Creativity in Advertising with Martyn Miller

by Dan Lemp

Voiceover: 0:02

Business owners:

Do you want an unfair advantage over your competitors? Do you want to dominate in your area of expertise? You are listening to Business Life Hacks. Learn to influence consumer psychology and shortcut your way to business success with tips, tricks, and hacks from award-winning digital agency, JMarketing.

Dan Lemp: 0:23

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another episode of Business Life Hacks. This week, we’re talking about creativity and advertising. When is it useful? And when is it actually counterproductive?

And we have two guests with us today – Josh, the managing director of JMarketing, and Martyn Miller, our creative director at JMarketing. Now, Martyn is a really interesting guy, with a really interesting mind on advertising.

He’s worked as the creative director at a lot of big agencies around the world has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world. And it’s really a pleasure to have you with us, Martyn.

Martyn Miller: 1:02

Thanks Dan.

Dan Lemp: 1:04

So a lot of people will hear that topic and it’s going to flip a switch for them because it kind of goes against everything they think they know about advertising; where they’re going to say to themselves: “Well, creativity is the most important thing in advertising.”

“Isn’t it? Why wouldn’t you want to be creative? When could that ever be bad?” They’re gonna say: “What about Apple? What about Southwest Airlines?”

So what’s your response to those people?

Martyn Miller: 1:31

I guess creativity is an important part of the sort of marketing strategy and direction for any big brand and small brand. There wouldn’t be anything new or interesting. No one would ever create anything for a new product. I don’t think that would be any sort of new way of looking at it.

You know, we’ve all got to think outside the box sometimes, but this is not to say we should always be creative for the sake of it. Making a trendy funky design just to win awards isn’t always the best way to go around things; like unless you are Apple or Coca Cola or Nike, because if they can afford to spend millions every year on just being creative.

So being creative always comes with a huge cost associated with it. Now, if I was a startup or a small to medium business, I wouldn’t waste my money on ultimately being creative.

I would try and find a nice balance around what’s important to your customers ultimately, and what your products or the services you’re offering; and kind of make sure you research and understand fully what their problem is and how your solution is going to fix that problem.

That for me is more important than making the big creative, traditional sort of old school advertising.

Josh Strawczynski: 3:00

Just to lean on what Martyn said there: if you as a business are relying on creativity to stay relevant to your customers, maybe you haven’t done enough of that deep diving into what is the problem we’re trying to solve for these people in the first place.

Creativity should be a way of buying more attention and getting them to think differently, but it shouldn’t be the very first thing that you go to and rely on.

Dan Lemp: 3:26

Okay, but we always hear that you need to stand out from your competitors and that’s one of the most important things.

So isn’t it important to stand out in some way?

Josh Strawczynski: 3:35

The fundamentals of marketing and business have not changed in hundreds of years. There are a few basic ways that you can differentiate your company.

You can compete based on price; you can compete on quality, on service. Essentially, these are the basics and we’re talking about creativity today.

So what we’re really going to stress and are stressing is: don’t try to be too creative if that’s going to be at the sacrifice, very clearly explaining how you solve people’s problems and one of those three differentiators, I mentioned.

Martyn, you must see this all the time with client briefs and feedback. What do you take on it?

Martyn Miller: 4:16

For me, it’s a way to kind of give your customers a reason not to have a solid understanding of what you do.

And if that actually takes a couple of levels of creativity out so be it, because if a user is landing on your website and it doesn’t sort of within three, four, five seconds, have an understanding of what your service or product is, then your competitor is going to get a chance to showcase what they do as well.

And ultimately you’ll probably lose that sound.

Dan Lemp: 4:51

Yeah. I always find that for any business that doesn’t have $5 million to spend on advertising, the more important way to stand out is to look at what their competitors are doing and look at what their competitors should be doing that they’re not.

Something I see all the time is that companies just don’t put enough effort into getting Google reviews. So if you’re a local business and everybody in your town has five reviews on Google and they’re all three stars, then if you can really focus on getting all of your customers to leave you a review, and then you’re the company with 55 star reviews, then immediately you have more authority.

I think it comes down to that for most businesses. What makes you stand out? It’s your authority in the space producing content that your audience would want to hear; focusing on SEO; getting to the top of the rankings, getting more reviews and anything like that.

Josh Strawczynski: 5:44

And what you’re talking about that is bang on, but it all comes through one fundamental centrality to all business. You know what problem you’re solving for your client.

And you are a fundamental expert. If you do that, you will stand out. You will be seen as different, and that’s what makes a business successful.

Dan Lemp: 6:06

So like I see in Mad Men all the time, this really big creative branding ad work is the kind of thing that most of the really big agencies focus on. And it costs a lot of money and clients are happily paying them.

So is that kind of work, actually driving a result for those clients?

Martyn Miller: 6:25

For the really big clients: of course. Like if you’re going to spend $5 million, let’s hope they get a decent return on that investment, but for startups, smaller businesses, medium businesses, ultimately they’re not going to need to be spending that sort of money. If they have that money, then please give us a call anytime.

More than anything, building out a rule, creative, I guess, high brow campaign doesn’t always generate the leads and sales it probably should. They might win awards all over the world for being the most stunning visual treatment and art direction, but it might be telling a lovely story that sometimes doesn’t always convert into what it should, which is results.

Now, building out a strategy across all channels and actually funneling some creativity in there, but really making sure that you’re using the research that they are, that you’ve already been looking at and developing the campaign based on a results driven methodology is actually gonna be much more effective for you.

Josh Strawczynski: 7:34

One of the areas I think we get into a lot of trouble as advertisers is: we constantly fall back on this crux that we need to increase awareness of a product. And that gets more people into the top of the funnel. And this is just this belief that: okay, if people are aware of it and they’re just gonna filter through; and this is not necessarily the case.

In fact, in a lot of cases, when these advertising campaigns win Golden Lions and other awards. It’s through, there are no results to show that they were effective. It’s through them looking great and being voted on by their peers, but they never ever, ever looked at effectiveness.

One of the great examples was the greatest job in the world campaign for, I think it was North Queensland – will pay you a huge salary and you live in this luxury resort for a year and blah, blah, blah. And they got millions of applications, millions of them.

Everyone was talking about this competition. This is before this whole concept burnt out. And when Tourism Australia actually ran the numbers on how many more people had visited Queensland, it was close to zero because they weren’t addressing the fundamental problems.

If they’d looked at the data and said: “Why aren’t people coming to Australia?” They might’ve found a few things like: our biggest market is the US and the holidays don’t line up very well with when’s best to visit; or it’s a lot of people complain about the trip time, or, you know, whatever the data says, and they would have solved some of those problems for them.

Instead, they just assumed let’s be creative. Let’s get them talking about it. And that’ll get more people in the top of the funnel and they’ll come. It doesn’t always work that way.

Dan Lemp: 9:16

So if they were spending all that money, why were they spending all that money on a campaign like that? If it wasn’t actually generating results? I was chatting to a good buddy of mine who worked until very recently for a big agency in New York. They look after some huge, huge, huge clients.

And he told me something that blew my socks off. As you know, Dan, we are 100% accountable. Every dollar we spend, we talk about how much it’s generated in returns.

So I couldn’t believe it when a guy that’s managing budgets that are ten, or even a hundred times larger than mine, say in the history of his job that he had never once run an effectiveness study.

Martyn Miller: 9:56

Right? I couldn’t believe it back in the day when I was working on the big brands and stuff of some agencies in London and New York. The truth to the question is: how the agency makes money out of big clients.

They come up with these really creative, cool ideas and tell a good story. The salespeople will go in and paint a lovely picture, selling the dream, and they charge a lot of money for it. And as Josh said, there’s really is no accountability afterwards.

Dan Lemp: 10:28

So their business model is based around generating profits for the agency, not necessarily the client?

Martyn Miller: 10:34

Absolutely. I know Dan, the agency world has changed in the last 10 years to be more customer focused. And especially with, you know, our business being predominantly digital, it is easier to be accountable and show true data on a daily, weekly basis rather than an old school TV commercial, that finger in the air.

Dan Lemp: 10:59

Yeah. It’s also a lot harder to get away with not producing results nowadays.

Martyn Miller: 11:04

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. We live and die by data. My creative now, if that doesn’t sort of yield a positive result, the client’s not going to use this again. Or maybe we’ll try a few different versions, A/B split test over a course of a month for sort of Facebook advertising, for instance.

So we’ll kind of constantly evolve and find out what’s the best, for a shorter period of time, the old industry.

Dan Lemp: 11:34

Really interesting. So Josh, could you just sum up for us: if businesses shouldn’t be focusing on awareness alone and on creativity alone, what should most businesses actually be focusing on with their advertising efforts?

Josh Strawczynski: 11:50

Not just advertising, but every living, breathing moment you should be thinking about your customers and what is their core problem and not just thinking about, Oh, I know what their problem is because once a long time ago I worked it out or I had that myself.

No, it’s really diving into what is their specific problem by every customer segment and understanding that inside and outside, if you know what problem you’re trying to solve, then you don’t need to rely on creativity to stand out.

You will know how to solve it. And we talk about and viral spread. We talk about customer loyalty, these sorts of buzz terms, they come from deep, passionate understanding and wanting to solve problems for a specific set of people.

Dan Lemp: 12:41

Yeah. Understand the customer problem and solve it better than anyone else. And that’s gonna get you really far in this game. Alright, guys, I think that about wraps it up.

Josh, Martyn, thanks so much for joining us here today. Well, joining us, we’re all in this together. Thanks so much for being here and talking about this and really interesting insights. Thank you.

Josh Strawczynski: 13:01

Thanks Dan.

Martyn Miller: 13:01

Thanks Dan.

Dan Lemp: 13:02

You’re welcome, buddy.

About the Author

Dan leads the JMarketing SEO department. An extremely analytical mind, he is fascinated with the questions of 'Why', 'How', and 'Is there a better way'? Through Dan's research and experimentation, JMarketing have unlocked a host of best practices and optimisation tricks for our clients.

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