It’s Time to Measure and Unlock Creative Capital

Over the past two years, we’ve experienced shortages of everything from semiconductor chips, building materials, pet food, cream cheese, Heinz personalized ketchup packets, baby formula, tampons, and even more. color blue, Now with the threat of recession around the world, I predict that we are going to face a lack of creativity as well. Historically, we’ve seen that when the economy falters, business leaders tend to regard creativity as the least they can do. Even in the best of times, most humans are biased toward inventive, potentially disruptive, creative ideas: ready to do whatever we can to reduce uncertainty.

Part of the problem is our current understanding, or lack thereof, around creativity. Throughout my career, I have observed that the advertising industry treats creativity as if it were dark matter: a largely theoretical phenomenon that we rely on, but that is beyond our comprehension. We tend to view creativity as a secret sauce, immeasurable in relation to anything else: rewards, virginity, fame, sales, growth. Seems very uncertain.

Nowhere is this stress on display more evident than at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which just concluded last month. Mark Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Procter & Gamble, Totally Defends Creativity Cannes Keynote Speaker:, calling it a “superpower” and a “force for growth,” warning brands that will drag back creative budgets. Yet he also acknowledged that CMOs are struggling to convince their CEOs and CFOs that “marketing creates value and is worth investing in,” and responding to the question, “‘Professionals for Creativity’ What’s the matter?'”

First, I completely agree with Mark’s reading of the scenario. But if we accept creativity as this essential component, why haven’t we measured, adapted and understood it to the extent we do so many business inputs? We track, measure, buy, sell and trade social capital, intellectual capital, human capital and working capital. Why has our industry failed to capture and quantify creative capital? It’s ridiculous that we haven’t done so, especially when we have so much to gain from doing so – and so much to lose if we don’t.

Since becoming Vishal’s global CEO a year ago, I’ve realized that we should look at creativity as a measurable input – a knowable quantity that can not only predict business results, but also as a measure of any doubt. Beyond can prove that creativity plays a central role. To provide sustainable development for an organization.

It’s time to move beyond the humps, anecdotes, and explosions of inspiration and build a universal, analytical rigor around the practice of creativity. It’s time for creativity to become the responsibility of everyone within an organization, not just a particular class of individuals called “creatives”. It is time our industry embraced creative capital – not by choice, but by necessity.

Luckily for us, there’s never been a better time to get started. We live in an age where if something has an impact on an audience, market, or business, it can be measured. For example, entire companies exist only to measure the power of individual TV ad units.

And what does TV show about itself? Years ago, no one could explain why one show succeeded and another failed; Was just guessing well. Then the streaming companies made TV production an analytical pursuit. Hit shows didn’t suddenly drop out of the algorithm, but streaming services got better at identifying and measuring critical input from viewers. He then shared those inputs with writers, listeners, producers, agents, and marketers, creating the most binge-worthy programming ever.

This is where the creators start whispering, and who can blame them? Their apprehension is well earned, given the traditional silos between data analytics and creatives. But I’m not suggesting that creativity is mechanical. The most innovative thinkers – whether they are in media, product design, fashion… any creative field really – already treat Data like a sparring partner, a co-creative in the room. When I first judged at Cannes in 2016, I was delighted to see the beginnings of data-driven creativity, and its attendance has only increased since then. It’s beyond any doubt that when you’re inspired by the inherent insight into your audience’s motivations, the brief becomes clearer, the work gets faster, the rewards sweeter. Data becomes a fundamental component of the success of a creative team.

But it’s not nearly enough. Leveraging data-based insights in service of a creative concept – or creative problem-solving in general – still treats creativity as an output or “dividend”. Only when creativity is understood as the sum total of a range of inputs including (and affecting) an organization’s people, products, operations, and even values, can growth truly accelerate.

This is a more liberal, holistic definition of creativity than in most organizations. But through this wide aperture, each resulting piece of business – from customer service to product development to recruitment to supply chain logistics – becomes an input for measuring and generating creative capital. And once it’s measurable, you can take targeted actions that reduce underperformance and drive growth. Suddenly, the organization is not only more creative, but more flexible.

We’ve tried the option, and it’s not working. When you first engage with a client or creative partner, it is impossible to assess in any objective, consistent way the creative capital they have created to date. But let’s imagine that you can. From that baseline, you can then forecast where you want to go. Most business KPIs are already based on the idea: “This is where we are, this is where we want to go.” When a client and their partner base their creative decisions in a shared understanding of the data set, they can proceed with unusual confidence.

OK, so how do we measure creative capital? what Shall we measure? We first need to acknowledge how much creative work begins with half-baked, store-bought insights. When you have 15-20 people in your focus group – many of them to collect gift cards or other token incentives – guess what? you get what you pay for. Yet instead of going all out with a sensible, detailed, data-driven approach, we have historically gleaned fundamental insights from these flawed samples.

Why not go where the data is live, real-time and dynamic; Assess the data pool; And get quality input to inform the team’s creative process? It’s like preparing a meal: Do you want the fresh ingredients, or do you want the off-the-shelf, flavorless stuff?

We are here to tackle the problem, and do it with a consistent method. Creative capital needs to be a live measure, not some big, moment-to-moment research push at the beginning and end of an engagement. The quantification of creative capital doesn’t begin with a plethora of difficult questionnaires, but with the mechanisms that matter. A company’s pace of product launch can inform its creative capital baseline. This could be the amount of buzz they have, as expressed through search terms or social media engagement. Does the brand show up in the conversation around innovation? Natural language processing and figurative analysis, with the support of behavioral psychology-driven AI, can pick up on those signals in ways that humans cannot. (Yes, machines can help improve our understanding and evaluation of creativity.)

Vishal is focusing its data and insights capability on this problem right now, and building tools that will help organizations around the world generate and use creative capital to better achieve their business transformation goals. Will enable us, whether through operations, new capabilities and even culture.

Of course there is great complexity in this. There are details. After all, we’re dealing with the most slippery substance on Earth: the emotional response. But as more proof points are added, and with continued iteration and practical application, this AI-powered capability will learn, refine, and become more sophisticated. Statistical noise will be dialed down, and the fidelity of our insights and recommended next actions will increase.

As Cannes reminded us, as it does every year, there is great joy in creativity. When a message, product or action resonates with its target audience, it can spark a connection that lasts a lifetime. If we can deliver this consistently to our brand partners, we not only secure the creative investment, but also the survival of our entire industry.

And that, folks, is beyond a prize.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.