Villing & Company

When Did Creativity Become a Commodity?

In Marketing 101, we all learned the dangers of commoditization; the fundamental principle that once a product or service cannot be differentiated, the only defining variable is price.

This makes sense for true commodities like iron or eggs. It even makes sense for certain manufactured items that do not vary appreciably from producer to producer.

As the marketing services industry has changed due to media fragmentation and technological advances, my one solace has been that there would always be a market for ideas – the innovative solutions that effectively address specific marketing needs.

Now I’m not so sure.

Increasingly, we seem to be encountering situations where the medium is the medium and the message is mostly irrelevant. To be sure, there have always been marketers who were more comfortable running “me-too” campaigns than encouraging the kind of creativity that is truly memorable and makes a difference. The current situation, however, seems more systemic and substantive – almost insidious. There are an increasing number of companies who apparently believe that it doesn’t matter what their campaigns say as long as they say it more often or save money by not spending it on producing powerful new ideas and strategically-driven executions.

This is a trend that I’ve been seeing and thinking about for a while now, but hadn’t been able to fully articulate. Then I saw an op-ed piece in Ad Age by columnist Jonah Bloom stating, “The war on margins is treating ideas and creativity like widgets that can be standardized.” In his column, Bloom really captured the essence of what was percolating in my subconscious. And now it’s brewing into a serious concern about the future of our industry.

Are ideas the widgets of modern marketing?

Have shifting paradigms created a fault line in the foundation of conventional marketing wisdom?

Has creativity become irrelevant?

I certainly hope not.

Filed Under: creative

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