Who better than a couple of German marketers to come up with a methodology for defining and quantifying creativity in advertising. In a 2013 article for The Harvard Business Review, Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert showed a trained consumer panel over 400 consumer ads from 90 “fast moving” categories to determine if and when creativity matters, in which categories certain types of creativity work best, and the correlation between the price for the creative and its effectiveness.

The creative dimensions included originality, flexibility in ideas, elaboration of details, synthesis of objects usually not related, and artistic value. Not surprisingly, parity products such as soda scored highest for originality; whereas personal care products such as shampoo were more valued for elaboration of differences.  However, sales didn’t always follow the logic. Originality in soda ads had a smaller impact on sales, whereas creativity in selling shavers and detergents boosted sales. Different combinations of these creative dimensions were rated, and originality and elaboration together almost doubled the impact on sales.

And the top scorers for each dimension (on a scale of 1-7) were…


  • Is the ad “out of the ordinary”? 
  • Does it depart from stereotypical thinking? 
  • Is it unique? 

Winner: Coca-Cola “Happiness Factory”


  • Does the ad contain ideas that move from one subject to another? 
  • Does it contain different ideas? 
  • Does it shift from one idea to another? 
Winner: Jacobs Krönung “Time for Chatting”


  • Does the ad contain numerous details? 
  • Does it extend basic ideas and make them more intricate? 
  • Does it contain more details than expected? 

Winner: Ehrmann Yogurt “Strawberry Tongue”


  • Does the ad connect objects that are usually unrelated? 
  • Does it contain unusual connections? 
  • Does it bring unusual items together? 

Winner: Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Squish “Juicy Fruit Ranch”

Artistic Value

  • Is the ad visually or verbally distinctive? 
  • Does it make ideas come to life graphically or verbally? 
  • Is it artistic in its production? 

Winner: Danone Fantasia “Flavor Trip”

I wonder if Germans just really, really like yogurt. As the researchers pointed out, original ads seem to do best when people are familiar with the item/category and creative commercials tupically need a few airings before people “get” them,  But why is it that, at least in the U.S., you see the same ads and promos running over and over again ad nauseum?  Well, that’s a topic for another post.
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