push the message into •^ …. P^. ‘P^. ‘y^. l^^O’:* H2 consumer-perceived creativity and the mar, .. . , j /o^ ^u i• ketmg signals, and (2) the correlations are ables, implying a causal direction from he former onto the latter. H3 H4 Note: F(4, 729) = 80. 40, p < 0. 01, Wilkes’ lambda, 0. 53. Consumers’ minds, which conventional September 2 0 0 8 JDUROHL OF RDUERTISIIIG RESEHRCH 3 9 9 ADVERTISING CREATIVITY MAHERS lished brands that consumers were familiar Regression Coefficients, Test of Mediation by Perceived _ .. Advertismg Creativity s ? Coefficient t-Statistic p< Dependent variable Perceived marketing effort Independent variables .^, ,^ .. v ertising creativity is a p owerful signal when communicating familiar brands a s ,, well. The signaling power of Advertising creativity 0. 18 2. 31 0. 1 Advertising creativity (after inclusion of 0. 02 0. 16 n. s. perceived advertising creativity) Perceived advertising creativity , v ant mamly when communicating with c onsumers that a re u nfamiliar with t he b rand (e. g. , Kirmani a nd R ao, 2000), a d- Standardized gg^g Variables k eting signals argues that they a re r ele- 0 . 33 7. 69 0. 01 advertising creativity Recent research suggests that it is b ecom”^g i ncreasingly harder t o p osition a nd differentiate brands with advertising (e. g.. Ehrenberg, Barnard, Kennedy, a nd Bloom, Dependent variable 2002; Heath a nd N airn, 2005). A s m arkets … ^. ^. ‘[^^}}’. ^^.. ^. ^^! ^^.. ^’! ^’! }]^y.. a re c rowded with similar products, c om- Independent variables m unicating a u nique message or m aking Advertising creativity 0 . 29 2. 56 0. 01 a dvertising that sticks is v irtually impos- Advertising creativity (after inclusion of perceived advertising creativity) 0. 16 0. 99 n. s. 0. 38 5. 76 0. 01 ^^^^^ ™ ^ ^^^ ‘ ^^ ^°”^^ *° ‘^”‘^’^^^’^^ ‘ ^^^ ” ‘^ “”””‘^ important than ever to use creativity that really pushes the message ,, . / I T-, » , , j , . , r,r,r,A^ t hrough (cf. E l-Murad a nd West, 2004). A nother Conclusion would b e t hat creativ-

Perceived advertising creativity ^ Note: n. s. = noi significant. ity becomes less a m atter of m essage a nd content generation, a nd m ore a m atter of y/^BLE 5 form a nd s ignaling power. Crowded m ar- Correlation Coefficients, Test of Causality ^^*’ ^”’^ ^^”^ °^ differentiation are the very reasons provided for the use of m ar- Perceived Creativity Perceived Creativity k eting signals such a s a dvertising e x- »•perceived creativity x „.. „ Perceived effort iVIeasured First -„_ 0 . 35 iVIeasured Last ^„, 0. 24 Difference „„^ p ; 0 . 05 P^-^ived ability Perceived quality 0 . 42 0 . 43 0. 32 0. 4 p ; 0 . 01 p ; 0 . 01 Brand interest 0 . 49 0. 40 p ; 0 . 01 p ense (Kirmani a nd R ao, 2000). Focusing on the execution in itself, rather than the actual message, t he a dvertiser could u se c reativity a s a p owerful marketing signal a s w ell. O ” ‘ a nalysis reveals that more versus less advertising creativity produces a s ignal of m arketing effort that is s imilar t o advertising expense. This is g ood news, wisdom holds t o be the major benefit of t aken a s proof of the b rand’s smartness, a s t his revelation implies that t he a dver- creativity, a n e xtra degree of c reativity nd ability t o s olve problems a nd de- t iser does n ot n eed t o s pend excessive may send signals about t he a dvertiser that velop valuable products. A s a r esult, con- a mounts of m oney t o s ignal confidence i n rub off on c onsumer perceptions of the s umers became more interested i n the her p roduct. Instead of s pending money brand. I n our e xperiment, more versus brand a nd p erceived it to be of h igher o n b igger advertising spaces or l onger less creative advertising signaled greater quality. T he l atter is a p articularly inter- a nd m ore frequent campaigns (e. g. , Kir- ffort o n the a dvertiser’s behalf a nd was e sting result, a s t he s tudy featured estab- mani, 1990, 1997), t he s ame effects m ay 4 0 0 JDUBnflL OF eOUERTISIIlG BESEIIIICH September 2 0 0 8 ADVERTISING CREATIVITY MAHERS be attainable by increasing creativity instead. Thus, the present study provides compelling evidence that creativity could be a way to produce greater results per advertising dollar. Creativity seems to have the greater effect through signaling brand ability than through effort. One reason for this is that creativity may fit more logically with what the brand, and advertising in general, is erceived to be about: displaying great solutions in the advertised product category. While high versus low creativity also has a signaling effect through perceived effort, most consumers would probably agree that trying hard is not the true purpose of any advertising or brand. Advertising is not primarily about spending money; advertising is about cleverly presenting the brand, and a desirable goal for any brand should be to deliver a more sophisticated product than the competition (cf. Brown and Dacin, 1997). The very (creative) form of the advertising could be a powerful clue to consumers about the brand.

Creativity Is not a yes/no The presented numbers reveal that the advertising creativity in our study was not very high (ratings were not above the midpoint of the scale for either the more or the less creative advertisements). Thus, the study does not test the effects of outstandingly creative advertisements. Neither of the advertisements in the study would likely win an award. Still, at these (relative to previous research and to awardcompeting advertisements) low levels of creativity, increases did matter. This result provides evidence that creativity is not only important at an award-winning level, t is important at any level. By focusing too much on award-winning advertising and treating creativity as a yes/no variable, one misses out on all the improvements that can be made and effects that Consumer perceptions of the creativity in an advertisement mediate the advertisement’s effects on the brand and malee the impact of the manipulated (“hidden”) creativity much greater. can be attained at more moderate levels. Considering the high risk that is associated with high levels of creativity (e. g. , El-Murad and West, 2003; West, 1999), taking baby steps is both easier and safer han quantum leaps—viewing creativity as a spectrum rather than a high absolute level encourages increases in advertising creativity across all advertising campaigns. Creativity is not a iiidden tool Given the signaling power of advertising creativity, viewing creativity as a hidden tool for advertising professionals is a mistake. Consumer perceptions of the creativity in an advertisement mediate the advertisement’s effects on the brand and make the impact of the manipulated (“hidden”) creativity much greater. This is a powerful case for Kover, James, and Sonner’s (1997) call to bring consumers nto the agencies’ processes and invite them to partake in the development—and definition—of creative advertising. Whereas copy testing is becoming more common in practice, advertising professionals still interpret the results on behalf of the consumer, deciding whether her responses indicate that the advertisement is creative or not. Not surprisingly, Koslow, Sasser, and Riordan (2006) find that formal testing had no effect on agencies’ self-assessed creative output. If advertising professionals both ask the questions and interpret consumers’ answers to them, what need is there to actuaUy ask consumers?

If agencies had included consumer perceptions of the advertisements’ creativity in the testing, Koslow, Sasser, and Riordan’s findings would probably have been different. As Kover, James, and Sonner (1997) suggest, taking a consumer perspective offers new ideas and nuances in the creative process and provides more concrete feedback on the creative level of the advertising that would facilitate benchmarking and enhancement of the creative output. In enhancing perceived brand ability, the very creative form of advertising could be a way of branding. As suggested in the corporate ability literature, ability could e a powerful positioning in itself (Biehal and Sheinin, 2007; Brown and Dacin, 1997). For brands that have no particular unique feature, becoming increasingly common with the overwhelming number of alternatives available in most markets, ability in itself could be a sustainable source of advantage leveraging consumer expectations and trust in any product the brand introduces. This view is particularly interesting considering the trend toward continuously releasing new products under the same brand (Biehal and Sheinin, 2007). The research on marketing signals focuses mainly on unfamiliar brands (Kirmani and Rao, 2000).

Whereas it still needs to be tested, creativity should have important effects on unfamiliar brands as well, as they may benefit more from marketing signals in general. However, the present study shows that high versus low creativity works as a signal for familiar and September 2 0 0 8 JDURHIIL OF BDOERTISIIIG RESEflRCH 4 0 1 ADVERTISING CREATIVITY MAHERS Creative advertising does increase consumer interest in ations and Consumer Product Responses. ” Journal of Marketing 6 1, 1 (1997): 68-84. the brands, not by communicating a new message, but by COHEN, JACOB, a nd P ATRICI COHEN. Applied ommunicating the same message in another way. Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. H iilsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1983. established brands. Such brands make up the bulk of advertising in major media (Kent, 2002), They need to stay interesting to consumers even when they have nothing new to say (Machleit, Allen, and Madden, 1993), Creative advertising does increase consumer interest in the brands, not by communicating a new message, but by communicating the same message in another way. The present study focuses on a small number of advertisements for consumer products.

We employed only one exposure that was forced on consumers. Our experimental design was a way to test previously uncovered effects of creativity in a controlled setting. This way, we show that advertising creativity may work in different ways than in previous literature and have powerful effects. Whether these effects materialize in a real setting (with noise, less motivated consumers), and for different kinds of products, must be subject to further research, within advertising, PR, and brand communications DAHLEN, MICAEL, a nd SARA ROSENGREN, ” Brands have been published in, for example, the Journal of

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