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WFA Report Identifies Biggest Barriers To Creativity, Marketing


A new World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) report, titled “Clients and Creativity” conducted in partnership with Contagious and The Observatory International, has revealed a huge disconnect among client-side marketers, between those who recognise creativity as a marketing ‘super-power’ and the much smaller number who regard it as ‘business critical’

While 82% recognise creativity as marketing’s most powerful weapon, just 28% regard it as critical to the success of their business.

The research identifies the rewards of taking creativity more seriously, with clients saying creativity was ‘business critical’ more likely to say they were ‘growing’ (33%) as opposed to respondents coming from ‘maintaining’, ‘recovering’, or ‘declining’ businesses (25%).

Clients and Creativity is the world’s first global study focused specifically on clients’ roles and the part they can play in tackling the decline of creativity in marketing and advertising. 

The results are based on responses from 640 senior client-side marketers in 34 different markets and was also conducted in partnership with national advertiser associations. Respondents had a mix of global (10%), regional (44%), and national (46%) roles.

Across all respondents, self-evaluation revealed that a confident 8% saw their communications as being ‘iconic and a cultural talking point’, 22% saw their communications as ‘compelling and contagious’; the largest share, 42%, saw their communications in the middle of the scale as ‘original and impactful’, while 27% recognised their communications as ‘practical and promotional’. The final 1% identified as ‘wasteful and confused’.

Clients and Creativity also identified the biggest barriers cited by clients when it came to boosting the creativity of marketing output in their own organisations: risk-averse culture (51%), short-term-focus (48%), having too many decision makers (44%) and reductions in budgets (40%) took the top four positions. Relatively few, however, blamed an over-emphasis on data and analytics (21%), the shift towards investment in digital channels (17%), and ever-more tightly defined audiences (9%).

Even talent, perhaps surprisingly given the well-documented crisis in this area, was only seen as a barrier by 29% and even fewer (23%) blame the talent within their own (client-side) organisations.

“While the marketing role is increasingly complex and integrated with other functions, creativity is something within our control and an area where we should be demonstrating our contribution to business success. Taking a more creative route requires us to challenge our organisation to feel more uncomfortable,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA.

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