Predicting the win. Committing to creativity to accelerate growth.

Published on November 16, 2020

The evidence is clear. For brands to grow, a meaningful and salient point of differentiation is key, and creativity is at the heart of bringing that to the consumer in a distinct way - to stand out.

Most businesses however, are faced with a conundrum. There is a clear need to grow, and to stand out, but the role of creativity can be subjective and hard to quantify, making it feel like a gamble.

Our last post looked at the case for creativity in increasing share of voice, as well as the rules that can be bent in order to help brands grow fast.

In the second of our four-part series exploring the truths behind effective marketing, we’ll explore the marketing science that helps us calculate creative risk, and to commit to creativity as a business tool.

“At gambling, the deadly sin is to mistake bad play for luck.”

Ian Fleming - Casino Royale


To some extent, marketing campaigns can feel like a roll of the dice. No matter how rock-solid and insightful the strategy, how brilliant the creative, clever the media plan and rigorous the research – it’s still hard to predict if the work… will win.

Winning in marketing is only ever about market share growth, and as with gambling, you cannot rely on luck or predict a win with full certainty. What we search for then, is to improve our chances.


One way to improve the chances of a win is to minimise risk - betting small and betting regularly. This is the short-termist view - a focus purely on highly targeted short-term campaigns that favour immediate sales over brand building.

“- not least because of the return on investment (ROI) outputs that usually flow from econometrics and data analytics. These models, in the first instance, can lead to a focus on making immediate impact over the slower, more sustainable forms of driving growth”.

Peter Field – The effectiveness code

But we know from the likes of Binet and Field, WARC, IPA and Ehrenburg Bass that this approach whilst efficient, and good for minimising risk, simply doesn’t maximise returns in the long term.

See ‘Bending the rules’ – for more on this.


The more sustainable and effective way to improve the chances of a win is to enhance the odds. Luckily, a new metric, developed by James Hurman and Peter Field alongside Cannes Lions and WARC** can help us predict our chance of success.

The “Creative Commitment” indicator of marketing impact emerged from a study of 4863 case studies from WARC, Cannes Lions and the IPA databank. Using this mass of data, a clear correlation emerged between three factors for creative commitment that predict campaign success – and they are startlingly simple:

  • Media spend
  • Campaign duration
  • Number of media channels used

Crucially, they found that having a large budget was not the determinate factor – even when budgets are low, increased campaign duration and channels will increase effectiveness and accelerate growth.

“It gives us a way to predict the effectiveness potential of a campaign while we're still in the planning stages. And it gives us a way to maximize the effectiveness potential by maximizing the campaign's Creative Commitment”.

James Hurman – The effectiveness code**

The three impact drivers form the basis of the a very simple metric – the Creative Commitment score – which can be used as a planning tool to predict marketing impact using the table below.

Ultimately, the higher your score the better; but anything below 5 suggest a danger of poor performance, between 6-8 is likely to achieve good results and between 9-12 is the optimum effectiveness score. Above 13 will still achieve very high levels of effectiveness but may produce diminishing returns over time so needs to be monitored.

Using this simple model, we can stack the odds in our favour by seeing which levers we can pull to increase the chance of success. However, the study also shows that the Creative Commitment Score may be supplemented by a fourth element that correlates with impressive results, but is harder to measure: that is, creativity - the very thing we are committing to.


Creativity doesn’t come with the sort of hard metrics that media, duration and channels have. It’s subjective and even after rigorous creative pre-testing, it can feel like the wildcard when trying to stack the deck in our favour.

So whilst creative commitment can be benchmarked, how do we codify the creativity?

Heineken, have spearheaded an approach. Since 2015 Heineken have used their ‘creative ladder’ to score marketing creativity on a scale of 1 to 10. After review from both agency and internal marketers - anything below a 5 will be discarded. And it works. By 2018 Heineken were the 7th most creatively awarded brand in the world on the WARC creative 100****, regularly winning prestigious awards for creativity and effectiveness.

In Les Binet and Peter Field’s analysis of over 900 effectiveness case studies - the Long and Short of it, they highlight the concept of creative ‘fame’ and the ability of fame driving campaigns to increase growth driving metrics by up to 42%.

“Fame campaigns are usually surprising in some way: That is why people share them. There would be little point in sharing a campaign that was familiar, conventional or dull.”

Binet & Field – The Long and Short of It

The Heineken creative ladder extols the virtues of fame. Its minimum acceptable score of 5 refers to an ownable campaign, meaning it is unlikely to represent the codes and clichés of category advertising. The ultimate goal being campaigns that are able to change the way people think, feel and live to such a degree that the campaigns become a legendary cultural phenomenon.

By implementing the creative ladder, Heineken have set a reference point for the subjective matter for creativity , one based on from marketing science and focussed on standing out. By settling for nothing less than brave, fame driving creativity, positive effects on brand growth are now baked in to their creative process.


When planning campaigns then, the advice is clear:

  • Avoid short termism unless it is absolutely necessary - delivering immediate impact comes at the cost of less sustainable forms of driving growth.
  • Aim above 9 for the creative commitment score of your campaign – this is a good indicator of campaigns that will drive growth most effectively.
  • Avoid bland creative work that follows the codes of your category, use a creative ranking rule to ensure that only impactful creativity makes the cut.

If the deadly sin in gambling is to mistake bad play for bad luck, good play in marketing involves making the luck yourself.

Ringo Moss is Managing Partner – Strategy, at McCann Central.


The Effectiveness Partnership, Growth Driving Measures

**Cannes Lions and Warc, The Effectiveness Code

Heineken – The Creative Ladder | Morelli Verhoog

****Warc – Creative 100