Creative advertising vs. automated templates: like apples and oranges


When you think about creativity or creative design, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it technology? Or is it something else?

For me, it is Apple.

Back in the day, when I attended journalism school at the University of Missouri, most of the teaching in the advertising sequence focused on the value of creativity. It is the core of all advertising.

When I think about Apple, I think about a company that redefined itself as being “cool” through creativity, and you can see that in something as simple as the evolution of their logo:

Nike as well:

This has resonated with me as a key value in my career in advertising, and I hope it carries the same importance with others.  

Today we are starting to see a few technology offerings that create both a self-service and an automated solution for creating advertising. This tech is cool, for sure, but does it really provide the creative value advertisers want and need?

It might or might not save time for both salespeople and businesses, but does it deliver the end result that helps drive sales?  

I am not sure.

These technology solutions are driven by templates, which do serve a great purpose depending on what product you are delivering. But not for mainstream advertising.

Imagine you are reading a newspaper, or watching TV, or surfing the Web — and all of the ads look the same, except for the brand name or logo. Not only is that unappealing, but the advertisers in those ads are not attracting eyeballs.

You gotta get those eyeballs!

I am not one who wants to stifle creativity with templates, nor do I want to live in a template world.  

(As a disclaimer, I am a big fan of technology and usually an early adopter. So this is not any kind of an anti-technology rant.)

The reality is self-service/automation tools for advertising and marketing products have existed for years. The adoption rate of such tools still remains relatively low. While the offerings continue to improve, there is still a real challenge for small-to-medium businesses to take the time to use the tools and really understand how to use them.  

I would caution anyone looking to rush to such a technology solution in today’s market that de-valuing creative could be costly to your future.  

Listening to a customer explain what they want to accomplish in a marketing campaign and developing that into a quality advertisement (print, digital, radio, TV, etc.) with a focus on custom creative is what separates us from the machines. 

I won’t go all “Terminator” on you, but SkyNet is lurking out there as a potential “good enough” solution to marketing.

I don’t know about you, but I never want to provide the “good enough” solution, especially with the quantity of competitors in the marketplace for advertising dollars. Using templates in a mass-marketing advertising solution stifles creativity and probably falls below the “good enough” line.

I recommend you take a look at this article on how Steve Jobs valued creative design while revolutionising Apple.  

“More than any other executive, Jobs proved that design is among the key strategic differentiators in a global economy that’s increasingly becoming commoditised.”

Differentiate yourself with your brand, your products, and services, and the value of creativity.

Until next time …

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