A cover image for a blog about creating a creative campaign concept

How to Develop a Creative Campaign From Scratch: The Introduction


Hi there, and welcome to Kontra’s marketing help center. If you’re looking to develop your first creative campaign, read on, this article is for you. I remember how lost I was when I first started doing it. To begin the topic, I would first like to define what stands behind the word.” Now, just to be sure, when I’m talking about that syntagm, I want to be sure we’re on the same page about its meaning. A creative campaign is a form of an ad campaign that uses an interesting idea or a concept to communicate a product or service uniquely. It is usually created as a response to a brief from your client.

An image of a creative hand made camera out of cardboard illustrating a creative mass

A creative campaign is a form of an ad campaign that uses a unique style to communicate and ultimately sell a product or service

A creative director is a person who usually manages & leads a marketing campaign of this type, and it’s traditionally created for one of two reasons:

  1. Either a client your agency’s already working with asks for it or
  2. You create this type of advertising campaign as a part of the preparation for a sales pitch

It’s one of the things that must be done while preparing a pitch. Besides an ad campaign, your team will need to create an elaborate timeline, budget distribution, and other technical specifications for a complete pitch. But, right now, I want to introduce you to several tips & tricks. These will help with managing effective creative campaigns or concepts, as some call them.

#1 Where to start?

The first thing to bear in mind while creating all the best advertising campaigns is also the most important thing about it. And that’s WHY are you doing it? The answer to this question can’t be: “Because someone asked/ordered me to.” It should be something like: “I want to raise brand awareness for my (or my client’s) brand.” So what you inevitably need is a goal you want to accomplish. That goes for a single ad, as well as the entire concept.

There are levels to this game

Now, another thing to bear in mind is that brand awareness campaigns are the easiest to conduct. If your targeted audience sees the content you created some number of times, your brand awareness will probably rise. On the other hand, if you want to increase sales, your concept should be a lot more sly. A fun, exciting idea on its own just won’t suffice here.

An image of couple of avocados, illustrating a begining

Sometimes, it’s hardest to know where to begin

But that last sentence is also the answer to the question of the question in the subtitle. You should start with the big idea. That idea can be one of two things:

  1. An already prepared big idea that needs adjusting to your brand or country
  2. A completely new big idea you’re developing from scratch

The first case

The first case generally happens when we’re talking about a big brand with an international presence and if you are handling a local account. If that’s the case, your job is considerably eased because you have a big idea set up, and it’s much harder not to be on brand. We’ve reached PROtip #1: Get to know the brand before you start doing something resembling a creative campaign. So, you’re in luck if you find yourself amid the first case. All you need to do is adapt a concept based on the audience for which you’re preparing the concept. And here, we have PROtip #2: Be sure to know your brand’s audience. Although that’s a more straightforward case, it is not to be underestimated, not by any means. Every campaign you create is a step closer to a solid know-how of creative campaign creation.

The second case

However, this is where we agencies earn our corn and recognition. “What did you do that I have seen?”, “Oh, was this your work?” are the sentences you can frequently hear in advertising marketing circles. This is also why we creatives decided to take our career in this direction. To create something memorable, remarkable, and simply different. Although this kind of work, especially its successful result, is often beautiful, make no mistake; It’s also often fairly stressful and exhausting. It’s just one of those things you either love so much or plain give up on your first try.

#2 No such thing as two same examples

Finally, we reach the second case. I’ve already talked about how there’s no ultimate originality in my previous blog post. But, this latter case requires a new, fresh “topic” your audience will be interested in and engaged with. Again, you shouldn’t start developing a big idea for the creative concept if you (and your team) are not entirely familiar with the brand you aim to represent. Just remind yourself about PROtip #1.

An image of two avocados representing difference between two different avocados

There’s no such thing as two identical cases

I’ve been in a situation where I was working for a multinational company that had everything strictly regulated. I mean, everything. They’ve sent us around seven different guideline books with every single detail precisely defined. I’ve never seen such a thing before. The reason I mention this example is because something similar can happen to you and your team as well. This is the part of your job where you need to be precise and analytical. Just as if you’re working your company’s bills. In these cases, your meticulousness will truly be tested. On the other hand, if you get the opportunity to do basically whatever you want, make sure you seize it and enjoy it.

#3 Width is the key

Before I move on, I would like to state that a creative campaign (or concept) is not a final product. A creative campaign represents the overall big idea. That idea should be unique to the extent that you can draw all sorts of different pieces from it. So bear in mind my next PROtip #3: When forming the idea, make sure it’s layered. I can imagine this tip needs some practical explanation.

An image of couple of objects illustrating the idea versatility

Make sure your idea is versatile, don’t limit yourself from the start, but also all its versatilities should point in the same direction

If you’re trying to create a big idea for, let’s say, a furniture company. The goal for that company might be to characterize their brand as if they’re specialized for families. They’ve noticed a market opportunity for home furniture designed for new, young families, and that’s how they decided to communicate their brand or at least a large national campaign for the following time. Now, if your idea can be tied to the word family, such as “love”, you will have fewer problems later on. But if you decide for your idea to be something a lot more specific such as, let’s say, fine craftsmanship (of that furniture), everything you will communicate through your campaign will have to be connected to that fairly narrow idea.

Okay, this example is a pretty banal one, but I think you get the gist of it, and that’s most important for now.

What every big idea should contain?

In addition to being layered and versatile, your big idea should also be relatable to your target audience. If you’re not from the marketing world, this example might also clarify things for you. I’m sure you watched at least one episode or at least a sketch of Mr. Bean. The reason behind its success is reliability. He takes an everyday situation, exaggerates it to an almost impossible level, and makes all of us recognize ourselves in it. Exaggeration is one of the most powerful tools of comedy. However, that’s not a big idea. The big idea behind the episodes of Mr. Bean is human nature. See how layered and relatable it is?

The same thing goes for marketing campaign concepts. It also wouldn’t hurt to mention that not every product or service is so generally used. That mainly depends on your audience.

#4 Creative Ad Campaigns & Why Bother?

With the arrival of digital marketing, everybody got the opportunity to advertise. I’m talking about advertising on digital, of course. How much does it cost? You can find that out through one of our previous blog posts. Digital advertising is still more affordable than media buying for OOH, TV, or even, in some cases, print ads. That’s all without starting to talk about production costs.

An image of a bunch of food illustrating all sorts of different ideas

It doesn’t really matter how you mix it up as long as it brings results

So if you can just set up affordable digital advertising marketing, why even bother with creative advertising campaigns? If you look in the direction of the world’s best (or at least most-renowned) brands, there are even major events, such as the Super Bowl, where the best or the most creative ad is picked each year. If you compare the Super Bowl to cities, it’s a lot like New York, certainly not the best in the world, but certainly flashy and well-known. There is a reason why brands like Coca-Cola or Samsung spend enormous amounts of money just to market their product, and that reason is attention.

Stand out in the crowd

All companies can advertise today. Most of them do. The amount of ads produced daily is an ever-growing one. What does that mean for you? It’s going to be that much harder to stand out in the crowd. That’s where a creative campaign comes in. These kinds of campaigns are usually called SBCC campaigns, which are “Social and Behaviour Change Communication“. They are designed precisely for that, to create consistency of communication across the channels you’re planning to use. We will all rarely forget a campaign we thought was fun and clever. And if you ask me, it doesn’t matter what you come up with as long as it brings results. It also doesn’t matter if your advertising marketing is trying to sell a product or a service. But, if we get back from the aforementioned Coca-Cola to the real world, your product or service can be anything. For instance, an email marketing tool or even a customer service center. All business types might need memorable and unique ads if they’re hoping to retain and attract new customers.

That’s not all…folks

Have you ever seen a single Red Bull commercial? This marketing pioneer has a special and recognizable illustration style. Besides that, all of their ads are connected with a single tagline – “Red Bull gives you wings”. Another example is Coca-Cola’s Santa Claus & delivery truck. Some people even testified it was not Christmas until they saw those two iconic details. The common thing is those big ideas are re-summoned multiple times across the years. This is what you would call a brand communication platform. The platform might get worn out over time, but brands always use it multiple times, in several campaign peaks, and over a longer period.

#5 Who’s in charge?

Now, the essential trait of any sound marketing campaign is for it to be organized appropriately. Usually, when you’re looking to host more elaborate marketing campaigns, it’s advisable to include as many different people as possible. And in a situation in which you have a team of people working on a project, somebody should organize and lead them. That someone is usually what you would call a creative director. It’s his task to manage the people and, maybe even more importantly, the steps of reaching the final goal of making the best possible creative advertising marketing you can.

An image of a lot of different vegetables illustrating people of different profiles

Try to develop your creative concept with as many different profiles of people as possible

Since I already mentioned people, it’s time for PROtip #4: Try to construct your team out of as many different people profiles as possible. Especially today, when the majority of marketing campaigns are, at least partly digital, you should, for example, have a person familiarized with the details, such as web processes. Technical requirements of your idea as well. Thus, we reach another PROtip #5: Even the best idea is unusable if it’s not executable.

General feasibility obstacles:

  • exceeding the budget,
  • overestimating your team’s capacity,
  • overly complicated concepts,
  • too complicated technical conditions,
  • tight schedule for campaign preparation,
  • and not having enough time to display the idea in the time provided for the campaign.

#5 Time, prerequisites, technicalities

The prerequisite for any creative campaign concept is a creative brief. It is a short (usually not longer than two pages) written document. A creative director is a person in charge of developing such a resource. The responsibility of everyone else, however, is to read it. A creative brief is not to be mistaken with the brief you get from the client. That brief is more of a request, while this is a document we agencies use to develop a marketing campaign.

A creative brief we use at Kontra

The document we use at Kontra was originally developed by Jamie Cabrera. He’s currently a VP of the Innocean agency, a host of the “Confessions of a Creative Director” podcast, and the author of the book “What’s the Big Idea”, which also includes the document in question. If you like this article and topic, I suggest you also read his book. You can do it in one afternoon.
The document in question consists of several categories; you can see and download it here. Not only does it help us organize our thoughts and steer ideas, but it clears the air about things that might not be clear from the beginning. Because, in the real world, we have deadlines, budget limits, and things we’re obligated to deliver. This is a business, and the brands we’re working for must know what to expect.

An image of an avocado pit, half the avocado, and a whole avocado as a illustration of a creative brief and creative campaign.

The prerequisite for any creative campaign concept is a creative brief.

Time is money

When it comes to the time frame, the development of advertising campaigns such as these could last anywhere from a couple of days up to two months. That part depends on the size of the campaign, the number of channels and platforms, and the efficiency of the creative director and his team. Usually, the more complex the marketing campaign you’re creating, the longer it lasts. Each platform and each medium requires a portion of time to prepare. This is also the moment in which you will get the chance to test your big idea. If you can’t apply it to multiple channels, it’s back to the drawing board. If, on the other hand, you simply don’t have the people and resources to conduct all of this, you can always turn to professionals.

So, what’s next?

In the blog post that follows, I am guiding you through the steps of creative ad campaign development. You will get a guide that also includes useful #PROtips. You can follow it step-by-step if you’re worried about how your first campaign development will go.