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March 22, 2019

The Dangers of “Safe” Creative

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When we pitch video ad ideas to clients, we work against an inherent tendency to play things “safe.”  Intuitively, this makes sense. There are a lot of stakeholders who have to sign off on any concept, and video ads are big-ticket items. By default, the most innocuous idea tends to win by consensus. This can be problematic and counterintuitive for brands, be they new to market or centuries old. Safe creative is rarely creative and never safe.


A good advertisement is a miniature movie (okay, theoretically there are great non-video based ads, but as an agency specializing in video, we’ll leave it to others to discuss them). Ads exist to capture the attention of a potential customer and make an impression. Safe creative just doesn’t do that – it ends up being the video equivalent of a nice, boring person with nothing to say.


 There’s nothing wrong with nice, it just flies in the face of everything that human brains are programmed to notice. Our cognition runs on axioms, which is a complicated way to say that our brains discard the ordinary. “Safe” ads tend to be at least 90% ordinary. Sure they’ll have cheerful spokespeople, attractive product shots, and mentions of features. But these are table stakes in modern advertising.


 Think of every ad you can actually remember.  Think of the risks it took, and, think of the conversations and debate that must have gone into it. Was a secret cult the best way to advertise avocados from Mexico? Does Old Spice really need two handsome spokespeople at war with each other? How did Bud Light land on the Dilly Dilly concept? These concepts, like everything worth remembering, took risks, but risks are how you make a statement and stand out.


 Successful ads take big swings. They present a strong message with a strong concept, and mitigate the risk by building off a solid insight into the potential customer we’re trying to reach. If an ad pleases everyone on the brand/client side, but fails to move the needle in the KPIs, it has failed, and failure is never safe.


Ready to step out of your creative comfort zone? Let’s chat.