NEW YORK: Striking the right balance of creative originality and strategy requires agencies to consider a variety of structural factors, according to a study published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Huw O’Connor and Mark Kilgour (Hamilton, New Zealand), Scott Koslow (Macquarie University Sydney, Australia) and Sheila Sasser (Eastern Michigan University) argued there has been “a surprising dearth of research that investigates the effects of structural elements on creative outputs in an advertising agency context.”

In response, their paper – entitled Drivers of Creativity within Advertising Agencies: How Structural Configuration Can Affect and Improve Creative Development – involved a survey of executives at 31 agencies in Australia and New Zealand, and yielded a dataset covering 554 campaigns.

And the authors identified an important “dependent variable”: namely, the “flavor” of creativity as it “relates to the relative levels of originality (i.e., having a measure of novelty) and appropriateness (i.e., being on brand strategy) of an advertisement.

“There is often a trade-off,” they allowed, “between originality and strategy, in that some ideas may be more original and less appropriate, or less original and more appropriate, and still be considered equally creative.”

Agency structures, the study further asserted, can be reconfigured to facilitate a flavor of creativity suitable for objectives and market conditions. It appears, for example “that increases in creative personnel drove increases in originality”.

Boosting account-team size, it was also found, “improves campaign originality but not strategy. When service levels are increased, strategy development is exposed to social judgment processes at a cost to the advertising outcome.”

Elaborating on these themes, the paper argued that “agencies may better serve their clients through the use of fewer specialists and instead increase creative staffing when brand differentiation is required”.

Additionally, the authors reported, “agencies need to manage proactively rigidities that emerge as the client–agency relationship endures or when clients are sizable”.

While perceptions often diverged in line with different agency systems, the study ultimately argued that “in the majority of cases, the most preferred creative ideas were viewed as having made it through evaluation processes.

“This indicates strength in the overall agency model in integrating the requirements of the client with those of the agency. In this respect, the structures largely appear to be working.”

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research