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Assessing And Making Great Creative

With the increasing amount of focus at Cannes on technology and innovation, it’s often overlooked that the official title of this week’s proceedings is the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. What Heineken’s Thursday presentation may have lacked in depth, it made up for in its double down focus on creativity.
Creativity, though, isn’t an easy thing to talk about. Soren Hagh, Heineken’s Executive Director of Global Marketing, brought the audience inside Heineken’s creative world, illustrating how they judge their own many brands’ creative and how they try to inspire consistent, memorable creativity.

Consumer choice demands great creative 
Hagh began by touching on today’s consumer climate, which is increasingly one in which the consumers are in charge. Today’s consumers have so much content coming their way, but that also means they have an amazing amount of choice. They can choose to shut out what’s being sent their way. So, when brands speak, they have to earn the right of the consumers’ attention. According to Hagh, creativity is the “silver bullet” that cuts through the clutter and “runs right into the heart” of the consumer. And as the world continues to veer in a fully-digital direction, good creative will be more important, and more at a premium.

Heineken’s Creative Ladder 
What makes great creative? It’s a subjective thing; ten people could watch a piece of creative work and all will have a different opinion on it. So if creativity is incredibly difficult to judge, how does one know how to make great creative? It’s in this quest that Heineken created their Creative Ladder, a 1-10 scale to be applied to each piece of creative. Each number on the scale holds a word that characterizes the ad:
1. Destructive
2. Hijacked
3. Confusing
4. Cliché
5. Ownable
6. Fresh
7. Groundbreaking
8. Contagious
9. Cultural Phenomenon
10. Legendary
Within the scale, Hagh pointed out a few important benchmarks. Anything at #4 and below “is a problem”, because often when people watch ads that are cliché or worse, they can’t even remember the brand. And the benchmark for truly memorable creative is anything rated #7 and above, of which Hagh said, “The future of creative is 7-plus advertising”. Anything at this end of the scale generates talkability, makes a connection with people, and urges them to share. Invoking his earlier point about great creative necessary to breaking through in the digital world, Hagh thinks that “7-plus” advertising is what people will work in today’s sharing culture.

How to create great creative 

If determining whether creative is great or not is difficult, then knowing how to create great creative is impossible.  Nobody has the answer to this, but all creative operations have their practices. Some think that trying to make great creative in a very large organization is difficult, but Hagh believes that big companies and agencies might have an advantage. It’s very rare, Hagh said, that great creative comes from the mind of a single genius, sitting in a dark corner and emerging with a wonderful idea. It’s almost always a team effort. Hagh pointed to Heineken’s Creative Council, a place where many minds can collaborate, brainstorm, discuss, and debate with “openness and frankness”. In addition, talented creative teams won’t always make all of their shots. Everyone misses. Risk is always involved, and there’s an “element of serendipity in searching for greatness.” And Hagh also warned against getting complacent and letting arrogance take over after successes.

There’s a lot of subjectivity in all of this. But that’s creativity. Creativity is art, art comes from within, and it touches each person in a different way. Heineken has many brands that have created lots of great, memorable advertising, so there very well may be something to their somewhat-structured way of assessing and fostering creativity. But there’s no panacea to making great creative. When someone thinks they’ve figured it out, someone will break all the rules and rewrite the book from scratch.

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