WFA Reports and whitepapers: Clients and Creativity 8/2022

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With creative communications effectiveness on the decline, what can brand owners do to reverse the decline and drive sustainable brand growth?

With the partnership of 34 national advertiser associations, Contagious, The Observatory International and WFA were able to conduct a global study amongst senior client-side marketers.

This study aims to identify what’s needed, from clients, to help reverse the decline in creative communications effectiveness. It also sought to speak to industry leaders (client and agency side) to help bring to life some of the challenges we have identified and to propose solutions.

Our sample boasted 640 marketing leaders from 34 different countries, in global (10%), regional (44%) and national (46%) roles.

Watch the quick introduction video here (YouTube)

Download the full report here.


Clients and Creativity identifies seven key areas where marketers need to focus to boost their creative performance:

  1. Better briefing. You are never going to get great work without a great brief. It doesn’t need to be long (agencies love being able to work on ‘tight’ briefs) but it does need to be well thought through and written in the context of trust and transparency between the client and their collaborators.
  2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Park discomfort – does the work deliver against the brief provided? Does it move your brand forward? Will it connect with consumers and encourage them to act even though the execution may be pushing your comfort levels? Start getting this right and you can start to move the dial on that in-built tendency to risk aversion.
  3. Strong Culture, better capabilities. Training and mentoring can help solve the many issues surrounding the above. Improving core capabilities in briefing and creative evaluation means that results will be quickly realised both in terms of your agencies’ outputs and time taken to ‘get it right’.
  4. Think brand value. Whilst pressure mounts to deliver short term results this can be to the detriment of the brand longer term. Regardless of how long CMO’s are in place in an organisation, they have a duty of care over the brand they are overseeing. Set KPI’s to monitor not only short-term activities but long-term brand perceptions. Align these with (internal and external) stakeholders.
  5. Alignment can be the death of creativity. Over layering in decision making is guaranteed to slow down outputs and water down their differentiation. Look to put a simplified RACI in place within your teams and be clear who the ultimate decision maker is.
  6. Don’t dismiss awards. Cynics may think awards are self-serving and make no difference (unless they are on stage to collect one themselves!) But evidence suggests highly awarded creative outperforms as a driver of growth. Awards certainly matter to your partners.
  7. Better client, better work. Strive to be the brand that creatives fight to work on. Work collaboratively with your agencies and build mutual trust. Present business challenges, not just deliverables needed. Co-create briefs (though make sure you remain sufficiently objective when evaluating responses). Agencies are not ‘suppliers’ – they’re vital partners that enhance your marketing mix.

“Marketers need to demonstrate they are growth drivers for their organisations more than ever and encouraging creativity within their teams and partners has become even more critical.  This report provides practical levers to help today’s marketers do just that,” said Lucinda Peniston-Baines, Co-founder at The Observatory International Limited. 

“At a time when superhero movie franchises reign supreme at the box office, it’s curious to see the marketing industry underestimating and underinvesting in its own superpower: creativity. There is the prospect of a rewarding ending though. This study shows that companies enjoying growth are those more likely to regard creativity as business critical,” said Paul Kemp-Robertson, Co-founder, Contagious.