Creative Development Research can make the advertising stronger. Yes really.

By Peter Totman, August 2019

We all know that ad agencies can feel very wary of creative development research. ‘Wary’ is putting it mildly. Some agencies have managed to forge close links with trusted qualitative researchers, but other agencies still see the research stage as a ‘pre-test’; as a client-mandated barrier they need to survive, and certainly not in any sense a constructive or insightful process.

For the creative teams in agencies who actually come up with ideas, the process can be painfully personal – it is their baby being ‘tested’ after all. Rather than getting involved, they tend to sit out the research with fingers crossed, waiting to see the damage inflicted – did their idea survive the research process? If so, in what form? This distance from the process means researcher recommended revisions often feel imposed upon them.

This traditional suspicion has recently turned into outright hostility in some quarters. Creative guru Mathew Bull, now NY Creative Chief at McGarry Bowen has gone on record to say:

“Why were we unable to produce great work? We were stifled by research …
it has become a disease … it should be used
to enlighten not approve”

A ‘disease’? That may be a little harsh – but many researchers know there is a grain of truth in some of these views – poor research can stifle creativity – yet they also know from experience that the right kind of research in the right hands, can actively strengthen an idea.

What is the ‘right kind’ of research? There has been precious little discussion on what constitutes good creative development research. Until now… this is the Jigsaw perspective.

Firstly, language matters. Whilst some see this sort of research about ‘testing’ ideas, or others focus on ‘developing’. We feel the best research identifies and builds on potential – and this spirit guides our entire approach.

Our approach is called Concept Nursery – and it is based on the organisational change process called Appreciative Inquiry. Rather than talk about the theory, we focus on how we apply it in the research context.

Concept Nursery is different to standard research in many ways – but there are 2 big differences:

If it’s done with the right approach and right sensibilities, we think creative teams can learn to love research. Yes really.

Peter