Why Advertisers Should Give Two Hoots, Or More, About Creativity. (Part One)

October 8th, 2009

It was a sub-freezing December evening in Brno, Czechoslovakia, 1938.  Inside an ornate theater, however, public opinion was about to heat up following the premier of composer Serge Prokofiev’s unexpected score for the famed ballet, Romeo and Juliet.

Although Romeo and Juliet is now regarded by many as Prokofiev’s finest work, soon after it’s unveiling, critical carping began.  In the local press, his score was decried as odd, inadequate, and lacking sufficient feeling and melody to effectively portray the emotions of the story.  It was different.  And different was, well, bad.

Prokofiev retorted, “My own conviction is that there is plenty of all that [emotion] in it.  I have never shunned the expression of feeling and have always been intent on creating melody – new melody, which perhaps certain listeners do not recognize as such simply because it does not resemble enough the kind of melody to which they are accustomed.”

There in the proverbial nutshell is the world’s oft-repeated critique of creativity.

“If people find no melody and no emotion in this work, I shall be very sorry.  But I feel sooner or later they will,” Prokofiev opined.  And they did.

Later, one New York critic wrote, “Prokofiev has written music for the masses and at the same time has attained extraordinary nobility.”  About the score, Prokofiev’s biographer, Israel V. Nestyev declared, “Here we find no trace of surface inventiveness, grotesquerie or expressionistic hyperbole.  The music recreates with extraordinary power and compassion the passions and dramatic conflicts of Shakespeare’s immortal characters.”

“No trace of surface inventiveness.”  Few definitions of creativity are more accurate than that.

Was Prokofiev creating “art for art’s sake?”  He said, “ In Romeo and Juliet I have taken special pains to achieve a simplicity which will, I hope, reach the hearts of all listeners.”

There, in another nutshell, is what I believe to be the battle cry and the redeeming value of creativity.  “Reach the hearts.”  Loyalty and brand bias are built in your beating chest organ far more than in your cranial cavity.

That’s why, though you’ve decided to purchase a new car based on facts and figures, when you suddenly see an alternative that sets your heart aflutter, facts take a back seat.  (Hence, I personally bought the Saab 9-5 instead of the more logical Toyota.) It is my opinion that people buy with their emotions, and later justify the purchase intellectually.  Even many mundane purchases are generally the result of some previous or immediate emotional connection.

I propose there is a very crucial link between creativity in communication and consumer awareness, sales, and loyalty.  Creativity, of the intelligent, well-strategized sort, is all about the bottom line.

It’s not uncommon to hear so-called marketing experts snidely proclaim, “It isn’t creative unless it sells.”  I reply, “But it doesn’t sell unless it’s creative, because if your message is not interesting, entertaining and relevant in the first place, it will be ignored or despised.

Oh sure, leading brands must also rely on effective positioning.  But even the cleverest positioning must be communicated in fresh fashion if it’s to be noticed, remembered and acted upon.

Thankfully, there is now considerable industry research that confirms that premise.  I have a stack of it I’ll share with you if you’re interested.


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  • I agree with you 100% Dave. Creativity is crucial and should never be over looked. The bigger paradox in my mind is the current state of Creative departments in the ad industry. The recession has hit the ad world hard and the first to feel the cutting edge of HR’s pink-slip-scalpel is usually the Creative department. Creativity is an integral part of what we do as communicators, but it seems that creativity is taking a back seat to accounting.

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