Media Industry and Consumers  

Are Advertising Agency Creatives More Creative Than Anyone Else? An Exploratory Test of Competing Prediction

It is widely accepted in the advertising industry that creativity is a key quality for employees to continue to create new campaigns, solve problems and compete with other advertising firms. There also is a general belief that advertising “creative” professionals, who are charged with creating the ideas for advertisements, are more creative than “noncreatives” (e.g. agency account executives) and the general population. However, little research has investigated if these claims and assumptions are true.

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Advertising Assistant Professor Kasey Windels and Federico de Gregorio at the University of Akron, set out to examine three groups (creatives, noncreatives and the general population) using three tests (divergent thinking, convergent thinking and an advertising domain-specific test) to determine if there are significant differences in creativity between creative and non-creative individuals.

Divergent thinking is the ability to make unconventional connections and discover multiple options, outcomes and ideas. Convergent thinking refers to using logic and decision-making to come to a correct answer to a problem.  The domain-specific test gauges creativity on a particular advertising challenge, in this case coming up with as many slogans as possible for an insecticide in four minutes.

Results revealed that there was no difference between advertising agency creatives and noncreatives, who scored similarly on all three creativity tests. Creatives did better in elaboration and originality than the general population in the divergent thinking test.

One of the most surprising results of this study was that noncreatives performed similarly to creatives and outperformed the general population on their divergent thinking flexibility. This could be because the noncreatives must still be creative in their daily interactions with client and consumer needs, where creatives are stationed in their creative bubble.

Even more surprising, the general population outperformed the advertising community on the convergent test, perhaps due to the orthodoxy of this activity. The researchers concluded that creative experts do not necessarily out-perform novices on basic creative thinking. Based on these results, agency leaders should consider engaging all employees when approaching projects and not limit their options to only the creatives. Further managers should continue to look to the general population for testing product and idea effectiveness.

Authors: Federico de Gregorio, Kasey Windels

The original article, “Are Advertising Agency Creatives More Creative Than Anyone Else? An Exploratory Test of Competing Prediction,” appeared in The Journal of Advertising, published online on Aug. 17, 2020.


Posted: October 30, 2020
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