Creativity is measurable.

A long time ago, two scientists, Yang and Smith, demonstrated how creativity can be quantified and linked through to marketing performance.

How can you tell if a message or ad is creative? On the dependent variable side, they enumerate attention to the ad, motivation to process the information, depth of the processing, ad attitude, brand attitude, and purchase intention.

What causes something to be creative? They identified divergence, relevance, and production quality. This gets broken down again – into originality, flexibility, synthesis, elaboration, artistic value, relevance of the ad to consumer, and relevance of the brand to consumer. And then, if you break it down further, you have very specific criterion, accumulated from multiple false starts on the topic. “The ad was out of the ordinary’, ‘The ad was unique’, ‘The ad connected objects that are usually unrelated’, ‘The ad was uncommon’, ‘The ad was useful to me’.

At the root of all the onion layers…there’s a list of criterion that a human analyst, or, better yet, a group of three human analysts, can use to assess the creativity of a piece.

The model turns out to be valid. That is to say, the model and method they put forward generates results that are accurately predictive of marketing performance.

I used the Yang and Smith model for a guerrilla paper during a hiatus in 2009. It was incredibly fun to try and apply.

It’s important to note that the method is a weapon to go beat creatives with. It isn’t. It’s a tool one can use for tricky situations, and, will give an analyst a good basis for engaging with creatives with language you can understand. It’s also particularly important for analysts not to say anything negative about ideas or otherwise jam the creative process with the word ‘but’.

The model is useful is advancing our understanding of marketing performance, and to make it better.