Can You Teach Creativity?

Creativity is one of these words that gets thrown around a lot in the advertising sphere. As an agency, we advise our clients to be innovative and creative with their ad formats, messaging, and imagry to better attract consumers.

But what does “be creative” actually mean? Is creativity something that can be taught?

Well, let’s start from the beginning…

What is creativity?

Ultimately, creativity is subjective – it can mean different things to different people. Some define it as a characteristic that allows a person to ‘think outside the box’. Others define it as an activity where something new and valuable is formed. According to Stanford University professor, Tina Seeling, there are six characteristics that are shared by people who are viewed as traditionally creative.

  1. Imagination – thinking beyond boundaries
  2. Knowledge – your creativity toolbox
  3. Attitude – the confidence to solve a problem
  4. Environment – your stage
  5. Resources – outside of money: people, community etc.
  6. Culture – they ways in which your culture celebrates or punishes experimentation

Is it Possible to Learn creativity?

Brands often pay lip service to the idea that they are surrounded with creative people, yet, when you look around, there is a strong level of pushback towards brands for getting the message wrong, like Pepsi’s recent gaffe for producing a completely tone-deaf, offensive ad featuring socialite celeb, Kylie Jenner.

While personality, environment, and other factors all play into the limits of one’s initial level of creativity, brands can still nurture the trait in their organisations and teach people to think outside the proverbial box.

Benefits of Creativity

  • Problem-solving: Creativity teaches you to think in new and innovative ways, improving your problem-solving skills. It forces you to be resourceful, and investigate new solutions to old problems.
  • Creativity is disruptive: It challenges the way you think, shakes things up, and forces you out of your comfort zone. Creativity is the enemy of complacency, and complacency is the harbinger of brand death. Any brand that wants to stay ahead of the competition needs to stay creative. So stop what you’re doing, and bring on the big ideas.
  • Builds Better Relationships: Creative environments increase internal morale and engagement. To produce all those great things for your clients, you need to have an engaged, excited, and motivated team. Brands that foster creativity see an uptick in internal collaboration, resulting in higher levels of productivity, and retention. The ability to see things in new ways enhances product and consumer understanding and creates a better overall workspace. Creativity also builds better external relationships; thinking creatively allows you to see things you might normally miss, and also get inside the customer’s perspective.
  • Stand Out: If you can nurture creativity, it can propel you past the competition with minimal effort. Employees enjoy the opportunity to express their creativity. In addition, positive experiences from your creative endeavours will speak volumes for your brand. It will keep you at the forefront of client and consumer minds – and also do the heavy lifting for you. A clever campaign that stands out is far better for brand awareness and recognition than several mediocre, safe campaigns that have been repeatedly parroted.

The are many benefits to fostering creativity. These are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are good examples of how cultivating creativity can help brands, both internally and externally.

How can brands be more creative?

So now that we know you can teach creativity, how do we do it?

Old Foundations, New Twist
You can build on ideas already out there – this isn’t like repeating the same tired trope ad nauseam. Everything that’s new and trendy now once stemmed from an original source with an added twist. Collaborate with your team to find that twist and go from there.

Changing of the Guard
Bring in people from teams and departments you normally wouldn’t consider for a particular campaign. You don’t need to look externally for ‘a new pair of eyes’, they’re already in your office, just sitting on other teams. Shake it up, change it up. Ask the questions people want to ask but are afraid to, challenge your co-workers to get outside their comfort zones, and provide a culture and environment where creativity is welcomed, not shot down.

Mistakes = Creative Take-Aways

Finally, remember, as clichéd as it might sound, embrace failures as learning experiences. See them as sign posts to point your brand in the right direction. If you didn’t fail, you’d never see the path you were intended to take. Failure can set you on the right path by challenging assumptions and forcing you to think creatively to come up with a better solution. It can help your brand grow by taking a negative result or experience and turning it into a positive. Build on mistakes as a better way to do things.


This is not an overnight fix, this is something that needs to become a core part of your company culture in order to inspire the change needed to build and sustain a creative environment.

In times of  uncertainty, with Brexit, brand safety , privacy concerns, and other issues looming over marketers, standing apart from the competition is vital. It may seem safer to stick with what you know, but being risk averse is not an effective strategy. Creativity forces you to evolve, and always stay one step ahead. If your safety net disappears, you will, at the very least, have the tools to rebuild and adapt quickly. Creativity won’t just help you survive, it will help you thrive.

 

 

The Power of Voice…Search

This year, home voice assistants have created a stir amongst technology enthusiasts. Voice search, the main feature behind home voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, is poised to be the technology of the year.

Technically, voice search isn’t “new”. Apple’s Siri was introduced on the iPhone in October 2011, though initial responses were lukewarm. Users found the system clunky and difficult to navigate without screaming into their phones like lunatics. Fast forward five years, and voice search has vastly improved. Far more sophisticated than the original versions, you are no longer confined to weather updates, or finding the nearest Starbucks.  

Language naturalisation is now an integral component of voice search, making everyday speech patterns easily understandable. It’s come such a long way from Siri’s heyday. Now there are devices that can recognise snippets of lyrics to find the song you want to hear, order your favourite takeaway, or control the lights in your house, and in the case of the Amazon Echo, it will even play rock, paper, scissors with you.

The latest voice search devices are inserting themselves into daily activities in useful and meaningful ways. But will they ever move from ‘nice-to-haves’ to ‘must-have’ devices? What are the challenges they pose not only for the digital industry, but for brands?

The Unknown

It is predicted that by 2018, 30% of all interactions with devices will be voice based. This is partly due to the continued improvements in quality that will make it easier for users to voice search, taking full advantage of being able to speak four times faster than they can type.

Marketers have a challenge ahead of them, as voice search continues to enhance the way users interact with the everyday world. There are so many unknowns for how this technology will unfold, but one thing is certain, this is far more than a passing fad. Whilst it may not happen in 2017, it is only a matter of time before Google, Amazon, and Apple find a way to monetise their voice search technologies.

So, what will that look like?

Websites are already seeing a shift towards longer tail keywords, as users speak more words than they would type into a search bar. For website owners, this means SEO will need to be adjusted to these changes.

But in today’s push for mobile-first digital advertising strategies, we need to ask ourselves if we will see a time when voice-first strategies dominate boardroom conversations. Will bid modifiers for voice sit beside those of desktop, tablet and mobile in our paid search activity?

In a world of monetised voice search, the industry will have to evolve quickly to keep up. Search query analysis will pose an interesting challenge as we try to make sense of the data from an array of dialects, and languages. How will we be able to measure results? Will we need to hire CRO specialists specifically for voice searches?

There are far more questions than answers at the moment, but if Amazon Echo shows us anything, it is that there is a future for voice search purchasing, and with purchasing capabilities comes the desire to advertise and get ahead of the competition.

The Future

Within the last six months alone, voice search use has increased by 41%.   Whilst at the moment users tend to be older adopters, men between age 36-66 with a median household income of over $100,000 we can expect to see this continue to grow over the next year. Due to the fact that voice search devices are still relatively new to the market, it is hard to say what the long term implications for marketing will be. But, I think it is safe to say that there is a future for voice search advertising.

 

2016 Digital Predictions

2016-digital-predictions-article
 
It’s incredible to think that the year 2015 has come to its conclusion.  The past twelve months have flown past, with developments that are likely to dictate the direction of the advertising industry for the next several years, from the rise of ad blockers to the rebirth of paid social as a platform that offers advertisers a new channel for acquisition.
 
2015 was, of course, also the year when Doc Brown and Marty McFly arrived in the future bringing with them a raft of predictions about what this year would look like.  From hover boards to self-tying shoes, the prophecies made by the film have been assessed, analysed and in some cases ridiculed, hopefully my predictions for next year are slightly better informed…

4 Digital Predictions

Data becomes an even more important part of advertisers’ strategy – Although the effective recording and application of data has been one of the hot topics in the world of digital marketing for several years we are still very much in our infancy with regards to our understanding of how powerful large sets of data can be with regards to our advertising campaigns.
 
The general lack of understanding around visitor identity and intent are key obstacles that digital publishers must overcome in order to satisfy the demands of the advertising industry.  2015 has seen large publishers tighten their grip on advertising expenditure as their scale has allowed them to provide greater audience targeting and insight, the battle for smaller publishers is how they differentiate their product from the big players without access to such scale.
 
Social channels expand their role in acquisition – The issue that social channels have always faced is that their incredible engagement metrics do not match the acquisition targets set by clients. Social channels, of course, will never be able to match the intent of paid or organic search but their ability to access rich customer data should mean they play a crucial role in any prospecting strategy.
 
2015 has already seen Facebook and Twitter enhance their advertising suites and ad formats to provide better solutions for advertisers looking for direct response, and in 2016 it looks like these developments will continue at an accelerated pace with Facebook and Twitter already trialing “Buy Now” buttons in the US and Pinterest announcing the commercialisation of their own platform.
 
Display advertisers will be forced to react to ad blockers and challenges regarding viewability – Unquestionably, the biggest challenges facing display advertisers at the moment are the rising use of ad blockers and ensuring ads served are viewable. My expectation is that these challenges will force display advertisers to react in three ways:

 
The first is to increase ad formats that get around ad blocking software, the likelihood is that these ad formats will feel more native than the current set of creative options becoming integrated with the user experience rather than standing aside from it.
 
The second is that advertisers will be forced to reassess their set of success measures.  Metrics that demonstrate engagement, such as interaction rates, will be crucial to proving performance.
 
Thirdly, as advertisers start to gain a clearer understanding of viewability there will be a greater emphasis placed on premium inventory.  This emphasis is likely to cause a migration from the open exchange to a combination of open exchange and private marketplaces with the knock on effect being inflated CPMs for inventory deemed to be highly effective.

 
Paid search advertisers turn to 3rd party data to pre-qualify audiences – As the auctions for top performing keywords continue to intensify, it will become increasingly important for advertisers to pre-qualify their target audiences before committing to higher CPC levels.
 
For many years the main levers available to paid search advertisers when segmenting audiences were a user’s geography and the time at which they made their search.  More recently Google has expanded audience options to allow for basic demographic targeting and the overlaying of first-party data through remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs).
 
In 2016 I expect that the audience segmentation options within AdWords will progress once again with Google recently launching “Customer Match” on Gmail and the GDN, allowing advertisers to target look-a-likes of email addresses that they have recorded, and trialing targeting based on likely household income in the US.  These more advanced ways of segmenting audiences could have a significant impact on the way paid search advertisers run their activity.  For example, by pre-qualifying audiences it could allow advertisers the opportunity to explore broader keywords that were not deemed profitable previously.

2016 will be Interesting

So there’s my predictions for next year, whatever happens 2016 is shaping up to be another interesting year in digital advertising.  It would be remiss of me not to mention that Back to the Future did in fact get some of their predictions right, so hopefully my prognosis is more in line with the video calls, tablet computers and wearable tech forecast by the film than the bizarre double ties or endless fax machines.

NMPi & Bathstore Partner with IC Tomorrow to Help Solve Digital Industry Challenge

IC Tomorrow Technology Competition

For retailers, understanding the consumer path to purchase is challenging as people experience multiple online and offline touch points throughout a sales journey. Generic online searches that do not include the brand’s name create a more difficult problem to solve when trying to determine the cause of consumer’s online search and motivations that encourage purchase.

Increasingly, retailers and digital media agencies want to understand the value of Above The Line (ATL) advertising, conventionally television commercials, and the effect that this has on their online paid search advertising; more specifically with the use of generic keyword searches.

NMPi is out to help solve this industry challenge with the support of Innovate UK’s current IC Tomorrow challenge themed around Intelligent Data Insights. Innovate UK is a government programme that removes barriers for up-and-coming entrepreneurs by offering assistance though funding, webinars, conferences, competitions and community support.

The contest will give innovators across various trades the chance to win £210,000 in funding (up to £35,000 each). In addition, the winners will receive mentoring, promotion, and the opportunity to work alongside six industry giants:IBM Watson, Barclays, London City Airport, Carnival Corporation, Office of National Statistics and NMPi with bathstore. IC Tomorrow is looking for innovators with fresh perspectives on artificial intelligence, machine learning and sensor-led technologies to offer solutions to current business challenges.

Entrepreneurs will have access to NMPi and bathstore’s insights and expertise in order to help them develop innovative data analysis tools, processes and machine learning techniques that enhance the impact assessment of ATL advertising, primarily television and video advertising, on online paid search.

NMPi Operational Director, Joe Comotto, remarked on the frustration digital marketers are encountering when trying to connect ATL advertising and paid search,“Nobody’s been able to really solve this to a level that is actually portable and scalable to a customer or advertiser. The challenge for us is being able to understand the value of the TV advertising that was done and relate that back to that generic keyword search term…So we’re really looking for somebody to provide a solution that is able to integrate with the other platforms that are available on the market today.”

NMPi is a strong supporter of innovation and research. The IC Tomorrow programme enables us to be at the forefront of cutting edge technology while giving back to the community by partnering with the next generation in paid search evolution. A resolution to this dilemma would dramatically alter and improve the digital advertising landscape. We look forward to participating in this year’s IC Tomorrow challenge.