Dec 15, 2015

Creative Rewind for the Best Investment

Tony Treadway

What is creative rewind? It is the understanding that companies hire an ad agency to understand what compels an existing customer toward lifelong loyalty and a new customer toward the first step toward loyalty for lifetime.

One of our creative directors recently forwarded to me a thought-provoking article from the Financial Times titled, “How the Mad Men Lost the Plot.” The 10-second version of the article is that agencies and clients have become enamored by the metrics that digital marketing can provide. That we have lost the intangible of great creative that sparks an emotion delivered via mass media to those who are uninterested, but happen to be instantly converted into trying a product or service trial.

Yes, nothing trumps extraordinary creative that sparks a tear, an emotional connection to an indelible memory, or an inspiration that a brand can champion.

Today, those public mantras are as political as they are emotional. Is the brand a poser or authentic? Is the brand committed to sustainability? Is the politician candidate pristine—or can we find a single lie that his or her detractors can use to tear down a lifetime legacy? Companies and politicians are to blame as much as skeptical consumers and a news media bent on feeding the 24-hour news cycle.

For Don Draper, buying a 30-second spot on the three TV networks would do it. We could homogenize every consumer segment into one message to an audience that was programmed to receive it. Today, social media, Wikipedia, and a thing called Google mean every word in communications is not only open for debate, but also for investigation (no more Shamu at Sea World because our children should see killer whales swim underwater in the Bering Straits).

Today, ad agencies must segment every audience. We should scientifically understand their emotions, and deliver meaningful and compelling messages to each that can be measured constantly on media as diverse as a single photo (Pinterest or Twitter) to long-form video delivered via YouTube.

A healthy creative rewind means we still seek an emotional connection with humans who have shared, but divergent, life experiences filtered by varied lenses but just one heart.

The plot of the “Mad Men” hasn’t been lost. It has simply become more complicated. Great creative will always find a way to capture an audience that is willing to listen and react. For ad agencies, the challenge is to balance creative with its investment and the repercussions of a totally different dynamic called today.

Tony Treadway


President & CEO

Regarded in the advertising and PR industry as a top strategist, Tony is considered one of the most respected marketing minds in the business, especially in the $600 billion foodservice industry. As president, he leads Creative Energy in serving a variety of regional and national accounts in the textile, hardware, building materials, electronics, nuclear power and health care markets.