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Is creativity becoming less important in marketing?

Last month I was surprised to read the covering email from the Drum. It said:

“Creativity is out of vogue. Sponsors are no longer interested. Our sales team tell us our efforts would be better spent elsewhere. Even the likes of Publicis has abandoned the cause to focus on tech development ….. The sales charts in our Sage system suggest this is the swan-song for creative gongs.”

This wasn’t written by some errant marketing junior. It had been penned by Gordon Young, co-founder of The Drum which claims to be Europe’s largest and most awarded marketing website.

While opinions by leading figures in industry are one thing, as always, it’s good to check out the facts using a few reputable tools. Using Google trends with all the default settings I experimented with a range of search terms. The following two seem typical of changes in interest over the last decade:

Google Trends Creative vs Data

Using a range of search terms on Adzuna comparing creative industry jobs with analytical jobs both within the online marketing area I estimated that the more ‘analytical’ jobs commanded salaries that were around 30% higher than those job descriptions with a focus around ‘creativity’.

The data tended to fit our own experiences at INDEZ where, for at least a decade, it has been easier to find top class designers than top-class data/business analysts.

A final point is in the definition and context for creativity. The narrow focus will associate creativity as being related to novel, aesthetic, innovative or inspired visual design. If we broaden out the definition to cover clever, ‘out of the box’ thinking in general then that truly does come at a premium in ecommerce. Devising new ways of using big data, machine learning and insights gleaned from the behavioural sciences in where human creativity will add real value to ecommerce.

Another way to look at Gordon Young’s assertion about creativity in the web industry is to look at a few screenshots from examples of the largest, most popular and best money-making websites on the internet. I defy any reader to want to want to print them out, frame them and put them on the wall as a demonstration of 21st century creative art:

One final problem with ‘creative’ input comes down to client cost. I know of one recent brand photoshoot for a small company that ended up at close to £30k. If you work out how much turnover is required to generate £30k of profit then the work really does require careful justification. If you take the bean-counters perspective then they might well ask whether £30k of Google Adwords spend makes more sense. Answering this type of issue comes down to where your own business sits on the channel⇄brand spectrum (see here). If you are a brand-manufacturer selling designer clothing then top-class design will be an absolute requirement for your product marketing. The requirement for creative input is not in question. If, however, you sell commodity items or are a channel for other brand’s products then the answer has to be a resounding ‘no’. As always, the customer decision to buy or not to buy will come from a simple and easy to use site combined with a good price, quick delivery and top-class service throughout.