"When times are tough, creativity is even more important," Brett Morris, CEO of advertising agency FCB Africa told a recent the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) forum.
Morris argued that creativity in business is not frivolous, and that success can depend on the ability to support creativity when it counts: "Pushing the boundaries of creativity means taking a strong idea and making it even stronger," he said.
In a future of increasing and competing media channels, creativity will be essential as brands will have to be more singular and creative in order to get their message across. This is especially true as increasingly the future of storytelling communications move to mobile devices, Morris said.
FCB Africa has been lauded for its creative campaigns such as 'Buddy the dog' for Toyota and for the local implementation of the Share a Coke campaign, which replace the Coke label on the product with people's names. Local brand sentiment for Toyota was at an all-time high after the Buddy campaign, despite product recalls and the global recession. The agency was recently awarded the R500m Barclays Africa (Absa) consumer account, one of the biggest account realignments in South Africa in recent years.
The power of creativity
Morris, who spent part of his career as Nando's chief creative officer, had the following to say about the power of creativity:
- The power of creativity is indisputable. Investing in the power of storytelling allows brands to establish an emotional connection with the customer. Discoveries around human nature and the brain from behavioural economics show that people are essentially intuitive, and that their decision making process is largely irrational.
- Creativity allows you to frame things that are a problem with an inspired solution.
- Creativity has a proven impact on consumers' perception of a product's quality, as well as on their purchasing behaviour.
- A powerful, creative brand can bestow intrinsic value on a product purely by creating a creative, emotional connection with the customer.
While creativity is not easy to get right, Morris said it does not require big-budget advertising campaigns. "Mediocre adverting also works, if you repeat it enough. But we have an obligation to engage and inform in an interesting way," he added. Morris said he felt the current school system discouraged creativity, which requires passion, commitment and tenacity. While creativity is seen as reserved for the few, the creative and entrepreneurial process should be taught in schools.
Business and creativity
Morris's advice for businesses looking for creative partners was to set a vision they would be able to help the company achieve: "It's not about the pretty pictures, but where you want the relationship to go," he said. The creative relationship does involve taking risks and could be considered a leap of faith: "You need to understand that sometimes you will get it wrong. But invest in an idea and build on it. Great campaigns don't always start out that way, it is a partnership."
Morris said creativity should be valued and remunerated accordingly: "If you want smart, talented and passionate people working on your brand, then you should be prepared to pay them." He said agencies should be considered by business to be consultants and creative partners.