COLOGNE: Advertising campaigns displaying above-average levels of creativity deliver a greater impact on sales than their less engaging alternatives, research has revealed.

Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert, of the University of Cologne, compared 437 campaigns from 90 brands in ten FMCG categories in Germany, assessing creativity in terms of originality, flexibility, elaboration, synthesis and artistic value.

They controlled for different levels of spending, and found that creativity did indeed have a significant effect.

In their research, a 1% increase in adspend generally translated into a 0.2% increase in purchases. But in the case of the most creative ads, the increase in purchases was close to 0.3%.

The authors suggested that this analysis can be further refined in order to establish what types of creativity work best in what context.

They were prompted to undertake the research after learning that two leading German agencies - Jung von Matt and Scholz & Friends - have declined to take part in any creative or advertising award competitions in 2013.

Noting that a growing number of submissions to such competitions are designed to win awards and push an agency up the creative rankings rather than sell products - so-called "zombie creations" - the question then arose as to whether creative award success really is a good measure of an agency's creative potential.

Competition entry fees can also mount up, raising more questions about whether this is an appropriate use of agency funds.

The authors argue that their work shows that rigorous metrics are available to enable creativity to be measured "quite precisely".

Not all awards, however, are based purely on creativity: the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions and the Warc Prize for Innovation are two examples of competitions that seek to reward both creativity and business effectiveness.

Data sourced from Harvard Business Review; additional content by Warc staff