Creativity in Advertising:
Research on the "X-Factor"
The University of Georgia
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Creativity in Advertising:
Research on the "X-Factor"
This literature review brings together and discusses nearly three
decades of research on advertising creativity. The discussion of
research is divided into two parts: 1) studies that address creative
ability and the creative process in advertising and 2) management
and creativity in advertising. In the second part, studies are
discussed according to research focus: 1) initial questions, 2)
creative vs. account personnel conflict and 3) personality
characteristics and work habits of creatives.
Creativity in Advertising:
Research on the "X-Factor"
The scientists of advertising can give you fact after fact after
fact...but there's one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally
persuasion and persuasion happens not to be a science, but an
-- William Bernbach (Levenson, 1987, p. xvii)
Creativity in advertising, the "art" of advertising, as essential as it
appears to be for the success of most advertising, is a subject
which we know little. Since the mid-1970s advertising researchers
conducted research on creativity in advertising. Researchers have
addressed the creative process of advertising copy writers, designers,
creative directors and art directors. They have modeled the overall
process of advertising production, paying particular attention to the
creative process. They have conducted research aimed at helping
advertising creatives, including surveys of personality
work habits, attitudes and creative ability. They have analyzed
advertising for its creative content. In conducting these studies,
advertising researchers have often drawn upon the vast literature on
creativity from other disciplines, especially psychology. Yet today
do not know very much more about the creative process of advertising
creatives or how to foster creativity in advertising than we did neary
three decades ago. Back then, what we "knew" about advertising
creativity came from the icons of advertising--advice and anecdotes from
the likes of a Bernbach, a Burnett, an Ogilvy. We might just as
rely on them today.
The efforts advertising researchers have made to study creativity in
advertising have been pioneering. They are, by most of their own
characterizations, generally exploratory or preliminary in nature, and
therefore the studies' findings are somewhat limited in their
and generalizability. This, however, only becomes a problem if no
follow-up research or efforts at replication have been made. This is
precisely the case with the body of research on creativity in
advertising. Considered as a whole, the knowledge it presents, while
interesting and valuable, can only be described as tentative and
disconnected. The studies do, however, represent necessary, albeit
preliminary, efforts toward a greater understanding of creativity in
advertising. What still remains to be done is more research.
This literature review discusses only published research which deals
directly and specifically with advertising creativity. General
of creativity, creative people or managing non-advertising creative
personnel are not reviewed here. The review begins by defining what
meant by advertising creativity and presents thoughts on advertising
creativity and the creative process from some of the greats of
advertising. The discussion of research is divided into two parts: 1)
studies which address creative ability and the creative process in
advertising and 2) management issues and creativity in advertising. The
second part, management issues and creativity in advertising, covers
greater number of studies. They have been grouped, according to re
search focus, in three sections: 1) initial questions,
2) creative vs. account personnel conflict and 3) personality
characteristics and work habits of creatives. The review concludes with
an assessment of researchers' efforts against previous calls for
research, a summary of what can be concluded from the body of
and suggestions for future research directions.
What is advertising creativity?
Advertising creativity is a certain kind of creativity. It is not art
for art's sake. It is art for sales' sake. Advertising creativity
about selling--selling products, images, issues and ideologies. It
about selling candidates, political perspectives, social action,
economic policy and military deployments. It is creativity applied for
[It is] creativity with a deadline. It is functional creativity.
It is highly disciplined creativity. Where the poet may create
please himself and his loyal clique, the advertising writer
create to please a profit-conscious client and an indifferent
public (White, 1972, p. 29).
White (1972) defined the process of creativity in advertising as
"creativity on demand." The creative process, according to White, is
the same in advertising as in other fields such as the arts and
sciences, except it "operates within strict parameters."
In advertising, the creative individual must produce (in an
environment of constraint and pressure) a concept, theme,
advertisement or campaign that can break through the prospect's
potential mental defenses and mesh the wheels of product
with that of consumer preference. Advertising creativity is,
certainly, paradox under pressure (Blasko and Mokwa, 1986, p. 44)
For Leo Burnett advertising creativity was "the art of establishing new
and meaningful relationships between previously unrelated things in
manner that is relevant, believable and in good taste (cited in
Mokwa, 1986, p. 43)."
Advertising creativity is an art, as far as William Bernbach was
concerned, and he maintained the most important thing in advertising is
"to be fresh, to be original" (Higgins, 1965, p. 14), which requires
This business of trying to measure everything in precise terms is
one of the problems with advertising today. This leads to a
worship of research. We're all concerned about the facts we get,
and not enough concerned about how provocative we make those
to the consumer...One of the disadvantages of doing everything
mathematically, by research and mandate, is that after a while,
everybody does it the same way. Because you go out and find the
same things--and if you take the attitude, as many people do,
once you have found out what to say, your job is done, then
you're doing is saying it the same way as everybody is saying
and then you've lost your impact completely (Higgins, 1965, pp.
Bernbach's philosophy of creativity in advertising still commands
followers today, even in some agency environments where the most
sophisticated market research is conducted and made available to the
creatives. Only a few years ago, Walston (1990), following Bernback,
argued creativity in advertising today must be inspired, and to be
inspired it must come from the creatives who look within themselves,
rather than to market research or the audience to direct their
For advertising creatives to look within themselves for inspiration is
certainly part of the creative process. Although David Ogilvy
the value of research in the creative process, he also wrote that to
creative one must escape the "tyranny of reason" (Ogilvy, 1987). On
creative process, the irrational, unblocking the imagination and
inspiration, Ogilvy said:
I am almost incapable of logical thought, but I have developed
techniques for keeping open the telephone line to my unconscious,
in case that disorderly repository has anything to tell me. I
a great deal of music. I am on friendly terms with John Ba
rleycorn. I take long hot baths. I garden. I go into retreat
among the Amish. I watch birds. I go for long walks in the
country. And I take frequent vacations, so that my brain can lie
fallow--no gold, no cocktail parties, no tennis, no bridge, no
ncentration: only a bicycle. While thus employed doing
receive a constant stream of telegrams from my unconscious, and
these become the raw material for my advertisements (Ogilvy,
Much of the research on advertising creativity has followed from the
insights of the greats of advertising such as Bernbach, Burnett and
Ogilvy. In the research reviewed here, then, advertising creativity is
seen as a distincly different kind of work than that of the "pure"
artist. The creative process of advertising creatives, while like that
of other artists in many ways, is also different because it requires
advertising creatives to incorporate the needs of the client and the
desires of the customer into their creative solutions.
Creative ability and the creative process in advertising
One of the earliest studies on creativity in advertising was conducted
by Reid and Rotfeld (1976), who conceptualized an associative model
creativity in advertising. Pursuing the conviction of many of the
advertising copywriters that the associative thinking process is
to advertising creativity, the researchers proposed a model of
advertising creativity using 1) Mednick's associative theory of
creativity ["the process of bringing previously unrelated facts into
association so that unrealized relationships between them become
apparent" (p. 25)]; 2) the attitude of the creative; and 3) market,
product and consumer research data. The model shows research data as
the "previously unrelated facts" provided to the creative who then,
using associative ability, conceptualizes a creative solution in the
form of advertising. The model also shows the creative's attitude
creating as an influence on the creative process. The model was not
intended to be comprehensive, but to highlight the roles of the three
above-mentioned components in the creative process.
Reid and Rotfeld (1976) used three measurement instruments: 1)
Mednick's Remote Associates Test (RAT), 2) attitude scales and 3) an
expert opinion creative ability profile scale. Seventy-one
undergraduate and graduate advertising students were required to
complete the attitude scales and the RAT. A week later, experts rated
each student on the creative ability profile scale. The researchers
hypothesized strong interdependent relationships among associative
ability, attitude toward the act of creating and creative ability
ratings, which were supported in their findings.
Perhaps the most important of these [findings] is the affirmation
of the views expressed by...advertising writers that the
associative process is directly related to advertising creativity.
That is, the highly creative person has more ability to
provided research data into problem solving advertising
communications than has the less creative person. Moreover, such a
relationship accentuates the importance of research to the
process since facts are essential to an associative theory of c
reativity. Also the findings indicate that the strength of a
person's [positive] attitude toward the act of creativity is
directly related to his associative ability (Reid and Rotfeld,
1976, p. 29).
Reid pursued this research stream with a series of studies (Reid,
1977; Reid, 1978a; Reid, 1978b), most importantly one (1978a) in which
he tested the associative model of creativity further, adding
of the creative's involvement, satisfaction and confidence as
of an individual's level of creative ability. Like the earlier
(Reid and Rotfeld, 1976), he tested advertising students (91) using
same research design with the addition of the new measures. He found
significant correlations, suggesting
the possibility of an underlying relationship that links a person's
attitude toward the act of creating an advertising message,
of associative ability, involvement in the process of creating,
satisfaction with created objects, and confidence in creative
ability with his actual creative ability (Reid, 1978a, p. 785).
Reid noted that the correlations indicate the possibility that creative
individuals share these characteristics and recommended that
managers use them to identify creatives.
Although Reid's studies provided important first steps in
conceptualizing some factors involved in the process of creativity
advertising and in identifying certain factors as possible predictors
creative ability, as he has suggested himself (Reid and Moriarty,
his research is limited by its reliance on advertising students,
than advertising creatives, as research subjects; by its primary
on creative ability rather than the creative process itself; and by
treatment of creativity as unidimensional (in relying on the
theory of creativity) rather than multidimensional.
Reid and Moriarty (1983), in their selected review of research on
ideation (the formulation of ideas and original thoughts), noted a
paucity of research on advertising creativity (only six reports: Auer,
1976; Reid and Rotfeld, 1976; Reid, 1977; Reid, 1978a; Reid 1978b;
Vanden Bergh, 1981), but found extensive research on ideation and
creativity in general from various other disciplines, most of which was
psychologically based. From their review of the literature, Reid
Moriarty (1983) drew six general conclusions from the studies up to
1. the capacity for ideation is multidimensional rather than
2. ideation and intelligence are probably not directly related
3. the capacity for ideation is reflected in distinct personality
4. individuals produce better ideas when they are required to
participate in structured groups than when they are allowed to
voluntarily participate in unstructured groups
5. deferring judgment, in particular, and incubation, to some
extent, lead to better ideas
6. training programs tend to increase the production and quality
of ideas (p. 131).
Reid and Moriarty (1983) criticized the lack of research into
advertising creativity published by then and called for future more
sophisticated empirical studies with these six conclusions as starting
points. As we shall see, more than a decade later, advertising
researchers are still advocating more research on creativity in
Three more empirical studies of the creative process in advertising
followed. Moriarty and Vanden Bergh (1984) conducted an exploratory
study of advertising creatives to elicit the creatives' perceptions of
their own creative problem solving techniques and creative processes
their work. The study examines the creatives' responses to an
open-ended questionnaire in relation to the creativity technique of
brainstorming as Osborn (1963) described it and to several similar
theoretical models of the creative process (i.e., Wallas, 1926; Taylor,
Austin and Sutton, 1974; and Young, 1975). These are exemplified
Wallas' four-phase creative process model of preparation, incubation,
illumination and verification with Osborn's (1963) addition of an
initial phase of orientation. The researchers reported a 21 percent
response rate to their survey of 251 Addy winners. The respondents,
owners of small agencies and creative people who had moved into
management positions, creative directors, art directors, copywriters and
producers, answered the opened-ended questionnaire with written
narratives of their work styles and creative processes. It appears the
researchers grouped the data topically, although, unfortunately,
not state their method of data analysis.
In general, the researchers (Moriarty and Vanden Bergh, 1984) found
that advertising creatives use brainstorming techniques to generate
ideas, not in large conference settings as Osborn recommended, but in
smaller teams or alone. The researcher's analysis of the creatives'
narratives of their creative processes and work styles identified a
process with stages similar to the models posed in the creativity
literature. The orientation and preparation phases often consisted of
immersion in the facts of the problem and "wrestling with the
before moving on to an incubation phase. The researchers found,
that illumination or insight (the idea for the solution) for these
creatives might come at any stage of the process, not necessarily after
incubation. In reporting their work styles, the researchers found
advertising creatives thrive on "the pressure, tension and
of deadlines. They use pressure as a catalyst" (Moriarty and Vanden
Bergh, 1984, p. 174) and have certain techniques for breaking mental
blocks when they occur. While this study provides access to the
comments of the respondents themselves, the lack of description of
analysis technique used tends to make the researchers' conclusions
appear to be based on anecdotal evidence.
In an exploration of how the use of computer imaging might be affecting
the creative process of art directors and designers, Alvey (1991)
presents a salient critical discussion of some of the earlier research
on the creative process as it relates to advertising creativity and
creative problem-solving to situate her preliminary study and formulate
a theoretical understanding of the computer's potential impact.
Osborn's creative process model (orientation, preparation,
illumination, verification), Alvey investigated the creative problem
solving processes of 12 computer imaging students, asking them to
their work processes in terms of Osborn's model when using
tools and methods of design and those when using the computer as an
imaging tool. Like Moriarty and Vanden Bergh (1984), Alvey also does
state her method of data analysis. Alvey's preliminary findings
indicated a change in how the students' moved through their creative
problem solving design task when using a computer.
When using traditional tools and processes, the subjects reported
more of all three activities in the incubation stage, but while
using the computer there was more of all activities in the
verification stage...Findings indicate a different approach to work
ing through the creative process, at least in the final stages
the process. It is conceivable that artists and designers
experiencing a shift in energies expended in the later stages
the creative process (Alvey, 1991, p. 107).
Alvey uses the findings of her preliminary, exploratory study to
indicate the need for further research on the effect computers may be
having on the work patterns and creative processes of design
and discusses and recommends the use of more recently developed
of an individual's preference for particular phases of the creative
process and if those preferences shift with the introduction of the
computer as a tool in the creative process. She outlines a model and
measurement tool introduced by Basadur, Graen and Wakabayashi (1990)
suggests that future researchers could make use of their model and
instrument to assess whether or not a major shift in the creative
process of designers is occasioned by the use of computers for imaging.
Alvey hones in on some crucial questions regarding the creative process
and computers, the answers to which, she notes, may
necessitate reconsideration of teaching, training, and/or working
methods. The computer, with its ever-increasing capabilities,
forever changing the visual communications industry, and more
importantly, is possibly changing the very process of creativity.
If there is a major shift in the creative process, are
thinkers missing the ideation and incubation phases so
truly creative ideas? (Alvey, 1991, p. 112).
Although Alvey's study is a preliminary one and uses students rather
than advertising creatives as respondents, it raises provocative
questions about how advertising creatives' thinking and working
processes might be being affected by changing technology. Alvey's study
is the last of the empirical studies published to date on
creativity as it relates to creative ability and the creative process
In their review of non-advertising and advertising research directed
toward understanding creativity and the creative process, Blasko and
Mokwa (1986) identified some common themes.
Creativity is a process--an important human process of imagination,
expression and association. The creative challenge (problem or
opportunity) involves paradox--an encounter with apparent limits,
anomalies or conflict. The creative encounter is naturally
involving, or at least enticing--confronting limits or conflict
generates natural tension, emotion and even passion. The
experience involves an integrative resolution, and typically a
harmonious transformation--a breakthrough or breaking out to a new
and exhilarating state of association and meaning (Blasko and
Mokwa, 1986, p. 44, emphasis in original).
Blasko and Mokwa published two analytic articles (Blasko and Mokwa,
1986 and 1988) using the advertising product as data from which to
inferences about creativity. Blasko and Mokwa (1986) proposed
thinking as a "logic of creativity" in advertising. They follow
psychiatrist Albert Rothenberg in defining Janusian thinking as "the
capacity to conceive and utilize two or more contradictory concepts,
ideas, or images simultaneously" (p. 43), and refine the term Janusian
thinking as symbolizing and describing the "mind processes which
simultaneously realize (originate, apprehend, resolve, and express) the
natural unity and harmony in apparent opposites" (p. 44). Unlike
Mednick's associative thinking process which Reid posited as central to
a model of advertising creativity (Reid and Rotfeld, 1976; Reid,
1978b), the Janusian thinking process deals with concepts which are
inherently related, not unrelated. Blasko and Mokwa illustrate
thinking as a specific cognitive approach in the creative process in
advertising, by citing many national ad campaigns that employ Janusian
opposites in copy and art, visuals and sound. (For example, the
Lee campaign themeline, "Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody
doesn't like Sara Lee.")
Blasko and Mokwa (1986) adopted Rothenberg's formulation that Janusian
thinking is a way of promoting a direct link between the conscious
unconscious (a link, by the way, that Ogilvy established for himself
taking "long hot baths"). "Janusian thinking is a unity of the
and unconscious fields of mind without the interferences of mental
boundaries" (p. 45).
Blasko and Mokwa (1986) also note Arthur Koestler's (1978) exploration
of Janusian thinking and describe his version, "bisociation," which
Koestler advocated as a creative alternative to conventional logic
which pervades the creative process.
A bisociating mind freely confronts and actively seeks to uncover
inherent paradox and resolve it through a synthesis of
unconnected thought patterns or frames of reference. Thus, the
creative mind actively seeks novel connection and uses the a
pparently divergent ideas, insights or perspective to generate
these convergent connections. A synergistic, new whole is created
by each connection or set of connections ( Blasko and Mokwa,
Blasko and Mokwa (1986) conclude that "Janusian thinking is an
important way to creatively approach problems in advertising, and it
serves to help define the elusive process of advertising 'creativity'"
(p. 49). In a later essay, Blasko and Mokwa (1988) argue that the
practice of advertising, from account management to sales
(not just the creative process of producing ads) is filled with
and they advocate the use of Janusian thinking to confront these
paradoxes creatively. The authors, citing Bengston (1982) and others,
criticize Young's (1975) model of the creative process as
"assembly-line" creativity that leads to predictable, less
These two essays, although not very useful in providing
empirically-based knowledge of the way the creative process works
advertising creatives in practice, do have some heuristic value in
conceptualizing how a particular type of thinking pattern or approach to
a problem could come into play during the creative process.
empirical research, Reid and Rotfeld (1976) and Reid (1978a),
this conceptualization in a much more concrete way, using data from
tests of subjects, rather than inferring a particular thinking process
of the creators from the manifest content of advertisements.
of the content of advertising is, of course a useful technique for
other kinds of research questions.) However, taken together, the
and Mokwa and Reid reports do illustrate the point Reid and Moriarty
(1983) have made, that the thought processes involved in creativity
ideation are, and should be viewed as, multidimensional.
Management issues and creativity in advertising
Initial questions: what managers need to know
Shortly after the initial empirical studies of the creative process in
advertising were published, management issues involving creativity
advertising became a central focus of much of the research on
in advertising, beginning with an analytic paper by Vanden Bergh and
Adler (1983). They proposed an expanded model of the creative process
in advertising as a practical guide to advertising managers. Using
Osborn's five-step creative problem-solving model as the core, the
authors situate it between the initial and final stages ( ie: objective,
research and problem definition; running advertisement and
the advertising creation. Vanden Bergh and Adler explain the
of the Osborn model and the other factors, as well as describe de
(1970) vertical versus lateral thinking styles, to help managers
understand how creatives work differently from managers.
An ad agency is likely to be a schizophrenic place. As a business
it must demand structure and organization, but because it is
in the business of ideas it must provide an atmosphere for idea
generation (creativity) to take place. Therefore, it is
that managers understand how creative types think if an ideal
meshing of these two worlds is to take place (Vanden Bergh and
Adler, 1983, p. 110).
We shall see below that Fletcher (1990) reiterates this need--for
managers to understand creatives--in a slightly different context,
including personality characteristics of creatives, as well as the
routines of their creative processes, in what managers ought to know to
manage creative personnel more effectively.
Keeping the research focus on management issues, Vanden Bergh, Reid and
Schorin (1983) collaborated to empirically test a long-held
related to creativity and its management in advertising. They
their study to test the generally held assumption that a greater
of creative alternatives generated for an advertising campaign leads
a better chance of developing the optimal campaign. They analyzed
from an experiment in which creative campaign strategies generated
four groups of advertising students were judged by advertising agency
personnel. The findings of the study tended to confirm the
"The implication is that the more creative alternatives advertising
creatives are asked to generate, the more good ideas agency and client
management can expect to receive" (p. 49).
Another empirical advertising creativity study reported in 1983 shifted
even further away from questions regarding the individual's creative
process to how the overall creative decision making process in an
is managed. Mondroski, Reid & Russell (1983) conducted a decision
systems analysis of agency creative decision making. Their case study
of a medium-sized southeastern advertising agency presented a flow
from the agency's viewpoint of decision making in the creative
during the production of one advertising campaign. Decision makers
each step of the process were noted within an integrated chart of
whole management system of creative decision making in the agency.
researchers interviewed all agency personnel involved in the
arrive at their findings.
In this case, they found that the process began with the formulation of
an advertising strategy; a two-team approach to generating creative
alternatives was utilized; and, although management of the agency gave
final approval to which alternative would be presented to the
the creative team presented the work to the client. On the basis of
their findings, Mondroski, et al (1983) generally recommended to
managers that creative personnel be involved in the decision making
process from the beginning stage of strategy formulation, through the
presentation of the campaign to the client; that the management
supervisor of the account should have an adequate creative background;
and that a two-team approach to generating creative alternatives
increase the likelihood of producing the optimal campaign concept.
study is presented as a baseline data-based understanding of
decision making from which survey research could be conducted to
elaborate the process and offer more indications for creativity
management in advertising.
Les enfants terrible: the creatives versus account personnel
A series of studies which also focused on creativity management issues
followed these initial studies (Vanden Bergh, Smith & Wicks, 1986;
Wicks, Vanden Bergh & Smith, 1986; and Tinkham, Lane & Leung, 1987).
These three studies addressed the familiar conflict between creative
account personnel, which Ogilvy called "endemic" to advertising, to
attempt to offer better understandings of the conflict and how it might
Vanden Bergh, Smith & Wicks (1986) investigated the working
relationships between creatives and account management personnel in
advertising agencies. The researchers surveyed a sample of account and
creative services professionals (256 surveys returned for a 27
response rate) and found that creatives, when asked to critically
analyze the performance of account managers, were more critical of
account managers than were the account managers, when asked to perform
the reverse task, of creatives. The authors speculated that this
difference may in part be due to the generalist perspective of the
account managers versus the specialist perspective of the creatives.
Using the same survey data, Wicks, Vanden Bergh & Smith (1986) analyzed
in greater detail creatives' opinions of their co-workers in account
services and creative services to answer specific questions regarding
the perceived problem of inevitable conflict between account
and creative services. The authors found that although conflict
account and creative personnel was more severe than conflict between
co-workers within the creative department, the account
managers-vs.-creatives conflict was not as severe as it was
believed to be. According to the creatives, conflicts generally
from an inequality between accounts and creative people, unrealistic
deadlines set by account management, misunderstanding of the
complexities of each other's work, and lack of communication.
Tinkham, Lane & Leung (1987) pursued study of this conflict between
account and creative personnel in terms of function and dysfunction
according to how the conflict is managed. The authors proposed six
potential sources of account-creative conflict: three behavioral
factors (attitude and perception, dimensions of task and communication
flow) and three organizational factors (organizational structure,
of roles and style of management), arguing that success in managing
conflict toward functional outcomes was predicated on the ability to
identify and analyze the source of conflict. Their exploratory field
study compared results of a pilot study of two agencies without a
history of dysfunctional conflict and an agency with a history of
dysfunctional conflict between account and creative groups. The major
data gathering tool was a self-administered questionnaire of agency
account and creative personnel which was supplemented by interviews
Generally, the researchers (Tinkham, et al, 1987) found that within the
agency with the history of dysfunctional conflict, account and
personnel differed significantly in assessing the six
factors. At the agencies without a history of dysfunctional
account and creative personnel differed significantly in assessing
one factor, "dimensions of task." The authors also found creative
personnel from both agency samples responded more negatively than
account personnel, with the dysfunctional conflict agency creatives
responding consistently more negatively than the functional conflict
With regard to the extent and nature (functional or dysfunctional) of
conflict, both the creatives and account personnel at the functional
conflict agencies evaluated the extent of conflict to be low, but
account personnel evaluated the conflict to be more functional when it
does occur than did creatives. This was not the case at the
dysfunctional conflict agency. Both creatives and account personnel
there disagreed on the extent and nature of the conflict, with
responding much more negatively compared to account personnel's
responses. Tinkham, et al (1987) indicate this field investigation
preliminary study to a larger research project measuring the
predictability and influence of the six hypothical dimensions as sources
of conflict, which they hope will lead to identifying alternative
of managing agency account and creative group conflict.
Although not specifically designed to address this conflict, account
and creative group conflict was also a theme that emerged in
Hirschman's (1989) study of the various production roles performed by
advertising personnel in creating a television commercial.
interviewed six people from different client companies or agencies
performed these roles: product manager, account executive, creative
director (copywriter), creative director (art director), producer and
commercial director. Hirschman's analysis of the interviews yielded
different models of the production/creative process involved in
producing the commercial, based on the role of each individual. Three
issues emerged from the models: the subjectivity of participant's
perspectives (similar to "attitude and perception" in Tinkham, et al,
1987), the determinants of perceived authorship of the ad, and
processual conflicts due to the varied personal utilities of the
produced ad (which can be likened to "nature of role" in Tinkham, et al,
Although Hirschman's (1989) discussion focuses on how these issues
might influence the content and structure of the advertising message
itself, the implications of this study for understanding the process
creating advertising are clear. With regard to account-creative
conflict, for instance, Hirschman's findings indicate, as she states,
that this conflict may be role-based rather than ideologically based.
Hirschman's study, unlike those of Vanden Bergh, Smith & Wicks
and Wicks, Vanden Bergh & Smith (1986), describes account-creative
conflict as originating in and being perpetuated by "the different
avenues the participants utilize for advancing their careers" ( p. 51).
Based in a production-of-culture perspective, Hirschman's (1989) report
also vividly illustrates the socially interactive, collaborative and
competitive process of advertising creation (in a more dynamic way
implied in Mondroski, et al, (1983), a view which reveals the limits
advertising creativity research which conceptualizes the creative
process as a strictly individual (or even "creative team") performance.
Different drummers? Personality characteristics and work habits of
The personality characteristics and work habits of advertising
creatives are also a focus of the advertising creativity research
dealing with management issues. Hovland, Wilcox and Hoffman (1988)
profiled advertising creatives in an attempt to more accurately
them so managers might be able to learn how to cultivate those
related to creatives' job success. The researchers mailed a
version of the Creative Quotient Test (developed by Eugene Raudsepp,
Princeton Creative Research) to 607 award-winning art directors,
copywriters and creative directors in both print and broadcast media.
The Creative Quotient Test is a questionnaire that requires
to provide self-descriptions in eight categories: value
attitudes toward work, problem solving behaviors,
interpersonal relations, personality dimensions and a
checklist. The researchers report that the overall scores of the 212
(35 percent response rate) respondents show about two-thirds of them
scored above average on creativity, with respondents evenly
within this group when categorized by position (e.g., copywriter,
director, creative director). The researchers found it surprising,
given this particular sample of creatives award-winning abilities, that
none of the respondents scored as "exceptionally creative" (the top
the scale) and only 6.1 percent scored as "very creative" (the
from top of the scale).
The authors also found that the advertising creatives share personality
characteristics and work habits with each other and with creative
The subjects can be described as open to their feelings, intuitive,
risk-takers, enthusiastic, motivated, nonconformists, hard
goal directed, imaginative and self confident. They also enjoy
toying with ideas, express feminine (if man) and masculine (if
woman) interests, like the unknown, do not mind being alone, are
not afraid to ask questions (curious), and are interested in
aesthetics (Hovland, et al, 1988, p. RC143).
The authors' suggestion for further research involve studies which
would validate the use of the Creative Quotient Test as a "diagnostic
tool" for evaluating creativity and indicating potential creative
performance. No other published studies using the Creative Quotient
Test with advertising creatives were found as of early 1995, so its
value in predicting creative performance or evaluating creative
characteristics of creative advertising personnel is unknown. Insofar as
the test is a valid measure when used with advertising creatives,
however, the findings of this study (Hovland, et al, 1988) tend to
confirm general beliefs about characteristics of advertising creatives
but also reveal that in comparison to "exceptionally" or "very"
individuals (as measured by the test), most advertising creatives
considered less creative, scoring as "above average."
In his study of the personality characteristics typical of an
"advertising executive" Tinkham (1990) tested the truism (supported by
the Hovland, et al, 1988 study) that advertising executives are more
creative and independent, indeed, a "breed apart" from other business
executives and the general population in personality traits. Unlike
Hovland, et al (1988) study, Tinkham did not measure creative
alone, but correlated a host of personality traits as measured by
16PF (Personality Factor) Test with respondents' categorization as
"advertising executive" on the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory
(SCII). His subjects were college student volunteers.
Tinkham (1990) concludes that his findings show some support for the
idea that successful advertising executives are different from the
general population in terms of basic personality traits, but show only
weak support for the notion that advertising practitioners are a
of creative practitioner. "Rather, one may infer a syndrome of
interests that more generally characterizes those in involved in applied
communication. This syndrome may be linked to, and determined in
by similar personality structures" (p. RC38). Those personality
as measured by the 16PF Test, include higher levels of independence
creativity, a greater likelihood of being accident or error prone,
greater tendency to behave in a way that is inconsistent with social
norms. Interestingly, just as the studies discussed above (Wicks, et
al, 1986; Tinkham, et al, 1987; and Hirschman, 1989) Tinkham's
do not support the common attribution of personality trait
as the source of account vs. creative personnel conflict in
"The results of this research, however, argue more persuasively for
greater rather than less similarity of basic temperament
across the functional areas of advertising" (p. RC38).
Fletcher (1990a and 1990b) addressed the research on personality traits
of creative people and what they might indicate for managers of
creatives. Drawing on selected literature of the creativity and
personality characteristics of artists, the literature on the management
of creative individuals and interviews with managers in the
industries" in Britain (one of whom was an advertising executive),
Fletcher (1990b) describes creatives as possessing specific personality
traits. "Creatives then, tend to be insecure, egotistical,
rebellious, poor timekeepers, perfectionists who seek fame and are
necessarily all that intelligent" ( p. 8). These traits, he argues,
make managing creatives a quite different task than managing other
of workers and suggests that advertising managers need to understand
creative personality in order to improve their management of
He offers no other specific suggestions for managers, except that to
offer sympathetic understanding to creatives should not lead to making
concessions to them.
Morris, Lancaster and Cho (1991) surveyed creative and media directors
to determine differences between them in their use of intuition in
advertising problem-solving. The researchers used a self-administered
questionnaired which asked for self-descriptions about their use of
inution, activities and conditions associated with creative hunches,
the nature and effectiveness of creative hunches. They received 377
completed questionnaires, for a 37.7 percent response rate.
Morris, et al (1991) found that both creative and media directors used
intuition, but that the creative function fosters it to a greater
than the media function. Creative directors and others with high
intuition reported more frequent and more productive creative
and ranked hunches as a problem-solving aid relatively highly. They
urged managers who want to encourage intuitive and more creative
problem-solving approaches in their employees to provide more private
work space, flexible working hours, more freedom from interruption
physical and psychological wellness programs.
West (1993a and 1993b) conducted a cross-national study of creativity
in advertising and its management. West surveyed Senior Creative
Directors (SCDs) from a quota sample of the top 300 advertising agencies
in the U.S., the U.K. and of the top 100 agencies in Canada. The
questionnaire included items measuring attitudes regarding creativity
management, creative personality, creative strategies and executions,
the creative process and agency philosophies. West reports on the
results of 303 returned surveys (34 percent response rate). He
statistically analyzes the survey responses for both categorical answers
and comparisons among countries.
In one article West (1993a) analyzes the data focusing on SCDs'
descriptions of the creative work practices of the creative teams under
their supervision, the perceived effect on a creative of experience
working at different agencies and in different countries, the use of
competitive creative teams on accounts, the perceived effect of awards
and deadlines on creative output, and how the SCD described his or
main management role with regard to the creative staff. West found
significant differences among the respondents based on country. In
general, the findings indicate the use of similar work habits of
creative teams to aid in the creative process (e.g., working morning,
working alone, drinking coffee or tea, etc.). The SCDs reported that
generally a creative's experience working at other agencies or abroad
had a positive effect on creative output, as did the use of
creative teams, which was a widespread practice (although some SCDs
reported they never participated in the practice). Awards and
were also assessed as positive influences on creatives. Most of the
SCDs (just over two-thirds) reported their management role as
out the best in team," cultivating and inspiring creativity, rather
"being a good practitioner," leading by example. In comparison to
artistic creativity, agency creativity had some similarities, but
diverse work patterns and activities were much more restricted in the
agency. West's study supports the earlier definition of advertising
creativity that, unlike the novelist who may work at odd hours and in
varied surroundings, agency creatives' work practices are constrained
the business of advertising and the agency office environment.
In another article, West (1993b) analyzed a broader portion of his
survey data, focusing on which personal qualities SCDs counted as
important when hiring creatives, on the characteristics of the creative
personality, on the extent of control and participation creatives
in account problem-solving and on use and type of agency philosophy.
West found little or no differences among the three countries on
questions relating to creatives. He found that the most important
personal qualities SCDs looked for in hiring creatives were originality,
intelligence, vision, strategic thinking, confidence and resilience.
West also found that about half of the SCDs fit the "artistic"
personality type (based on a part of the SCII) of people who prefer
free, unstructured situations with maximum opportunities for
self-expression. SCDs had the most control and participation , and the
most freedom, when the account problem-solving process was in the
stages of generating ideas, selecting the idea and verifying the idea
(those stages at the crux of the creative process).
West's studies (1993a and 1993b) generally measure the opinions of SCDs
(except in the case of his questionable use of a small part of the
SCII), and, as such, his findings (like those of Morris, et al, 1991)
are not like the findings in the studies by Tinkham (1990) and
et al (1988), which attempted to measure the various personality
characteristics, making comparisons between the studies problematic. A
burgeoning literature on managing creative personnel and fostering
creativity in the workplace is developing from researchers in management
(e.g. Yong, 1994). This literature should provide advertising
researchers with additional information in designing future studies on
managing creatives in advertising.
How does the research measure up, and where do we go from here?
More than ten years ago, in their review of the research on ideation and
creativity, Reid & Moriarty (1983) suggested several avenues for
research on creativity in advertising. Principal among them were
studies on advertising creatives' creative process rather than creative
capacity. This area of study has received cursory attention by
& Vanden Bergh (1984) in their study of how advertising creatives
perceive their own creative process. Alvey (1991) took a similar
approach, but asked creatives to describe their creative process both
with and without the use of computers. Many other studies outside of
the disciplines of advertising have been conducted on the
creative process (recently, e.g., Marsh and Vollmer, 1991) that some
the advertising creativity research utilizes. Much of this research
the creative process of "pure" artists and writers cannot be
unproblematically applied to advertising creatives because of the
difference in their creative tasks, that is the specific contraints
within which advertising creatives work.
Reid & Moriarty (1983) further recommended empirical research that
studies interactive effects between group and individual creative
performance in the hope that a better understanding of how to manage
advertising creativity might be developed. Mondroski, et al (1983)
Hirschman (1989) have only begun to address this area.
Reid & Moriarty (1983) also cautioned researchers to study creative
capacity in its multidimensional aspects, rather than as a
unidimensional capacity, in order to develop a personality profile
the advertising creative in relation to multiple traits of creative
The Hovland, et al (1988) and Tinkham (1990) studies using measurement
instruments address this question most directly. Fletcher's (1990a
1990b) interviews and analytic literature review and the Morris, et
(1991) and West (1993a and 1993b) survey studies provide information
the attitudes and opinions of advertising creatives. Whether or
intelligence is related to creativity in advertising, and the areas
deferred judgment and incubation in the creative process, and
training programs were also subjects ripe for study according to
Moriarty (1983). The research on the relationship of intelligence
creativity outside of the field of advertising research has tended to
show that creative ability is not necessarily related to high
intelligence (Fletcher, 1990b), although a minimum level of intelligence
is required. These findings stand in contrast to West's (1993b)
which showed that personal intelligence was the personal
second only to originality, that senior creative directors valued
hiring advertising creatives. To date no empirical study of the
incubation in the creative process or creativity training programs
been published which is specifically engaged with advertising
More recently, Stewart (1992) has repeated some of Reid's and
Moriarty's (1983) concerns, arguing that research on creativity in
advertising should become a central focus of advertising research.
Stewart particularly advocates research questions which address the
creative process itself, what kind of methods or approaches might
facilitate the creative process in advertising (for example, what kinds
of market research advertising creatives would find most useful in
developing the "big idea") and what it is about individuals and agencies
that make them more creative. Vanden Bergh, et al (1983),
al (1983), Hirschman (1989) and Morris, et al (1991) have made
preliminary steps toward addressing what might facilitate the creative
process. Moriarty (1992) has offered recommendations for greater
of interpretive research by creatives in developing advertising.
of the published research reveiwed here attempted to correlate an
individual's or agency's creative success with any other character
istics. While not measuring success per se, Tinkham, et al (1987) did,
however, identify their agencies according functional vs
conflict, which could be a factor in the ultimate creative success
the agencies' work.
Stewart (1992) also speculates that past advertising research on
advertising creativity may not necessarily be a good guide to future
research, especially with regard to methods, noting that context has
become increasingly important to any understanding of advertising.
Methodologically, of the studies published to date, Hirschman's (1989)
study of advertising creatives has been the one which inherently
into account the agency and personal context, although the Mondroski
al (1983) and Tinkham, et al (1987) studies are by research focus
somewhat sensitive to agency context. (Outside the field of advertising
research, Hunsaker (1992) argues for an ethnographic perspective,
is always context-specific, on creativity research.)
Zinkhan (1993) echoes Stewart's call for more research on creativity in
advertising while advocating the value of methods used in the
in such research. "Typical social science research techniques can
reveal only so much about [the creative process and creativity in
advertising]" (p. 3). Zinkhan urges advertising researchers to
consider using methods common to literary criticism in order to come to
a greater understanding of the "creative spark" in advertising.
Increasingly, a greater variety of methodological approaches are being
used by advertising researchers today, even within the agencies own
research departments. The incorporation of diverse methods in
on creativity in advertising is perhaps most important to deepening
understanding of the creative process in advertising, which does not
easily lend itself to traditional social science methods. This is the
case especially when it comes to questions of how to foster
in advertising, for the focus on the individual and his or her
process, characteristics, etc. that psycholgical/behavioral social
science research techniques encourage may not be as fruitful as a more
context-focused interactionist technique might allow. As
creatives themselves have said, the environment of the advertising
agency, most often intensely competitive, greatly influences the work
practices and creative process of creatives (Otnes, Spooner and
1993 and Otnes, Oviatt and Triese, 1995). Future research should
methods and ask questions that take agency environment into account.
Few conclusions can be safely drawn from the research on advertising
creativty to date, since most of it has been exploratory. Creativity
still, in most ways, the X factor in advertising.
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 See also Dillon (1975) and Politz (1975) who discuss applied or fu
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 For a condensed review of creative
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 See, for example, MacFarquhar (
1994) on the use of semiotic methods in market
h and advertising strategy development.