Are the most creative things also the most predictable?

 

89% of highly creative ads fit into just six templates. Only 2% of lesser ads could be categorized.

Via Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die:

In 1999, an Israeli research team assembled a group of 200 highly regarded ads—ads that were finalists and award winners in the top advertising competitions. They found that 89 percent of the award-winning ads could be classified into six basic categories, or templates.

And:

The researchers also tried to use their six templates to classify 200 other ads—from the same publications and for the same types of products—that had not received awards. Amazingly, when the researchers tried to classify these “less successful” ads, they could classify only 2 percent of them.

The surprising lesson of this story: Highly creative ads are more predictable than uncreative ones. It’s like Tolstoy’s quote: “All happy families resemble each other, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” All creative ads resemble one another, but each loser is uncreative in its own way.

But do these templates actually help others be more creative? Yes:

The final group was trained for two hours on how to use the six creative templates. Once again, the fifteen best ads were selected by the creative director and tested with consumers. Suddenly these novices sprouted creativity. Their ads were rated as 50 percent more creative and produced a 55 percent more positive attitude toward the products advertised. This is a stunning improvement for a two-hour investment in learning a few basic templates! It appears that there are indeed systematic ways to produce creative ideas.

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