Can you really link creativity to sales?

Marketers want everything to be measured today. Everyday new tools and technology emerge promising to give a holistic view of audience numbers and campaign engagement rates. But despite the widespread availability of tools to track your sales and awareness numbers, can something as intangible and subjective as creativity be measured?

Should marketers hold their creative agency’s accountable for their sales numbers?

In a conversation with Marketing at a recent VML event, Debbi Vandeven, global CCO of VML said if marketers are running a full campaign on multiple mediums, it will very difficult to find out which medium is driving sales in particular. The matter gets even more complicated if each medium has its own set of creative executions.  She instead ties the success of a campaign to social listening.

“Our social listening has gotten big enough for even the sales team to start paying attention to what is happening on social. They look over everything and if there is something that is working in that region, they will play up on it,” she said.

Primus Nair, executive creative director of BBDO Singapore said that although creativity can’t possibly be measured on a scale of 1 to 10, measuring the reactions and response to the call for action within a week can be helpful in understanding the campaign’s success.

“In today’s ludicrously connected world, it’s easier than ever to tell how people reacted to your work. Within hours you will know if people loved it, hated it, or worst of all, ignored it completely,” Nair said adding:

My favourite measurement of creativity, however, is the taxi driver test. If a taxi driver is telling you about it on a cab drive, it’s a success.

It isn’t always all about sales

But at the heart of it, it really depends on what the campaign is trying to achieve.

In a recent content marketing conference held by Marketing, Anna Bory, GM of Audi said that especially when it comes to the luxury sector, sales is not the only measurement of success. Sometimes it is about brand awareness.

Adding on to the point, Nair said if a brand is in fact trying to build affinity or awareness, the goal is then to get people to actively want to know about your product. If the goal is to increase usage then you need to see people actually picking up your product.

“At the end of the day, the work should be judged by whether or not it moved those needles,” Nair said.

Agreeing with him is Sean Sim, chief executive officer at Mccann Malaysia, who said that while measuring creativity is possible, it only is when the KPIs are clear.

“We have to be clear on what the KPIs are as this is critical when it comes to managing client expectations,” he said. Sim added that while some creative advertising campaigns are able to garner great results when it comes to creating awareness and driving foot traffic into showrooms, whether or not it converts to sales would depend on the performance of the sales staff on-ground.

As such, great creative work alone can’t always ensure sales.

“That said, a direct marketing campaign can increase sales of a product, given the right creative execution and call for action. It’s all about using the right tools,” Sim said.

“Parts of our industry have forgotten the purpose of what we do: which is to build brands and grow sales,” said Andy Greenaway, executive creative director at Dentsu added. He said in the short term, creative should sell in a manner which can easily be tracked in a world where everything is measurable. But in the long term, a campaign’s success should be judged on the equity, saliency and affiliation the work has built for a brand. That is, the very things that drive long term growth.

Are awards a good way to measure?

Nair thinks so. He mentioned that a great way to measure the success of a creative campaign is through award shows. But he also points out the poignant fact that awards are double-edged swords.

“Awards are a great way of pushing the industry forward and setting benchmarks for the kind of work can genuinely create impact. At the same time, it can also lead to a distorted take on work,” Nair said.

Agreeing with Nair is Jon Cook, global CEO of VML, who added that the pressure to win often results in many dangers.

“There is a way of using award shows in a way which benefits the agencies besides just ego and vanity,” Cook said. He added that the reason why people should try to win awards should lie in helping to create and retain more talent which effectively leads to great things.

“There is a benefit to award shows. It gives you a chance to put your work on stage, not just for the ego boost but for getting people to know your company. It started that way and it is important to keep that as your objective,” Cook said.