The case for commercial creativity

by | Nov 3, 2021

I’ve recently been re-reading James Hurman’s influential 2016 book on creative effectiveness – Making The Case For Creativity.page31image4505344

In it, Hurman explores the connection between imaginative advertising and commercial success. He outlines that creativity helps campaigns stand out, which is much-needed in the battle for eyeballs, hearts and minds. And sales, of course, in the case of brands. He says that:

  • We see 3,000 commercial messages that we’re exposed to each day (Yankelovich Research)
  • But only 76 of these engage us at all (Harvard University Research)
  • Only 12 make an impression on us (Harvard University Research
  • And just 2 is the number we can recall the following day (The Case for Creativity Research)
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Attributed to John Wanamaker (1838-1922)
Hurman breaks down creative effectiveness in the following way:

Effectiveness: Driving a measurable behaviour change that results in an increase in sales, market share or profitability

Creative effectiveness: Exploiting creativity’s ability to do the above much more efficiently

This is based on the 2002 research from Tilburg University in the Netherlands who sought to explore the relationship between originality in advertising and the attention paid to that advertising.

Using eye-tracking technology, they observed the attention levels of consumers as they read two magazines containing 58 print advertisements ranging from unoriginal to highly original.

They found that increased levels of originality promoted increased and more intense attention to the advertisement and to the brand in those advertisements.

No fewer than four other groups of academics asked the same question about creativity and salience. They all reached the same conclusion:


Hurman then goes on to summarises how this works in what he calls the ‘The Creative Effectiveness Chain’. This is a sequence of events that follows:


Having been part of the Cannes Lions School faculty for the past 5 years I have first hand been able to see what constitutes ‘stand out work’ up close. Campaigns like Volvo’s Live Test Series, most notably Jean Claude Van Damme’s Epic Split, are a brilliant real-world example of the chain in practice.

We love deconstructing campaigns on our Creative and strategic ninja training workshops here at Now Go Create and we look at Hurman’s work and commercial creativity in more detail. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more

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