Creative Effectiveness – If it Doesn’t Sell, it Isn’t Creative


The title statement by David Ogilvy is basically the essence of creative effectiveness. One thing we marketers should never forget is this primary task of advertising. Everything in between, from creating the product (or establishing a service) to selling, has and will change through the history of advertising, but this one thing did not. In a hypothetical situation, if someone were to ban selling by advertising, the entire marketing industry would evaporate in no more than 48 hours. This is precisely the philosophy we follow here at Kontra. Our services are divided into three main pillars – communication & creative, growth & performance, and web design & development.

Every single thing we do for our clients, no matter the service, has a common goal of raising our client’s business to the next level. This is basically a fancy way of saying, “Helping them sell more.”. It is also a fact no marketer should ever forget. We are not in the business of making beautiful visuals, reaching a lot of people, or making cool animations on someone’s website. Of course, we do all of those things, but just as a means to our goal: selling more of our client’s product or service. If the best way to reach our goal were to sing out the window, we would probably do that.

A drawing of a person with a megaphone screaming through a window, high quality, colorful, cheerful

If the best way to reach creative effectiveness was to sing out the window, we would probably do that

Do not Mistake Creative Effectiveness With Creative Performance

In this day and age, when we’re talking about marketing terminology that has existed for a more extended period of time, we mustn’t skip taking the terminology that emerged with digital channels in the conversation. To adequately explain creative effectiveness, it is essential to get the meaning of creative performance (and similar syntagms) out of the way.

In performance marketing, “creative performance” is a straightforward metric that tells us how the creative of a digital ad is performing. The creative of a digital ad can be an image, a video, or something similar. An element that supports and attracts your audience’s attention. For instance, the Facebook ads interface can sometimes show a notice of “creative fatigue,”. It usually means that the creative has been used for too long and that an ad would perform better if you changed the creative in the ad. Creative effectiveness, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing. Creative campaign is effective when it’s:

  • Conceptualized well
  • Relevant to your audience and for the time published
  • Seamlessly adapted to the selected channels in the media mix
  • Reaching the aimed results, a.k.a. selling a product or a service

It’s Not in the Ink, It’s the Think

By now, you could conclude that I’m a big fan of David Ogilvy. The sentence in the subtitle is also one of his famous opinions about marketing. Among all the things that have been said about him, the one that’s probably the most true is that he was a man ahead of his time. During his career, the tools available today were no more than science fiction. During that time, he was constantly trying to find ways to sell more directly and measure the results of his agency’s work. In other words, although he was a creative, he attached a great deal of value to data-driven and research-oriented marketing.

Remember, what you’re trying to accomplish is so much more important than the things you deliver. With the emergence of digital marketing and all sorts of data analysis, advertising changed a lot. Not only did it become more broadly accessible, but it also became a lot more scientific in its approach. Regarding audience analysis, market research is still expensive. However, many conclusions can be made from today’s data we collect online without delving into costly and extensive market research. But, be aware market research is still not to be disregarded. It is still a potent tool, usually reserved only for the most prominent companies.

So, is creativity in marketing dead? Well, not at all. In fact, it’s more important than ever. With the evergrowing competition, companies find more and more need for distinctive communication and unique approaches. Both adapted for their audience and for their business model. On the other hand, strategy and scientific approach is all the more critical for the same reasons. Creative effectiveness is the main task of all creative campaigns, and modern tools help us measure it more effectively.

Some Creative Effectiveness Examples

We have been thinking about how to differentiate our agency from others for years. What is that distinction that separates us from our competition? Finally, we managed to provide a straightforward, no-bullshit answer to that question. If you visit our website, you can see we’re a result-oriented marketing & technology agency. With anything we do, our goal is to bring our clients more, new, or better business. You might challenge this and say all agencies do the same, but what is different about us is that we give absolute priority to the result. Results are not a byproduct. They are a starting point in our way of thinking. Whether qualitative or quantitative, a result is the first thing we strive to define.

If you want to see our creative projects, you can do that here.

Makromikro grupa

A photo of a radio host Ivana Mišerić and a rapper Vojko V. - an example of qualitative creative effectiveness

📷: Karmen Poznić Božić

When our client, Makromikro, contacted us, they had a taunting communication challenge to solve. In an industry where competitors communicate primarily by offering deals and discounts on their products, MakroMikro wanted to stand out. This wasn’t such a big issue considering the communication in the category. But this alone wasn’t enough. They also requested us to create an image campaign that communicates all of their products at once. This also wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t have such a vast amount of products to offer. The last but not most minor requirement was also for Makromikro to be able to use this communication platform for years to come.

So, our qualitative result was a campaign headline that responds to all of the above. And that was (in direct translation): “For big and SMALL jobs.” The headline’s premise is there are no big and small jobs. Each one is equally important for an organization to work properly. However, since their target audience is also people who are not necessarily working but instead studying or playing, we observed that those actions are jobs for them as well. A student’s job is to study, and a child’s job is to play.

The qualitative result of our creative process was a brand image campaign, which ultimately helped to drive more sales.
Why? Well, simply because we made a more comprehensive audience recognize our client’s products as a solution to their problems.

Krv nije moda! (Blood’s not fashion)

Something completely different, but that which responds directly to our viewpoint on creative effectiveness. Here, we had a qualitative goal of reaching 8,460 signatures for a petition to ban fur farming on an EU level. So, from the start, we had a clear goal in mind. Everything we did in between was to reach that desired goal.

The idea stemmed from the fact that all furry animals were mammals. Humans are mammals as well. So, it is a fact that we humans share a significant part of our DNA with mammals and that it is highly wrong to kill fellow mammals for the fashion industry. Especially since there are a lot of alternatives today to keep warm. We played on the card of emotion and guilt and thus stimulated people to dedicate their time to signing the petition.

Ultimately, our quantitative goal of 8,460 was met and exceeded by more than 2,000 signatures.
It is true that we made it easier for people to sign the petition with the use of a gateway landing page. Still, as I mentioned before, Everything you do in the middle is just a tool, all with the final goal of reaching creative effectiveness.

A billboard mockup showcasing our "Krv nije moda" campaign, an actual example of Creative effectiveness

Creative effectiveness is the result, not what you deliver in between

Claude Hopkins Pepsodent strategy

Naturally, this one’s not ours, but it nicely displays the early days of creative effectiveness. So, back in the 1900s, people didn’t use toothpaste regularly. There were several methods you could use to maintain your mouth hygiene, but toothpaste was a product that was seldom used. People used to clean their teeth with the products they already had at home and didn’t see a point in spending additional money on toothpaste.

So, when Unilever’s brand Pepsodent hired Claude Hopkins, he pointed out a film of plaque that covers our teeth. What needs to be emphasized is that plaque can be temporarily removed just by eating an apple. Also, toothpaste brands of the time didn’t have an effect significantly different than brushing without their product. However, Hopkins intensified how big of a problem tooth plaque really is. He stated that plaque is the fertile ground for tooth decay. The whole thing worked even better because people could feel the plaque on their teeth, and also smooth after brushing.

This strategy doesn’t need particular proof of concept as Pepsodent soon became one of the best-known products in the world after following this strategy.

How Can You Reach Creative Effectiveness

The first thing you’re going to need is an exceptional creative strategist. If you work alone (in any kind of setup), there is always a chance you will fail. You might not have a strategic or general enough view of your creative solution. What is also certain is you will take a lot more time than you would have if you had some help from the strategist.

So, in other words, you need to have an excellent creative strategy if you want to reach creative effectiveness. Think of it as the foundation of a house. Without it, you can still have a hit, but you will most likely be unable to replicate your success. After you have an excellent creative strategy and you’re satisfied with it, the next couple of things you should bear in mind are:

  • Your target audience
  • The time frame of the campaign
  • The budget your client gave you on disposal
  • Being on brand –> Sometimes, being too creative might make you distance your creative solution from the brand itself
  • Taking the zeitgeist into account

One thing that cannot be learned from books or the internet is definitely experience. This is why this work gets more interesting as the time goes by.


Now, creative effectiveness is not an easy feat to achieve. That is the precise reason why being creative in marketing isn’t easy. Contrary to performance marketers, you aren’t dealing with exact numbers. You’re trying to “sell” a feeling and ensure your target audience is “getting it.”

Replication is key. Replication has two elements or phases that are important in this context:

  • Analyzing – This element means you need to know precisely what you did the first time. So, an analysis is a prerequisite.
  • Repetition – This, of course, doesn’t mean you’re going to offer the same solution twice and for two different concepts. But, if you analyzed your successful solution well and you know what brought you to an effective creative campaign, you will be able to repeat the same patterns and replicate the effectiveness of your creative.

If, on the other hand, you’re experiencing issues with striking that creative effectiveness gold, you might want to consider calling up some professionals you know. Maybe you should consider hiring an agency that’s result-oriented and experienced with these kinds of challenges. You might be surprised how your business will reach the next level.