Creativity and the CMO

“Does the PR industry lack big ideas?” Depends on who you ask. The findings of the “Holmes Creativity Index” research range from a resounding “yes,” to a lack of budget to support them often follows, to “the industry just does cookie-cutter work.”

Regardless of the overall opinion of the industry and its big ideas, one of the dimensions of Big Ideas that seem to frustrate PR people the most is the lack of credit for those ideas. You’ve likely heard it before… “We came up with that idea and the ad agency morphed it into their plan and the client does not even know it was our creativity!” Given how often we are all working in integrated marketing teams, this frustration is even more prominent.

While creativity used to be the purview of creative directors in ad agencies, today, almost every public relations agency person includes creativity as part and parcel of daily client work. There is so much emphasis on creativity that some agencies, like Ketchum, have entire departments devoted to creative innovation. All of this emphasis on creativity can enhance, or complicate, opportunities for creative collaboration.

As a result of  our desire to create and get credit for big ideas, I wonder if the senior most marketers and CMOs – those who have the ultimate responsibility for the brands and hold the keys to our budgets – pay attention to or care about where the big ideas come from?

I posed this question to a former, global CMO of a very well-known company – someone who has years of senior-level, global marketing responsibility at other globally-recognized brands before becoming a CMO. His reply?

“I know the ownership of the big idea is a huge deal in the agency world, but honestly, I’ve never really cared about that. In fact, looking back, it’s difficult for me to remember where big ideas came from… However, I do remember very well which agencies excelled in collaborating with others on the successful implementation of an idea and by doing so how it paved the way for marketing impact.”

It seems that “ownership” of the big idea may overtake creativity in the big idea and get in the way of collaboration. So, maybe we should be asking different questions and be measured on different criteria that are focused more on the clients’ bottom line than on our pride. Questions like, “do we excel at integrated marketing collaboration?” And, “what’s the collaborative impact of the efforts?” Maybe even, “what’s the value of collaboration and how can agencies who are great at it be rewarded?”

Perhaps creativity is best measured by the clients’ perception of impact vs. creativity and the big idea. That perception almost certainly relates to how the consumers in the marketplace react to the idea in terms of awareness and attitude changes, capped by quantifiable statistics that show increased sales.  Does your creativity drive sales?

This post first appeared on the Holmes Creativity Platform.  For more thought leadership from Ketchum on creativity, please visit