The 5 Key Ingredients of Great Creative Development

Puzzle Pieces

Creative development sounds simple enough—until you think of how many ads you’ve probably seen in your life and then instantly forgotten. But think about an ad that you really liked; one that spoke to you for some reason. What made that ad so powerful?

In our experience, the answers people give tend to revolve around the following:

  • The ad tapped into a universal human emotion.
  • The ad was different from other ads they had seen.
  • The ad managed to start a conversation on a cultural level.

Similarly, great brands make a contribution to our lives in meaningful ways. They give us something unique and different that we can’t find anywhere else. They are salient and have a strong cultural impact. They spark conversations and are bigger than themselves. Building brands that people love requires that we find ways of driving deep emotional connections through brilliant creative.

“What we’ve learned through our work with a range of clients is that insights people, brand teams, and agencies really need to work together further upstream to uncover those breakthrough ideas that lead to brilliant creative.”

Now, I want to pause here to say that there are no silver bullets. We all know that developing brand communications is not like painting by the numbers…it’s more about fusing art and science. But, developing a common language and consistent, disciplined approach increases the probability of success and generates stronger brand valuethe ultimate criteria for success.

Over more than 30 years of exploring advertising effectiveness—and across hundreds of brands and thousands of ads—we’ve identified five key ingredients to great creative:

The Ingredient

What is it?

Why does it matter?


The universal human truth; beliefs, perceptions and behaviors that are shaped by emotional & physical needs and experiences, providing the foundation for building a meaningfully different brand.

Identifying a universal human  truth ensures that your advertising is relevant and compelling.

 Brand Manifesto

A clear statement of what the brand believes and how it addresses the insight in a differentiated way.

Clarifying the connection to the brand helps to make the advertising distinct and ownable.


The compelling benefit you are trying to communicate including the reason to believe.

Having a clear message ensures that the reason why people  should buy the product is clear across communication channels.

Creative Platform

The unifying and overarching idea that sparks engagement and is the basis for creative content across channels, cultures, and over time.

A strong creative idea is the springboard for brilliant creative campaigns.



The individual activations of the creative platform within and across channels.

This creative content represents a range of brand touch points.


Thinking about the “ingredients” of great creative helps provide focus for marketers who are looking to identify where they need to raise the bar. And if marketers are confident they have a strong insight and a powerful idea, then it should be easier to assess whether or not the execution is delivering on the brand’s promise to address that insight.

To learn how you can quickly explore creative, watch our webinar announcing the release of Pre-LinkNowTM, a qualitative research solution developed by GutCheck and Millward Brown that helps insights and brand teams integrate the consumer voice at any stage of the creative process.

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