Think Creatively, Act Strategically.

I consider myself a good problem-solver. I enjoy the challenge of figuring something out, of finding solutions, of exploring different ways of fixing something. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that men don’t like asking for directions, or following the instructions on a manual. I don’t fall under this category. I take comfort in the assurance of knowing my destination.

I would rather take the time to read an instruction manual than to disassemble a chair because I missed a screw the first time around. In advertising, as in those cases, knowledge is power. It’s easier to find a solution when there’s a clear understanding of the problem. That’s why strategy is an integral factor to the creative process. From the beginning, it’s important to clearly understand the clients’ needs, their strengths, their weaknesses and what they want to achieve. Only then can problem-solving begin.

Charles Eames said it best: “The recognition and understanding of the need was the primary condition of the creative act… Only when you get into the problem and the problem becomes clear, can creativity take over.”

A strong and effective campaign depends on a solid strategy. And that comes from asking questions: “What is being sold?” “Who are the consumers?” “What channels of communication are being used?” “What’s the budget?”

Once we have these answers, creativity comes into play on how to reach the right demographic through the right channels and utilizing resources efficiently. If the information these questions provide is missing, it will be harder to reach the goal. Could you eventually get to the lodge you and your wife are going to spend a romantic weekend in if you don’t stop at that gas station and ask for directions? Sure. But you’ll be there late and with an angry spouse.

Having a well laid out plan allows you to know what shape your creative should take. It also serves as a way to reference back and make sure the creative is on target at every stage and, at the end, it serves as a guide to measure the results of the campaign against the original intent. After that, it can be a blueprint for future campaigns, using it as a basis for future creative strategies, adjusting where necessary to reach new goals.

“Creative without strategy is called art. Creative with strategy is called advertising.” –Jeff I. Richards

In today’s digital advertising world, we have many tools to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign. Analytics also help us know where we are weak and where we are strong. Where we are hot and where we are not. And the adjustments can be made almost immediately. Social media has also been a game changer because it allows real-time feedback of the direct consumer. So, by having access to these tools and a good laid out plan, creative solutions can be much more effective once implemented because they were built on a solid base and goals that were set up at the beginning are much more obtainable.

So, pick up those instructions and don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions.  Your destination of improved ROI will be easier to reach and the ride will be much smoother.

Gustavo Estrella

Originally from Mexico, Gustavo earned his degree in graphic design in 2004. With 10+ years of experience, Gustavo has created work for renowned brands as Waste Management, The University of Arizona Tech Parks, Town of Marana, Tucson Electric Power and SRP. Most recently, he has worked on clients in the outdoor industry – McMillan Fiberglass Stocks, Benelli USA and Rainier Ballistics, to name a few. Gustavo is a family man, a techie, a beer connoisseur and a cheese-head for life.