Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Creativity in Crisis

Homogenisations and short-term approaches are plunging Pakistani creativity into a crisis, argues Arshad Awan.
Published 18 Oct, 2023 05:03pm

Pakistan’s advertising landscape is dynamic and diverse – and yet, a lack of creative innovation and originality is being profusely felt, and the creativity crisis has become a worry among industry professionals. Advertising agencies lack the talent to generate and implement ideas, the account managers to maintain client satisfaction, and the technical personnel to track results and run digital campaigns.

Creativity is a fundamental aspect of advertising and is frequently regarded as the beating pulse of the industry. Originality, exemplified by divergence, novelty, singularity, or unpredictability, is the primary component of creativity. Diverse stimuli are more likely to be fascinating, intrinsically motivating and pleasurable to consumers.

Several factors contribute to Pakistan’s creativity crisis including cultural constraints, risk aversion, budget limitations, lack of training, uneven client expectations, changing consumer behaviour, technological advancements and content saturation.

Pakistan is a culturally diverse country, requiring advertisers to carefully navigate cultural and social sensitivities. These sensitivities sometimes result in cautious and conservative creative choices to avoid controversy. While traditional media like TV and print still have significant reach in Pakistan, digital media has snowballed and advertisers often struggle between traditional and digital channels that require different creative approaches and strategies. Advertisers may face budget constraints, leading to limitations in terms of production quality and creative execution. This fact can impact their ability to create innovative and impactful campaigns.

Global advertising trends may influence advertisers in Pakistan (as they do elsewhere in the world), but finding the right balance between global trends and local sensibilities can be challenging, potentially leading to confusion on the creative direction. While there are talented individuals in the creative industry, there is a lack of formal education and training opportunities for creative professionals, and which can hinder the development of cutting-edge skills and innovative thinking. There is hardly any support for creative professionals through workshops, training programmes and networking events that can foster innovation and skill development. Pakistani advertising lacks collaboration and diversity to encourage interaction between different teams and which can lead to more creative ideas.

The homogenisation of content is a big creative concern… [and] is often expressed through factors such as market saturation, ad fatigue, lack of differentiation, creative inertia, loss of brand identity, and audience boredom.

The most debatable issue is the fact that advertisers often need to cater to their clients’ expectations and which may not always align with pushing creative boundaries. This force fitting of creativity can sometimes limit the creative freedom of agencies. Clients and agencies focus more on short-term results and quick returns, leading to marketing campaigns that prioritise sales over long-term brand building. This approach leads to neglect of brand building, limited customer loyalty, reduced innovation and short-lived success. This lack of effectiveness is primarily due to the impact of a growing marketing culture that prioritises short-term results over long-term development and the ripple effects this has on strategy, creativity and media selection.

Emerging trends or shifts in the advertising landscape have also impacted the effectiveness of creative campaigns; for example, content saturation is making it harder for individual creative campaigns to stand out.

Evolving consumer behaviour and preferences are creating the impression that audiences have become more selective about the content they engage with. Add to this the short attention spans of digital consumers making it more difficult for creative ads to effectively convey their message within a limited time frame. Then there are the ad-blocking technologies and banner blindness strategies that impact the visibility of creative ads online, reducing their effectiveness. Algorithm-driven platforms have also dented creativity, as many online platforms use algorithms to curate user content leading to an over-reliance on data at the expense of creativity and therefore to formulaic and uninspiring campaigns. The fear of backlash or controversy on social media may also discourage advertisers from taking creative risks, leading to safer and more conservative campaigns.

There is also strong evidence that the long-term efficacy of creatively awarded campaigns has diminished significantly and may have already fallen to the point where award-winning creativity provides little or no advantages in terms of effectiveness. Advertising awards are mostly questionable and less transparent in their grants.

As we navigate the evolving landscapes of consumer engagement, technology and culture, advertisers and marketers must embrace creativity as an enduring solution.

The homogenisation of content is a big creative concern as it can make it difficult for individual creative ads to break through. This homogenisation is often expressed through factors such as market saturation, ad fatigue, lack of differentiation, creative inertia, loss of brand identity, and audience boredom.

Many advertisers use similar themes and designs causing saturation; consumers end up seeing the same visual and thematic language across several campaigns. Consumers get tired of seeing the same visuals or messages in commercials and this ‘familiarity’ can make individuals ignore ads or tune out as a part of ad fatigue.

Homogenisation also occurs when brands adhere to industry standards and best practices too closely. This approach may give brands a sense of credibility but it does not differentiate them. When a topic or style becomes popular, other advertisers copy it, stifling creativity. Brands that follow industry conventions risk losing their distinctiveness. Consumers find it hard to identify brands when all their communication feels the same. Consumers engage more with advertising that surprises, entertains, or informs. Predictable campaigns may fail to engage audiences.

The creativity crisis in advertising underscores the need for a paradigm shift. As we navigate the evolving landscapes of consumer engagement, technology and culture, advertisers and marketers must embrace creativity as an enduring solution. Creativity is the compass that guides brands toward lasting connections, innovation and relevance. Creativity is the differentiator, the catalyst that sparks emotions and the foundation for building brand legacies. Creativity is not an obstacle to short-term goals; it is the bridge to long-term success.

As the industry faces a creative crisis, it needs to harness the transformative power of creative thinking. Although challenges exist, it is worth noting that there are instances of remarkable creativity in Pakistan’s advertising landscape.

Arshad Awan is an author, brand strategist and educationist.