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Industry Forum: Is advertising getting less creative over the years?

We asked: is advertising getting less creative over the years?

Mazen Jawad President, Horizon Holdings

Advertising is always progressing to be more and more creative, and the definition of creativity is also evolving. Looking back at the Cannes Festival of 2021, we’ve seen some astonishing work (‘Boards of Change’ on behalf of the city of Chicago or ‘Contract for Change’ on behalf of AB InBev, as a couple of examples). Data, technology and creativity, if used adequately, can create the perfect equilibrium for work that can deliver tangible results. Looking back just a couple of months, FCB won the coveted Network of the Year title at this year’s festival. So yes, advertising is becoming more creative and valuable when it can create or change a behaviour and stand as an economic multiplier.

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Leila Katrib

Creative director, VMLY&R Commerce MENA

Every year comes with a new set of challenges, a pandemic or a financial crisis, forcing agencies to get more creative with smarter, more efficient and innovative solutions. Not to mention keeping up with the latest digital, social and tech trends to engage with younger audiences with shorter attention spans, who are already overly exposed to so much more. Awards shows have elevated the standard, driving agencies to up their game. So, when clients ask you to answer the same brief year after year, how do you come up with a fresh idea that beats anything done or seen before?

Peter DeBenedictis

CMO, Middle East and Africa, Microsoft, Marketing Society Member

If creative advertising were a person, an apt quote would be, “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. Every year, incredible campaigns – from the largest brands to rising start-ups – hit the market, with its increasingly fragmented media landscape, at a pace few can keep up with. If attention is the currency of today and the future, advertising must increasingly innovate and, yes, be more creative to catch the attention of consumers. Anything less than creative will be dismissed with the swipe of a finger.

Michael Maksoudian

Managing partner, Netizency

Advertising is neither getting less nor more creative. I think the textbook definition of creativity has changed and is not compatible with our traditional understanding of it. Creativity these days is contextually based and is dictated by the social media platforms and their audience. You cannot run what traditionally we would call a creative ad on TikTok, as it will not generate the response that the brand is looking for. Once advertisers understand this shift in creativity, their brands will succeed in being ‘creative’.

Vishal Badiani

Creative strategy lead, Snap Inc. MENA

My first boss carried around a chart in his back pocket. It showed how advertising was being enjoyed less and less over time. One of the reasons may be less creativity and craft, but it’s also driven by today’s media habits. Media channels no longer offer a captive audience. Today, mobile is king, and audiences there are hard to impress and even harder to convince. That being said, I’d argue it’s easier than it’s ever
been to develop impactful creative and win attention – branded AR experiences, for example, are so accessible now, and can drive interaction and involvement that audiences crave, value and – most importantly – remember.

Ali Rez

Regional executive creative director, Impact BBDO MENAP

I think advertising is getting ever more creative in this amazing new era
where content, active engagement and brand love are more paramount than ever. There is much more innovation now: advertising has expanded exponentially – from a traditional mindset linked to only media, to become a business solution practice that goes beyond just marketing for brands. There is also a lot more focus on using creativity to solve issues that humanity faces, and these solutions get more innovative with each passing year.

Jim Robbins

Executive creative director, TBWA\RAAD

I believe advertising has got less creative. Because in some respects everything has. I don’t mean to get too heady (I’m by no means a philosopher or psychologist), but it is my understanding that, as humans, we’re going through a period of over-reliance on logical, left-brained thinking. We’ve traded feelings for formulae. We see this everywhere, from advertising’s dependence on testing to Hollywood’s affinity for prequels, sequels and reboots over original scripts. We’ve bucked this trend before, but it’s done by surprising people with original things. Formulae, by definition, are not original.

Annie Arsane

Platform strategy Lead, TikTok For Business METAP

25 years ago, the only brands that could be creative were those that had access to expensive studios and specialised talent. Today, everyone’s a creator. Everyone has a studio in their pocket, and everyone can create content that appeals to their own community. Big brands can still make big, sleek TVCs, or they (and every other brand) can tap into thousands of talented people who can deliver big, bold, relevant and incredibly creative content using just their imaginations and their phones. We are way better off creatively today than we have ever been, and I can’t wait to see what the next creative evolution is.

Robert Nammour

Branded content director, DMS – Choueiri Group

Digital advertising, especially social, is the great leveller, as the entry point for a brand to advertise has never been this low. And with the ever-increasing pressure to deliver short-term results, this has led to an overflow of generic and not creative ads. This might give off the perception that creativity in advertising has taken a dive. However, one needs only to look at award-winning campaigns from the region to know that this is simply not true. Creativity in advertising is thriving and it is fuelled by a new generation of multi-talented creatives who are constantly consuming and creating content as part of their everyday life. Trust the creators. Trust the publishers. Let them express themselves.

Trixie LohMirmand,

Executive vice-president, Dubai World Trade Centre, Marketing Society Member

Unless you have a big client with a big budget where the agency puts their number one account and creative team on it. Also, there are many boutique agencies now and everyone tries to set up their own agencies. Once in a long while you stumble onto a good one. Misses more than hits.

Rudy Haddad

General manager, Fusion5 Advertising

Advertising is getting more creative over the years due to the continuous development of technology and more media choices and digital platforms for consumers. It is time to introduce a new metric, ‘return on creativity’, to measure creative against regular advertising. However, we are noticing a smaller number of good creatives for many reasons: marketers are shifting their focus to digital advertising (measurable, cheaper, reaches a wider audience, can be tested and ensures greater agility); lack of talent (mainly in digital, which is driven by technology and requires customisation by platforms, while respecting their restrictions and guidelines, to stop users scrolling when exposed to ads); pandemic-slowed offline creativity due to lockdowns, evolution and the shift of users to digital (and a decrease in offline media investments). It is expensive and lasts for shorter periods.

Joao Medeiros

Executive creative director, Havas Middle East

The past always brings us beautiful nostalgia. It’s easy to remember iconic work and reminisce about better times, but we’re quick to forget less than stellar work that slipped through.

We live in a time where anything is possible. If we can imagine it, we can make it. Production tools are the greatest they’ve ever been; we have all we need to craft our work to perfection. We have data and analytics tools to sharpen our insights. Pair that with the basics and timeless fundamentals of advertising, which are ideas, and just like magic that great concept that gives you a rush feels unstoppable. Frankly, it’s an awesome time to be in advertising.