The Definition and Measurement of Creativity: What Do We Know?

Jaafar El-Murad
Westminster Business School, University of Westminster

Douglas C. West
Westminster Business School, University of Westminster

CREATIVITY IS at once the least scientific aspect of advertising and the most important (Reid, King, and DeLorme, 1998). As with other forms of creativity, advertising creativity embraces both “originality” and “innovation” (Fletcher, 1990). To be successful, it must have impact, quality, style, and relevance. Ideas must be new, unique, and relevant to the product and to the target audience in order to be useful as solutions to marketing communications problems. The resultant advertising should pass such tests as the Universal Advertising Standards established by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (Belch and Belch, 1998). This is because a “winning creative idea,” one that stands out from the crowd and is memorable, can have enormous impact on sales, may influence the hiring and firing of advertising agencies, and affect their remuneration (see, for example, Blair, 1988; Buzzell, 1964; Michell and Cataquet, 1992; Rossiter and Percy, 1997; Wackman, Salmon, and Salmon, 1986/1987). However, despite the most systematic and scientific approaches toward developing winning creative ideas, the evidence suggests it is a random process. This is because there is a high degree of chance in coming up with a winning creative idea, and random creativity is therefore pivotal (Gross, 1972; O'Connor, Wille main, and MacLachlan, 1996). Renowned academic researchers (e.g., Amabile, 1982; Runco and Sakamoto, 1999) have found creativity to be among the most complex of human behaviors to describe. It has even been suggested that creativity cannot be defined or measured (Callahan, 1991; Khatena, 1982). Overall, it is timely to review the trends in creative research and ask (1) what do we know about advertising creativity, (2) how can we measure it, and, (3) how can we enhance and encourage it?