What Makes a Digital PR Campaign ‘Creative’?

Passion Digital Passion Digital 02/02/2023 6 minutes

The word ‘creative’ gets thrown around a lot in digital marketing, especially in Digital PR. It’s one of the most overused words in the industry and it’s usually used to describe campaigns that have been done a hundred times before. We all use that word when pitching ideas to clients but how true is it? Agencies build whole propositions around this word but will continue to put out the same campaigns but re-packaged for different clients.

In this article, Rob – our Content Strategist – talks about what creativity means, why it’s important and gives examples of campaigns that used creativity to solve a problem for their target audience. 

What Does Creativity Mean When It Comes to Digital PR Campaigns?

There is a misconception that ‘creative’ must mean ‘big’. When you hear the word creative, most people automatically think about those massive, shiny, all singing, all dancing creative advertising campaigns that require a huge budget, but that’s not always the case. Yes, budget dictates what you can and can’t create, but just because you have a smaller budget than your competitors, doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. Creativity is how you think differently from a brand’s competitors to solve a problem for your client. How do you use the same platforms and channels that everyone has access to, but in a different way? How do you use the same data that everyone has access to, but in a useful way to show that your brand is valuable? 

Why Is Creativity Important in Digital PR?

Campaign types usually go in and out of fashion. At the moment the space is just a sea of stuff ‘reimagined’ by AI or AI-generated images, which is already tired and only really an ad for how great AI is. It doesn’t really get across why your brand matters. If everyone is doing this style of campaign, how does your brand possibly stand out? Heinz Ketchup recognised this and decided to use AI in a different way. Instead of getting the tool to generate images of things loosely associated with their industry, they got the tool to generate images of their product. They got AI platforms to generate hundreds of images of ketchup without using their brand name. Every image it spat out had the unmistakable Heinz branding, proving that even AI knows what the definite ketchup brand is. This is creativity.

Aside from creativity helping your client stand out from their competitors, it’s also important for marketers too. Creative ideation done right is rare and it’s going to help you stand out from other agencies that just throw about the term ‘creative’ with nothing much to back it up. 

Passion Digital has won new Digital PR clients and awards in the last year because we knew other agencies we were pitching/competing against would fall back on the same ideas they always use. We thought differently about our clients’ problems and that was recognised.

We are seeing new agencies and teams build their whole USP around ‘creativity’ because they recognise there is a dire need for it in our industry, but very few understand how to achieve it. 

How Can You Be More Creative With Your Campaigns?

There’s an element of bravery that comes with being more creative with your campaigns. We fall back on the same mechanics or ideas that have worked before because it’s safe. The ‘dream job’ campaign type was done to death over the last few years because “it gets links”. Yes, it’s important your creative campaigns have a hook for journalists, but that sentence has been the downfall of creativity in Digital PR over the last several years. 

In Digital PR we share our campaigns and see them in newsletters and blog posts and it validates what we are already doing, so we redo them. The best way to approach a new campaign is to look outside of your specialism for inspiration. There are whole databases of creative campaign case studies in OOH, PR and social media that we can learn from and implement their thinking into our own campaigns. 

Examples of Creativity Used by Brands

Below I have found three examples of when a brand thought differently about a problem by using the same playing field as everyone else, but used it in a different way to show their value. 

IKEA – Baby Proof Spotify Ads

IKEA was looking for ways to promote their beds, cushions and furnishings. But in a crowded market of new brands specialising in this space, how could they stand out? They decided to target an audience that needed sleep more than most: new parents. Using social listening, IKEA found that new parents relied on Spotify playlists that are curated to help their newborns get to sleep. They also realised that 156 million users of Spotify don’t have the premium subscription, which means these playlists are often disrupted by loud, noisy ads that are waking up babies all over the world. 

To remedy this and promote their own products, Ikea found the most popular baby sleep playlists on Spotify and used consumer listening data to buy targeted ads that would play during peak baby sleeping hours. For a whole month they replaced audio advertisements for sports, alcohol, cars and other baby-waking ads with their own whispering ads to promote their sleep category products.

A perfect example of using a platform that everyone has access to and using it to solve their audience’s problem.

Vienna Tourism Board – Vienna Strips On Onlyfans

This isn’t the first time we’ve covered this campaign, but it’s worth mentioning in the conversation around creativity. Vienna’s tourist board relied on social media platforms as a way to drive awareness about their exhibitions. However, they found that when they posted images of their paintings and statues from their museums that featured nudity, Facebook and Instagram removed them from the platform for being ‘pornographic’. If they couldn’t showcase some of their more significant pieces on their social platforms, how could they compete with other museums and galleries across Europe? To combat this they turned to a platform that was known for 18+ content, OnlyFans. Every image that was deemed risqué by Meta, was uploaded to an exclusive Vienna Tourist Board OnlyFans account where every subscriber automatically got free access to their museums and art galleries.

Like IKEA with Spotify, this is another example of utilising different platforms that you may have previously not thought of as a vehicle to solve a problem in a creative way. 

Marmalade – Pass Probability Calculator

Every year the DVLA releases data on pass rates for every driving test centre in the UK and every year PRs scramble to get their hands on it first to craft a story around the easiest and hardest places to pass your driving test, based on the past 12 months’ worth of data. 

Marmalade – a car insurance company for young drivers – saw an opportunity to look at this data in a creative way. They realised that the DVLA didn’t just publish the last year’s worth of data, but the last 14 years’. This data wasn’t just broken down by test centre, but also by month, age and gender. That means each year PRs were overlooking a much bigger data set that could have a practical use. Marmalade took that data and created a tool that doesn’t just tell you the best place to take your test, but also the probability of you passing your test based on area, month and your age. On top of that it also told you the second closest test centre that had a better pass rate for the time of year you want to take your test. 

These are just a few of the campaigns I’ve found that are truly creative, for more please take a look at our blog post reviewing creative campaigns in 2022

What Can We Learn from the Wider Industry About Creativity?

All three of these campaigns approached a real problem in a different way. They looked at how things were done by their competitors and they took a different approach. They used the same data and platforms that everyone has access to but found a way to reach their audience in a new way or offer a different take on information that they have seen before. None of these campaigns used massive OOH ads, expensive videos or celebrity endorsements and created something that not only got coverage, but delivered business results. 

So what makes a campaign creative? As Rob has outlined, you don’t need huge budgets, technology or access to celebrities to make a truly creative campaign. It’s all about approaching a problem in a different way and ensuring you’re authentically solving your audience’s problem.

Get in touch with your brand challenges, and if you are interested in seeing more truly creative campaigns – check out our content showcase.