LONDON/MELBOURNE: Creative agencies are in a financial hole and will have to embrace science-driven creative if they are to climb out, a leading industry figure has argued.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, Ken Roberts, CEO at Forethought Research, suggests that agencies laying the blame for their current position as "price-takers" at the feet of the procurement function may be ignoring a more important issue closer to home.

"Here's a thought: there's no such thing as a price-sensitive buyer; just one who has grown indifferent to your differentiation," he writes.

"The same individual who buys an expensive Porsche will also buy the cheapest toilet tissue. It's the product, not the person; it's the creative agencies, not procurement."

And agencies that are able to demonstrate "valued differentiation" – by consistently producing commercially effective communications – can be winners.

According to Roberts, the future "is represented by an agency that is capable of interpreting advanced marketing analytics and applying a scientifically derived model that accurately predicts changes in market share".

He suggests that many account planning and creative briefs remain based on qualitative findings and quantitative analysis – "amounting to little more than means, frequencies and cross-tabs coupled with the old stock-in-trade, gut instinct".

But instinct simply won't cut it any more in a world where most elements of marketing are now subject to "the rigour and objectivity of business analytics".

Thanks to marketing science, he says, marketers now know exactly what needs to be communicated to drive choice and the acquisition of new customers. And while the challenge of producing effective creative remains, "the greatest uncertainty has been removed from the equation".

Once the creative is produced, "we can pre-test, with pin-point accuracy, the efficacy of the creative output in triggering the drivers of growth", Roberts maintains.

Post-implementation in-market tracking programmes can then provide hard evidence-based, diagnostic feedback of change in business outcomes.

Business analysts are increasingly looking to assess the causal relationship between an agency's creative output and achieving an advertiser's business objectives, he says. That will mean more use of data and fewer managerial hunches.

Data sourced from Admap