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How to Keep Research from Ruining Your Creative

While opinions may differ over how important it is to pre-test advertising with target audiences, there’s little debate among serious professionals that creative testing is a necessary step. Unfortunately, the process often seems to pit two important campaign components against each other.



Market researchers like me often find ourselves in an adversarial position to creatives. Creatives spend hours brainstorming ideas and laboring over details to craft advertising that’s visually arresting, groundbreaking, mind-blowing — in short, the PERFECT ad. That’s when my nerd friends and I walk in, take their ideas behind a two-way mirror and give it to a group of strangers to rip to shreds.

It’s understandable that creatives aren’t always fans of the research process. Clients also can get their heart set on particular ads, and look for excuses to keep them. And when creatives or clients push back to defend an ad they like, researchers can feel like their insights are not valued.

One reason for this battle is that creatives and researchers are only focused on their piece of the puzzle. Creatives are focused on creative, researchers are focused on research. And while it’s crucial for researchers to remain impartial during testing, that doesn’t mean they should just point out all the problems uncovered in testing and leave it at that. It’s no wonder that creatives get furious when they are forced to sit through a research report that details everything that’s wrong with the concepts without suggesting a solution. Researchers have a responsibility to help think through actionable next steps.

So what do you do? How do you turn enemies into allies? At Marketing for Change, one way we break down the divide is we put researchers and creatives into a room together. Literally. Our research staff share office space not with each other, but with creatives and strategists.

We also break down the barriers between the two departments by encouraging as much collaboration as possible. While researchers don’t write copy, they do weigh-in on strategy and brainstorm concepts. While creatives don’t conduct interviews, they do ask questions they have about their own creative. On the research side, this approach results in more actionable and reasonable research recommendations. On the creative side, it means that research results are valued because the ultimate goal is to produce creative that fulfills strategic goals.

In the end, the collaboration forces both departments to think beyond their sole responsibilities, recognize the challenges they each face, and operate as a team. It helps everyone focus on the mission of the campaign rather than just amazing creative or research nerdery.

Of course, having a well-integrated team doesn’t mean much if the research you’re conducting isn’t designed to help creative in the end. Coming soon, how to avoid stale measurements to find the most impactful creative...

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