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The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads

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Creative ideation is a highly complex process, which is difficult to formalize and control. Evidently, even in a complex thinking context certain patterns of creativity may emerge. Relying on such observed patterns may help in “organizing” the creative process by promoting routes that have been proven to lead to productive ideas and avoiding those that do not. The present research suggests that successful advertisements share and are characterized by such abstract patterns termed creativity templates. The theoretical rationale for the emergence of such templates and the empirical studies that detect the key creativity templates underlying quality ads indicate that the templates are identifiable, objectively verifiable, and generalizable across multiple categories. Studies 1 and 2 were designed to identify and describe the templates. Six major creativity templates were derived by inference from a sample of 200 highly evaluated print ads drawn from award-winning ad contests such as The One Show (Study 1). Judges found that 89% of the ads could be explained by the six creativity templates. Following a formal description of the templates and their versions, a study comparing 200 award-winning and 200 nonwinning ads (Study 2) is reported. It was found that the two groups differed systematically in the number and distribution of creativity templates: 50% of the award-winning ads as opposed to only 2.5% of the nonwinning ads could be explained by the templates. Further validation of the template approach was obtained by manipulating presence or absence of templates in an experimental setting. In Study 3 groups of individuals were trained in template-based idea generation, an association technique, or not trained at all, prior to an ad-ideation task. Another group subsequently rated the ideas. Findings indicate that a priori knowledge of the templates was associated with the generation of higher quality ads in terms of creativity, brand attitude judgments, and recall (Study 4), with some variation in terms of feeling responses which included humor, emotion, and annoyance. The findings of the reported studies and several real-life applications conducted in leading ad agencies, indicate that the template taxonomy is a trainable, resource-saving, and effective tool. It simplifies and improves the decision-making process involved in designing advertising strategies. It can be applied either by hiring trained personnel employed by consulting firms, or by training the agency's own personnel to routinely evaluate past and current ads, and engage in creative activity. The template approach represents a step forward in defining a comprehensive model of the antecedents of outcome reactions to advertising stimuli. Improved understanding of the wide spectrum of reactions connecting the basic templates with end-user reactions is likely to be beneficial both for academicians and for practitioners. Such a framework can serve as a basis for a synthesis between the activity of creative professionals whose focal interest is the generation of ads, managers, whose main responsibility is strategy formulation, and academic activity, which focuses mainly on the consumer reaction-end of the advertising process. Hence, in addition to academicians, the relevant target audience is likely to include a wide array of communication-related personnel such as creative professionals and planners in advertising agencies, consultants, and brand managers. In addition, it is postulated that the template taxonomy provides the means to achieve “creativity expertise”. Unlike the divergent thinking approaches, in which the required expertise is not necessarily related to the creativity process itself (e.g. individuals can be trained to be better moderators in brainstorming), the creativity template approach is trainable and has the capacity to measure and directly improve creativity outcomes. The template taxonomy facilitates the focused cognitive effort involved in generating new ideas, the capacity to access relevant information, and enables high memorability of the reduced set of information needed to perform the tasks. The fact that templates are less transient than the ideas produced does not mean that templates are permanent or that they are insensitive to changes over long term frameworks. Indeed, advertising reflects social norms and trends, and as such, long term social trends are expected to reshape the templates and provide conditions for the evolution of new templates. Nonetheless, the dynamics of template changes are expected to be much slower than the dynamics of changes in ad hoc idea generation.
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Marketing Science 1999 INFORMS
Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999, pp. 333–351
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
Jacob Goldenberg • David Mazursky • Sorin Solomon
The Jerusalem School of Business Administration, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus,
Jerusalem 91905, Israel
msgolden@mscc.huji.ac.il • msmazur@mscc.huji.ac.il • sorin@vms.huji.ac.il
Abstract
Creative ideation is a highly complex process, which is dif-
ficult to formalize and control. Evidently, even in a complex
thinking context certain patterns of creativity may emerge.
Relying on such observed patterns may help in “organizing”
the creative process by promoting routes that have been
proven to lead to productive ideas and avoiding those that
do not.
The present research suggests that successful advertise-
ments share and are characterized by such abstract patterns
termed creativity templates. The theoretical rationale for the
emergence of such templates and the empirical studies that
detect the key creativity templates underlying quality ads
indicate that the templates are identifiable, objectively veri-
fiable, and generalizable across multiple categories. Studies
1 and 2 were designed to identify and describe the templates.
Six major creativity templates were derived by inference
from a sample of 200 highly evaluated print ads drawn from
award-winning ad contests such as The One Show (Study 1).
Judges found that 89% of the ads could be explained by the
six creativity templates. Following a formal description of the
templates and their versions, a study comparing 200 award-
winning and 200 nonwinning ads (Study 2) is reported. It
was found that the two groups differed systematically in the
number and distribution of creativity templates: 50% of the
award-winning ads as opposed to only 2.5% of the nonwin-
ning ads could be explained by the templates. Further vali-
dation of the template approach was obtained by manipu-
lating presence or absence of templates in an experimental
setting. In Study 3 groups of individuals were trained in
template-based idea generation, an association technique, or
not trained at all, prior to an ad-ideation task. Another group
subsequently rated the ideas. Findings indicate that a priori
knowledge of the templates was associated with the gener-
ation of higher quality ads in terms of creativity, brand atti-
tude judgments, and recall (Study 4), with some variation in
terms of feeling responses which included humor, emotion,
and annoyance.
The findings of the reported studies and several real-life
applications conducted in leading ad agencies, indicate that
the template taxonomy is a trainable, resource-saving, and
effective tool. It simplifies and improves the decision-making
process involved in designing advertising strategies. It can
be applied either by hiring trained personnel employed by
consulting firms, or by training the agency’s own personnel
to routinely evaluate past and current ads, and engage in
creative activity.
The template approach represents a step forward in defin-
ing a comprehensive model of the antecedents of outcome
reactions to advertising stimuli. Improved understanding of
the wide spectrum of reactions connecting the basic tem-
plates with end-user reactions is likely to be beneficial both
for academicians and for practitioners. Such a framework can
serve as a basis for a synthesis between the activity of crea-
tive professionals whose focal interest is the generation of
ads, managers, whose main responsibility is strategy for-
mulation, and academic activity, which focuses mainly on
the consumer reaction-end of the advertising process. Hence,
in addition to academicians, the relevant target audience is
likely to include a wide array of communication-related per-
sonnel such as creative professionals and planners in adver-
tising agencies, consultants, and brand managers.
In addition, it is postulated that the template taxonomy
provides the means to achieve “creativity expertise”. Unlike
the divergent thinking approaches, in which the required ex-
pertise is not necessarily related to the creativity process it-
self (e.g. individuals can be trained to be better moderators
in brainstorming), the creativity template approach is train-
able and has the capacity to measure and directly improve
creativity outcomes. The template taxonomy facilitates the
focused cognitive effort involved in generating new ideas,
the capacity to access relevant information, and enables high
memorability of the reduced set of information needed to
perform the tasks.
The fact that templates are less transient than the ideas
produced does not mean that templates are permanent or
that they are insensitive to changes over long term frame-
works. Indeed, advertising reflects social norms and trends,
and as such, long term social trends are expected to reshape
the templates and provide conditions for the evolution of
new templates. Nonetheless, the dynamics of template
changes are expected to be much slower than the dynamics
of changes in ad hoc idea generation.
(Advertising Creativity;Advertising Strategy;Creativity in Mar-
keting;Marketing Ideation Processes)
THE FUNDAMENTAL TEMPLATES
OF QUALITY ADS
334 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
Figure 1a Ad for the French Open Tennis Championship
Introduction
Creativity in advertising frequently involves methods
that encourage the generation of a large number of ad
concepts (Batra, et al. 1996) on the assumption that the
rewards of producing a large number of ideas will out-
weigh the costs (Winston 1990). The generation of new
ideas in this manner tends to be highly unformalized
and unsystematic. Often, such methods are based on
the divergent thinking approach (e.g., focus groups, free
association, and other projective techniques; see
O’Guinn, et al. 1998) whereby judgment is suspended
and ideas emerge by associative thinking in a “limi-
tation free” environment.
However, even in a divergent thinking context cer-
tain patterns of creativity may emerge. Creative teams
often seek ways to become more productive as they
progress from one creativity task to another. Common
patterns relevant to different domains are sometimes
identified (cf. Boden 1992; Dasgupta 1994; Weisberg
1992). These may then be applied on an ad hoc basis
within a given advertising context, or even transported
to other contexts. Such patterns will be more stable and
less transient than the abundance of random ideas that
emerge in the process of associative thinking. They
may also help in “organizing” the creative process by
promoting routes that have been proven to lead to pro-
ductive ideas and avoiding those that do not. None-
theless, even if they prove productive, such patterns
tend to be idiosyncratic and they are often not verbally
definable (Weisberg 1992). As such, they are likely to
lack permanence and generality. In the present paper,
it is posited that certain patterns are identifiable, ob-
jectively verifiable, and generalizable across categories.
It is suggested that these patterns, termed creativity
templates, underlie the generation of quality ads be-
cause they facilitate focused creativity, and lead to
more effective outcomes.
Let us portray these notions with an example. Figure
1a shows an ad for the 1989 French Open Tennis
Championship sponsored by Penn (The One Show,
1989). The ad features a croissant-shaped tennis ball
or, viewed differently, a croissant with a (Penn) tennis-
ball surface. The pattern of this ad served in generating
an ad featuring a hockey puck shaped tennis ball for
the Canadian Open (Figure 1b, The One Show, 1991)
and a moisture ring of a tea cup for Penn’s sponsorship
of the British Lipton Championships (Figure 1c, The
One Show, 1992). The common pattern in all three ads
is a modified tennis ball designed to symbolize a coun-
try. Consistent with the original ad and its principle
pattern, the U.S. Open Tennis Championship might
consider using a hamburger-shaped tennis ball or the
American flag with tennis balls replacing the stars, as
ad ideas.
Identification of the Creativity Templates
The common pattern of the tennis ball ads can be de-
picted schematically. From analysis of the French ten-
nis tournament ad (Figure 1a), a scheme depicting the
possible links between the tennis tournament and
France can be constructed. Figure 2a provides the
breakdown of the tennis tournament (left-hand side)
into some of its internal components such as a player,
court, or a ball. The message theme in this ad (right-
hand side) is the location which in the case of France,
can be represented by various symbols such as the
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999 335
Figure 1b Ad for the Canadian Open Figure 2a Specific Scheme Underlying the French Open Tennis Cham-
pionship Ad
Figure 2b General Scheme underlying the Replacement Version of
the Pictorial Analogy Template
Figure 1c Ad for the British Lipton Championship
Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, or a croissant. The advertised
event and the main theme (France as location) are then
unified by matching their shapes. In a similar manner,
schemes can be constructed for the ads that stress the
importance of other locations. Note, however, that
these schemes depict specific combinations of events
and locations.
Generalization of this operation may be achieved by
inferring a general scheme. A scheme can be consid-
ered general only to the extent that it can be widely
applied in a variety of products, events, and messages.
The repetitive appearance of a scheme in different do-
mains reveals a creativity template. Thus, the transfor-
mation from a specific scheme (Figure 2a) to a general
scheme (Figure 2b) extends the notion of common pat-
terns to the notion of creativity templates. The general
scheme, shown in Figure 2b, consists of two parts: The
first part, denoted as the product space, is formed by the
internal components of the product and the objects that
interact with it (P1, P2, P3 in Figure 2b). The tennis ball
is a major internal component of the set of components
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
336 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
Figure 3b Specific Scheme Underlying the Nike-Air Ad
Figure 3a Nike-Air: An Example for the Replacement Version of the
Pictorial Analogy Template (Wieden and Kennedy, USA
1995. Reprinted with permission.)
that feature in a tennis championship. The second part,
denoted as the symbols set, is formed by the symbols
that feature in the consumer’s representation of the
message. In the tennis tournament examples, the crois-
sant (as a symbol of France) was chosen in the creation
of one ad, hockey puck (as a symbol of Canada) was
chosen in another, and finally, the moisture ring of a
tea cup (as a symbol of the UK) was selected for a third
ad.
The elements chosen from the two parts of the gen-
eral scheme (the product space and the symbols set)
are then unified through a linking operator which
matches their shape, color, or sound. Note that the
product space and symbols set and the specification of
their matching mechanism can be traced in additional
domains. Although at first glance it may appear re-
mote, the ad for Nike-Air sneakers, shown in Figure
3a, has the same fundamental scheme as the tennis
tournament ads. Figure 3b depicts the scheme under-
lying the Nike-Air ad. This scheme termed Replacement
is a version of a Pictorial Analogy template. Replace-
ment is obtained when a product (e.g., sneaker) or one
of its parameters, replaces a symbol consistent with the
meaning of the conveyed message (e.g., fireman sheet).
Conceptually, the Nike-Air application is more ab-
stract than the tennis tournament applications which
involved simple duplication of a common pattern. The
general scheme no longer involves identical informa-
tion, nor does it necessarily involve the same product.
Yet, it is identifiable, objectively verifiable, and gener-
alizable across different ads. As such, it is defined as a
creativity template.
The Theoretical Rationale for the Creativity
Template Approach
The creativity template approach contends that a sub-
stantial part of creative behavior is guided by abstract
fundamental schemes. In some instances creativity
teams may define explicit ideation rules that are con-
sistent with templates, although in many other in-
stances consistency with templates may be implicit.
Even when the creative execution process involves an
unstructured idea generation context, many ideas will
be definable in terms of creativity templates. These
templates serve as paths that the self-organized system
tends to follow (Kelso 1997) when new ideas are
formed. In the context of ideation Sparseness Theory
(e.g. Minsky 1985) holds that almost every evolution-
ary search for ideas is likely to yield certain common
themes.
Attempts to identify relational structures in other
domains have produced several frameworks that are
conceptually analogous to the template approach.
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999 337
Such structures have been developed in disciplines
such as Linguistics (Eco 1986; Chomsky 1978), Anthro-
pology (Levi-Strauss 1974), Random Graphics (Palmer
1985), Venture and Transitional Management
(Kauffman 1995), Psychology (Simon 1966), and Arti-
ficial Intelligence (Minsky 1988). However, the back-
ground, schemes, and implications of the structures
developed in these areas are essentially different. For
example, creativity may not be as central as it is to
advertising.
In light of the central role of creativity in advertising
the emergence of templates is expected since they en-
sure the balance between surprise and regularity. Re-
garding surprise, Hayes (1978, p. 232) noted that an act
is perceived as creative when “. . . most people could
not or would not have arrived at the same solution”.
However, Simon (1966) stressed the importance of reg-
ularity in the creativity process and the need to form
a solution plan to direct their effort because people
seem to get lost easily in executing their solution plans.
In the sender-receiver communication process surpris-
ingness is indeed useful but not at the expense of al-
tering the overall intended meaning of the message. If
some regularity in the idea generation process is iden-
tified then creative ideas may be evoked while ensur-
ing that their overall meaning is preserved.
Findings in the area of cognitive psychology provide
support to the conclusion that the detection and use of
templates may even result in enhanced surprisingness.
For example, according to Perkins (1981), adherence to
a cognitive frame of reference involves sensitivity to
the “rules of the game” and by functioning within a
frame, a better position is achieved to notice or rec-
ognize the unexpected. Finke et al. (1992) noted that
restricting the ways in which creative cognitions are
interpreted forces people to think about conceptual im-
plications in more atypical ways, which promote cre-
ative discovery.
Indeed, the concept of structured creativity is al-
ready embedded in a number of current techniques
such as morphological analysis (e.g., Urban and
Hauser 1993 in the context of new product develop-
ment; note also the HIT procedure, Tauber 1972 in that
context). This method is akin to the notion of creativity
templates in that it calls for identifying the parameters
of the problem, listing all the possible combinations of
parameters, examining their feasibility, and deciding
on the best alternative. However, morphological anal-
ysis does not provide specific and generalizable guide-
lines on how to combine these parameters. A step to-
ward providing structured guidelines was introduced
by Altshuler (1986) in his attempt to uncover latent
logical patterns underlying creative ideas. By a back-
ward analysis of problem-solution relationships, he
succeeded in identifying a number of such patterns
which he labeled “standards”. These standards repre-
sent common phenomenological patterns. The notion
of creativity templates extends the view of common
patterns by allowing them to be more abstract and
hence more widely applicable across ads for different
products and services.
Some other approaches, such as Resonance and those
involving the Janusian concepts, are more directly tai-
lored to the context of advertising creativity. The res-
onance approach involves dual or multiple meanings
surrounding a single word or phrase, such as “Forget-
Me-Knots” in an ad showing men’s ties arranged to
form a floral bouquet (see Mcquarrie and Mick 1992).
The Janusian approach involves “the capacity to con-
ceive and utilize two or more contradictory concepts,
ideas or images simultaneously” (Rothenberg 1971, p.
195); for instance, Blasko and Mokwa (1986) cite:
“We’re first because we last” and “We’ve got the inside
of outside protection.” Although, unlike the creativity
templates described in this paper, these methods do
not lend themselves to schematization, they do pro-
vide important rules for creativity. An interesting step
toward generating a broader taxonomy of figuration
modes was presented recently by Mcquarrie and Mick
(1996). The rhetorical perspective proposed by them
contends that the manner in which a statement is ex-
pressed may be more influential than its content. Fi-
nally, it is interesting to note a specific area of adver-
tising, namely, humor, in which certain dimensions of
ads were found as successful predictors of humorous
ads. Alden et al. (1993), using Raskin’s psycholinguis-
tic theory of humor to explain why certain ads are per-
ceived as more humorous than others, found that ads
that employed a contrast between everyday life and
the unexpected were generally perceived as more hu-
morous than those employing a contrast between ev-
eryday life and the impossible. By extending these ap-
proaches, that typically emerged from a specific
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
338 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
pattern of creative execution, the creativity template
taxonomy provides fundamental generalizable struc-
tures for the generation of quality ads.
In reviewing the relevant research, the distinct con-
tribution of several well-known taxonomies of adver-
tising strategies, which focus on other perspectives of
ad generation, should be assessed vis-a-vis the creativ-
ity template approach. For example, Simon (1971) pro-
posed a framework which includes ad strategies such
as information, argument, repeated assertion, com-
mand, and symbolic association. Similarly, Burke et al.
(1990) proposed a taxonomy in which positioning (de-
fined as the featured benefits and the distinctiveness
of a brand relative to other brands), and message emo-
tion (which pertains to the emotional tone of the ad),
are key ad strategies. The main distinction between
these frameworks and the creativity template taxon-
omy lies in the level of the cognitive representation of
the framework factors. The advertising strategies rep-
resent summative factors and intended consequences
(e.g. emotional response), and the creativity templates
represent the schemes that antecede and give rise to these
strategies. For instance, a specific well-defined template
may evoke an emotional response, but the emotion it-
self does not offer the scheme nor the means to elicit
this response. Thus, the aforementioned advertising
strategy frameworks focus on the decision between
different consequences (e.g., emotion, positioning); in
contrast, the creativity template approach focuses on
the cognitive activities that lead to these consequences.
In the present research, the notion of creativity tem-
plates in advertising is conceptualized, formulated,
and examined empirically. Studies 1 and 2 were de-
signed to identify and describe the templates. We be-
gin by deriving six creativity templates from a sample
of 200 highly evaluated ads and examining their dis-
tribution in this sample (Study 1). Then, a formal de-
scription of these templates is provided. Next, a study
comparing 200 award-winning and 200 nonwinning
ads, is reported (Study 2). The purpose of Study 2 was
to examine whether templates appear uniquely in high
quality ads. It was found that templates appear sub-
stantially more frequently in the award-winning ads
than in the nonwinning ads. Further validation of the
template approach was obtained by manipulating the
presence or absence of the templates in an experimen-
tal setting. In Study 3 individuals were trained in
template-based idea generation, in an association tech-
nique, or not trained at all, prior to an ad ideation task.
Another group of individuals, blind to the training
procedure and hypotheses, subsequently rated the
ideas. Findings indicate that a priori knowledge of the
templates was associated with higher quality ads in
terms of creativity, brand attitude judgments, and re-
call (which is examined in Study 4), with some varia-
tion in their capacity to trigger feeling responses.
Study 1: Detection of Creativity
Templates
Objective. The objective of the first study was to
identify general creativity templates of ads among
high quality ads and to examine the frequency and
distribution of these templates.
Ads and Screening Procedure. The award-
winning ads and contest finalists of NY, The One
Show, and USADREVIEW, all for the years 1990–1995,
served as a pool of highly evaluated ads. A set of 500
ads was selected using convenience sampling from this
pool and presented in a random order to three senior
creative experts (all of whom had at least 12 years of
experience in the advertising field) who were asked to
select the highest quality ads from that set. The three
experts performed the selection task individually and
independently. The criterion of quality was in accor-
dance with that which is used by judges of The One
Show contest combining newness and significance.
The instruction given to each expert was to sort out the
highest quality ads and subsequently, order the pile
containing the highest quality ads from highest to low-
est. Upon completion, the piles containing the highest
quality ads chosen by the experts were compared. The
interjudge agreement rate measured by the overlap in
the “best” ads across the sort piles was 90% and dis-
agreements were resolved by discussion. The 200 top
ads served as the sample for subsequent analysis.
Inferring Templates. The search for templates was
conducted by inferring the linking operators in each ad
and identifying the relevant sets and their spaces, in a
manner consistent with the inference of the pictorial
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999 339
analogy template described earlier. For example, an ad
showing a lady barking at burglars and scaring them
away, in an ad for a security lock (see Table 1), led to
the identification of a template version termed absurd
alternatives by the following procedure. First the prod-
uct (lock) and the message theme (safety) were iden-
tified. Then the linking operator was inferred—the
lady voice was replaced by dog barks. An unanswered
question was, what elements are linked by the linking
operator? In one end of this link, the lady reading a
book threatened by a burglar is a situation which pro-
vokes the need for safety (the message). In the other
end, the dog could serve as an alternative to a lock in
enhancing safety. Other options, serving the same
function (e.g., security guards, alarm systems) are also
available. Accordingly, the lady represents an element
in a situation set whereas the dog and the other options
represent elements in an alternative option set. The absurd
alternatives template version of the extreme situation
template is obtained by the unrealistic nature of the
solution created by the linking operator.
The repetitive appearance of this scheme in various
ads and regarding different products and messages,
defines a general scheme, or template. A total of six
key templates and their 16 versions were identified. A
detailed description and formulation of the six tem-
plates is given in Table 1 using one example for each
template. The following templates and their versions
were identified (see Figure 4 for overall structure):
I. The Pictorial Analogy Template. The pictorial anal-
ogy template portrays situations in which a symbol is
introduced into the product space, as discussed in de-
tail in the Introduction. This template has two versions:
The replacement version and the extreme analogy version.
In the extreme analogy version the symbol is taken to
the extreme whereas in the replacement version it is
merely transplanted.
II. The Extreme Situation Template. The extreme situ-
ation template represents situations that are unrealistic
in order to enhance the prominence of key attributes
of a product or service. This category includes three
versions: The absurd alternative version, the extreme at-
tribute version, and the extreme worth version. The ex-
treme situation template is exemplified and described
in Table 1 using the absurd alternative version. The
extreme attribute and extreme worth versions portray sit-
uations in which either the attribute or the worth of a
product (or service) is exaggerated to unrealistic pro-
portions (e.g., a jeep driving underneath the snow to
demonstrate its all-weather driving capacity: Cliff
Freeman & Partners, NY, 1994).
III. The Consequences Template. The consequences
template indicates the implications of either executing
or failing to execute the recommendation advocated in
the ad. There are two versions of this template: The
extreme consequences version (exemplified and de-
scribed in detail in Table 1) and the inverted conse-
quences version. The inverted consequences version
warns against the implications of not executing the rec-
ommendation of the ad (e.g., an ad promoting a brand
of vitamin showing an otherwise highly energetic per-
son, unable to get out of bed in the morning).
IV. The Competition Template. The competition tem-
plate portrays situations in which the product is sub-
jected to competition with another product or event
from a different class. The selection of the other prod-
uct or event is guided by its expected superiority over
the advertised product, for example: (1) a race between
an advertised car and a bullet (Della Femina
Travisanod & Partners, Los Angeles 1989), or (2) a per-
son contemplating whether to continue eating the (ad-
vertised) cereal or to answer a ringing phone. There
are three versions of the competition template: The at-
tribute in competition version, the worth in competition
version, and the uncommon use version. The difference
between the first two versions relates to whether the
competition pertains to a product attribute or whether
it challenges the worth of the product. The competition
template is exemplified in Table 1 by the uncommon
use version.
V. The Interactive Experiment Template.
1
The interac-
tive experiment template induces realization of the
benefits of the product by requiring the viewer to en-
gage in an interactive experience with the medium in
which the ad appears. This can be achieved either by
actually engaging in an experiment (the activation ver-
1
The notion of interactive experiment is different from the notion of
“demonstrations” often used by copywriters, in that demonstrations
despite their function in enhancing involvement do not involve
physical action in the manner described here.
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
340 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
Table 1 Examples, Descriptions, and Formulation of Template Versions
I. The Pictorial Analogy Template:
The Replacement Version II. The Extreme Situation Template:
The Absurd Alternative Version
Example Examples and detailed formulation of the scheme
underlying the replacement version of the pictorial
analogy template (composed of a symbols set, a
product space, and a linking operator) are presented in
the Introduction elaborating the notion of creativity
templates (see Figures 1–3).
The commercial for locks showing an old lady scaring away burglars by
barking at them (Suissa Miller Advertising Company, USA, 1993,
Cannes contest award) conveys the message that a safe and peaceful
evening can be achieved either by buying a certain lock or by barking.
Description Note description in the Introduction. The idea of this version is to present a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to
the viewer: “You don’t have to buy our product. There are alternative
options for achieving the same results, such as . ..” The alternative
option is presented in a seemingly serious manner but, contrary to the
declared position of the advertiser, the viewer will draw the conclusion
that such an alternative is absurd and ridiculous.
The following elements typically appear in this version:
1. An unexpected shift in the consumer’s frame of mind into an
imaginary status or into a different product category (but unlikely, to a
competitive brand).
2. The absurdity and extreme unrealism of the alternative option are
obvious and recognizable by the consumer: Any attempt to make the
alternative more realistic would only weaken the claim of the ad.
Formulation Note formulation in the Introduction. The specific scheme of the lock commercial mentioned in text consists
of two sets: A set of alternative options and a set of situations. An
alternative option is an object or an action (a dog, in this case) which
can be used to achieve the product’s attribute (safety). The alternative
option does not have to be realistic although it is assumed that the
target audience will be familiar with it. A situation is a common-use
scenario of the product in time and place (in our case a peaceful
evening in the home of an old lady). The linking operator links one
element from the situation space (the lady) with one element in the
alternative space (barking).
Scheme Note scheme in the Introduction.
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999 341
Table 1 Continued
I. The Pictorial Analogy Template:
The Replacement Version II. The Extreme Situation Template:
The Absurd Alternative Version
Specific
Scheme Note scheme in the Introduction.
III. The Consequences Template:
The Extreme Consequences Version IV. The Competition Template:
The Uncommon-Use Version
Example A commercial for car loudspeakers showing a bridge on
the verge of collapse when the loudspeakers of the car
parked on it are turned on at high volume. The
message is that the music can be played so loud that
even the sturdy foundations of the bridge are
threatened by its impact (BBD, Los Angeles, 1994, Cleo
award winner).
A commercial for jeans showing a couple in a broken-down car being
towed by a pair of jeans tied to the rescuing car.
Description The idea of this version is to present an extreme
consequence of an emphasized product attribute. The
absurdity of the consequence, even though presented
in a serious manner, is eminently obvious to the
viewer. Therefore, even a negative result (the collapse
of a bridge) is conceptualized as an indication of the
quality of the product. The following elements usually
appear in this version:
1. Consequences based on a true fact: The extreme
situation is created by taking a key attribute of the
product to the extreme (e.g., the sound emitted by the
loudspeakers causes objects—even a sturdy bridge—
to vibrate).
2. The absurdity and extreme unrealism of the
consequences are obvious and recognizable by the
viewer.
The idea of this template is to emphasize a product attribute by applying
it to solve a problem in a context totally different to its intended use.
The following elements typically appear in this version:
1. A problematic scenario or issue.
2. Ambiguity as to the product to be the subject of the ad when the
problem or dilemma is presented.
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
342 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
Table 1 Continued
III. The Consequences Template:
The Extreme Consequences Version IV. The Competition Template:
The Uncommon-Use Version
Formulation The specific scheme of the loudspeaker commercial
consists of two sets: a set of situations and a set of
consequences. A consequence is a phenomenon,
action, or behavior which results from the product
attribute appearing in the message. The consequence
has to appear familiar and not unreasonable to the
target audience (e.g., vibrations). It does not have to be
absurd or extreme. The linking operator acts on the
product and a selected item in the consequences set by
taking the consequence to an extreme.
The specific scheme of the jeans commercial consists of two sets: a set
of situations and a set of problems. The problem suspends the natural
flow of events in the situation. The situation in our example is a
couple driving a car. The problem is the breakdown of the car. The
viewer expects to see “how it is going to continue from here”. The
problem will be solved by using the product; it is therefore important
to invent the problem by thinking “backwards” so that the product
attribute contained in the message will provide its solution. The link is
the use of the product as a solution by exploiting the attribute (the
strength of the jeans).
General
Scheme
Specific
Scheme
V. The Interactive Experiment Template:
The Activation Version VI. The Dimensionality Alteration Template:
The Time Leap Version
Example An example of the activation version is an ad containing a
large black patch. When the viewer performs the action
suggested in the ad, he/she would become aware of
the necessity of an anti-dandruff shampoo (DDB,
Needham San-Paulo, 1995).
A commercial for life insurance showing a wife arguing with her husband
for canceling his life insurance. The whole scene takes place after he
dies, and portrays the wife communicating with her late husband in
the setting of a seance (a Cannes award winner in 1993).
Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999 343
Table 1 Continued
V. The Interactive Experiment Template:
The Activation Version VI. The Dimensionality Alteration Template:
The Time Leap Version
Description The consumer is required to perform a task or experiment
in order to receive the message conveyed by the ad.
The message is contained in the compelling result.
Most of the ads in this category convey a message
emphasizing a need or a problem that can be resolved
if the product is used. The following elements typically
appear in the activation version:
1. An experiment requiring physical action.
2. The experiment is executable on the spot.
The experiment’s results highlight a general need rather
than a unique quality of the specific brand.
The idea of this template is to present an ordinary situation (in this
example, an argument about whether to continue investing in the
product). The entertaining effect is achieved by shifting the scenario to
the past or the future.
Formulation The specific scheme of the anti-dandruff shampoo ad
consists of two different sets: the senses set and the
experiment set. The relevant senses set is drawn from
the list of the five senses. The experiment set consists
of test scenarios to ascertain need for the product. The
linking operator requirement is that the experiment
represented in the experiment space will be performed
physically by interacting with the media (newspaper,
radio, etc.).
The specific scheme of the life insurance ad consists of two sets: a set
of episodes introducing the message claim (e.g., EP2—a wife arguing
with her husband) and a times set (past, future). First, the episode
space is selected (e.g., wife, husband). Then an operator links an
element from the time set and an element drawn from the episode
space (e.g. the husband’s life status is transferred into the future).
Note that the invented situation in the different time frame has to be
relevant to the product and its attributes and, therefore, in this case,
the future is more appropriate.
General
Scheme
Specific
Scheme
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
344 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
Figure 4 The Creativity Template Taxonomy
sion) or by just imagining the performance of such an
experiment (the imaginary experiment version). The in-
teractive experiment template is exemplified in Table
1 by the activation version.
VI. The Dimensionality Alteration Template. The di-
mensionality alteration template manipulates the di-
mension of the product in relation to its environment.
It has four versions: The new parameter connection ver-
sion, the multiplication version, the division version, and
the time leap version. This template is exemplified be-
low by the time leap version. In the new parameter con-
nection version of the template, previously unrelated
parameters become dependent (e.g., the speed of a new
aircraft is demonstrated by reducing the size of the
ocean). The multiplication and division versions are exe-
cuted by multiplying the product and comparing the
duplicates, or dividing the product into its components
and creating some form of relationship between them.
This template is exemplified in Table 1 by the time leap
version.
Template Distribution. Following template infer-
ence, the distribution of templates among the high
quality ads was examined. The template-ad classifica-
tion was performed independently by two trained
judges (different from the prior judges) who had ex-
perience of at least ten years in the advertising field.
They were taught to identify linking operators, and
then were given a list of possible spaces. Each template
was illustrated by using five examples. Subsequently,
they were given an exercise to test their ability to cor-
rectly classify the template. Each judge was asked to
classify a set of ads (consisting of two ads per template
version as well as nontemplates). The judges correctly
classified more than 95% of the ads in this exercise.
Following the training task the judges classified the
ads. The interjudge agreement rate in the assignment
of ads into the six templates was 94%, and disagree-
ments were resolved by discussion. Of the 200 highly
evaluated ads, 89% could be accounted for by the tem-
plates. Figure 5 summarizes the distribution of the ads
by their creativity template.
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999 345
Figure 5 The Distribution of Ads by Templates: Study 1
Study 2: Examination of the
Creativity Template Taxonomy
Study 2 was designed to examine the extent to which
creativity templates categorize winning ads. Two
classes of ads were sampled. One class consisted of
award-winning and contest-finalist ads. The second
class was composed of an array of undistinguished ads
drawn from a set of magazines comparable to those in
which the award winners and finalists originally ap-
peared. In view of the high frequency of creativity tem-
plates in the group of highly evaluated ads found in
Study 1, our hypothesis was that creativity templates
would be more frequent in award-winning and finalist
ads than in nonwinning magazine and newspaper ads.
Stimuli. To facilitate comparison between the
findings of Study 1 and Study 2, the group of ads ex-
amined in Study 1 was termed Group 1 and the two
groups of ads in Study 2 were termed Groups 2 and 3.
Group 2 consisted of 200 ads appearing in an ad col-
lection (The One Show Album, 1991
2
). Of the 14,000
ads submitted to the contest, 700 were winners and
finalists. A subset of 200 ads was drawn from the win-
ners and finalists set. Group 3 consisted of 200 selected
2
Given the wider sampling frame used in Study 1 than that of Study
2, the overlap in the selected ads was minor (only two ads), and its
effect on the comparison was negligible.
print ads appearing in the same magazines and news-
papers as Group 2 ads and belonging to product cate-
gories comparable to Groups 1 and 2. In both cases
selection was based on convenience sampling. None of
the ads in Group 3 were award winners or finalists at
least within the three years following publication as
verified by examining the leading contest albums.
Procedure. All 400 ads were analyzed according to
the creativity template taxonomy. The judges were
given instructions consistent with the schemes de-
scribed in Table 1. The categorization procedure for
Groups 2 and 3 was conducted independently by two
trained judges (with similar qualifications to those
serving as judges in Study 1). The ads were presented
in a random order and the judges were blind to the
group assignment. The interjudge agreement rate was
95.5%, and disagreements were resolved by
discussion.
Results. Table 2 shows the numbers of ads in
Groups 2 and 3 that fit the creativity templates. For
comparison, the explainable proportion of Group 1
(from Study 1) is also included.
The proportion of creativity templates decreased
from 89% in Group 1 (the highest quality ads), 50% in
Group 2, to 2.5% in Group 3 (nonwinning ads).
3
Com-
parison of the distributions of template-matching ads
in the three groups indicated a significant difference
between groups 2 and 3 (Mann-Whitney U:p0.01)
and only marginally significant difference between the
two award-winning groups (Groups 1 and 2, Mann-
Whitney U:p0.10). It is interesting to note that in
Groups 1 and 2 the pictorial analogy template and the
consequences template combined accounted for the ma-
jority of the template-matching ads. In Group 1 the
pictorial analogy template accounted for 38% of the
template-matching ads and the consequences template
accounted for 21%. In Group 2 the pictorial analogy
template accounted for 40% of the template-matching
ads and the consequences template accounted for 24%.
3
The decrease in template-based explanation from Study 1 to Study
2 is not surprising given the more stringent quality requirements
imposed in Study 1. Even though the prime objective of this research
was to identify templates in the highest quality ads, search for new
templates was performed in the groups included in Study 2 but it
did not lead to discovery of other major templates.
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
346 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
Table 2 Distributin of Templates by Ad Quality Group
Highly
Evaluated
Ads
Contest
Winning
Ads
Non
Winning
Ads
Template Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
(Study 1) (Study 2) (Study 2)
Pictorial Analogy (I) 68 40 2
Replacement 44 26 1
Extreme analogy 24 14 1
Extreme Situation (II) 24 11 1
Absurd alternatives 7 3 0
Extreme attribute 10 5 0
Extreme worth 7 3 1
Consequences (III) 37 24 0
Extreme consequences 17 19 0
Inverted extreme consequences 20 5 0
Competition (IV) 19 8 2
Attribute in competition 5 3 1
Worth in competition 10 3 1
Uncommon use 4 2 0
Interactive Experiment (V) 11 3 0
Activation 8 3 0
Imaginary experiment 3 0 0
Dimensionality Alteration (VI) 19 15 0
New parameter connection 4 4 0
Multiplication 6 5 0
Division 5 5 0
Time leap 4 1 0
No Creativity Template 22 99 195
Total 200 200 200
Study 3: Examining the Impact of A
Priori Knowledge of the Creativity
Templates on Judgments
Overview. Following Studies 1 and 2 which detected
and examined the appearance frequencies of templates
in various ad quality levels, Study 3 was designed to
examine how the utilization of creativity templates in
the creative execution process affects outcome judg-
ments. In the first part, three groups of individuals dif-
fering in the training that they received were asked to
create ads. The first group was requested to generate
ads based only on a brief (without additional training),
the second group, in addition to the brief, was trained
to utilize the free association method in generating
new ads, and the third group, in addition to the brief,
was trained to utilize a creativity template. In the sec-
ond part, the ads were rated by other individuals on
several key advertising outcome scales. All the partic-
ipants in Study 3 held an undergraduate degree and
none of them were or had previously been employed
in advertising related jobs.
Part 1: Stimuli and Procedure. Three groups each
consisting of 20 participants (all indicated familiarity
with brands in the three examined products, were
blind to the group assignment, and were paid for par-
ticipation) were randomly assigned to one of the three
idea generation groups. The three groups did not differ
in age, education and occupation. Training both in free
association and in the creativity template was con-
ducted by experienced moderators. Training time was
comparable in the two training groups (less than two
hours including practice tasks and idea generation).
Template training involved the absurd alternatives
version of the extreme situation template (applied later
in the study for anti-dandruff shampoo ads), the inter-
active experiment template (for diet products ads), and
the replacement version of the pictorial analogy tem-
plate (for sneakers). In all cases template training in-
volved examples drawn solely from products different
from those used in the study.
The three groups were then asked to generate ad
ideas for the three product categories. The number of
ideas per category ranged between 32–46. To mimic a
real-world creative execution screening procedure that
typically involves deciding among the highest ranking
ideas, all ideas were submitted to a creative director
who was blind to the objective of the study and whose
task was to screen the best five ideas in each category.
The top-ranking ideas in each category were then used
in constructing a questionnaire for Part 2 of the Study.
Part 2: Stimuli, Procedure, and Judgments. Three
versions of the questionnaire were generated each con-
taining the best 15 ideas presented in a random order
(five per product category) relevant to the specific
training condition (i.e., one version containing “no
training” ideas, second version composed of “free as-
sociation” ideas, and a third version comprising
“template-based” ideas).
A different group of 36 individuals (paid for parti-
cipation, and blind to the study objective and to the
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999 347
Table 3 Mean Judgments: Experiment 3
Extreme Situation Template (Anti-Dandruff Shampoo)
Creativity Brand Attitude Humor Emotion Annoyance
TRAINING TYPE
No training 2.80 2.62
(1)
** 2.40 1.83 1.57
Free association 2.08 2.28 1.45 1.62 1.63
Template training 4.02
(2)
** 4.13
(2)
** 3.57
(2)
** 1.79 1.60
Interactive Experiment Template (Diet)
Creativity Brand Attitude Humor Emotion Annoyance
TRAINING TYPE
No training 2.57
(1)
** 2.38
(1)**
1.90 1.90 2.07
(1)
**
Free association 2.77 2.77 1.93 1.97 1.43
Template training 3.82
(2)
** 3.97
(2)
** 1.85 1.30
(2)
** 1.60
Pictorial Analogy Template (Sneakers)
Creativity Brand Attitude Humor Emotion Annoyance
TRAINING TYPE
No training 2.24
(1)
** 2.49
(1)
** 1.32
(1)
* 1.46 1.68
(1)
**
Free association 2.81 2.86 1.69 1.68 1.27
Template training 3.60
(2)
** 3.50
(2)
** 2.18
(2)
** 1.77 1.13
*Significance at p0.05.
**Significance at p0.01.
(1) Denotes difference between the two training groups and the nontrain-
ing group.
(2) Denotes difference between the template training group and the free
association training group.
origin of ideas) were randomly assigned to one of the
three questionnaire versions. The three subgroups did
not differ on the same demographic variables exam-
ined in Part 1. Each participant rated 15 ideas on five
different scales. The first two scales assessing ad qual-
ity are frequently included as major items in advertis-
ing response scales (e.g., Edell and Burke 1987;
Mitchell and Olson 1981): One scale reflects creativity
and the other attitude toward the brand. They were
also chosen in accordance with Finke’s (1990) sugges-
tion (in creativity research) to assess ideas both by their
creativity and practical value. The other three scales
were extracted from previous studies focusing on ad
feelings. While studies on feeling responses typically
involve relatively large inventories (e.g., Holbrook and
Batra 1987, Edell and Burke 1987, Richins 1997), the
current purpose was to capture the major dimensions
proposed by Edell and Burke 1987 (see also Richins
1997), namely upbeat, warm, and negative, by key
scales, given the load involved in rating 15 ideas. To
this end, the list of responses loading on the three key
feeling dimensions was examined. The scales “hu-
mor”, “emotional”, and “annoy” were chosen basedon
their loading on the three key dimensions and their
classification as important in practice by a senior cre-
ative director. Instructions followed Edell and Burke
(1987). All five scales were rated on five point scales (1
representing lowest value and 5 highest value).
Results. A MANOVA was performed with train-
ing as between-subjects factor (three levels of train-
ing—“no training”, “free association” training, and
“template” training) and the product as a within-
subjects factor (three products—anti-dandruff sham-
poo, diet products, and sneakers) for the five judg-
ments (the judgment factor)—creativity, brand
attitude, humor, emotion, and annoyance. Table 3 dis-
plays the mean judgments. All main effects (judgment
type, training, and product) and their two-way and
three-way interactions were significant in multivariate
tests (all Wilks’ Lambda values were significant at p
0.001). In view of the present study’s focal interest on
the effects of the template approach, the analysis sub-
sequently concentrated on contrasts and simple effects.
The following results were obtained.
First, “template training” was found to be superior
to “no training” and “free association” training in all
the comparisons pertaining to the two ad quality mea-
sures (creativity and brand attitude, see Table 3). This
finding is based on simple effect analyses performed
for each judgment within the judgment factor with two
orthogonal contrasts, one assessing the value of train-
ing (by comparing the combined training groups with
the nontraining group) and the other, comparing be-
tween the two training methods—the template ap-
proach and free association. The first contrast showed
that, on the whole, training is effective. Except for one
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
348 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
case (creativity judgment in the case of the absurd al-
ternative version of the extreme situation template), all
comparisons indicated that training improves ideation
quality. The second contrast showed that the high
value of training is primarily attributable to template
training. In all cases template training was superior to
training in free association (all six comparisons were
significant at p0.001 level).
Second, the above training effect does not generalize
to the feeling responses. Training in two of the three
templates bolstered humor reactions: Training in the
replacement version of the pictorial analogy template
yielded ads that were rated higher than free associa-
tion training (F(1,177) 102.01, p0.001), and train-
ing in the absurd alternative version of the extreme
situation template yielded ads that were rated higher
than free association training (F(1,177) 6.25, p
0.001). However, training in the activation version of
the interactive experiment was not found to invoke hu-
mor relative to the other training method (F(1,177)
1, n.s.). In addition, none of the templates was found
to enhance emotional reactions. In fact, training in the
activation version of the interactive experiment even
hindered emotional ratings (F(1,177) 13.69, p
0.001). Finally, template training did not reduce an-
noyance compared to free association training, al-
though a combined training effect of decreasing an-
noyance in two of the three comparisons was observed
(F(1,177) 9.61, p0.001 in the case of activation,
and F(1,177) 18.49, p0.001) in the replacement
version of the pictorial analogy template.
Third, a noticeable finding emerges from the com-
parison between the no training and free association
conditions. No clear indication was found that the free
association method heightens creativity or brand atti-
tude. Although this method is widely applied in ad-
vertising practice, the contention that it necessarily en-
hances effectiveness was challenged by several
researchers (Perkins, 1981; Weisberg 1992). Some re-
searchers claim that free association as well as other
frequently used projective techniques may even reduce
effectiveness even though they overcome group effects
which typically characterize focus group methods
(Diehl and Stroebe 1987, O’Guinn et al. 1998;
Dominowski 1995). Nonetheless, in the present study
the free association method was shown to reduce an-
noyance reactions in the case of two of the three prod-
ucts (F(1,177) 8.53, p0.01 for diet products, and
F(1,177) 4.97, p0.05 for sneakers).
4
Study 4: Examining the Impact of A
Priori Knowledge of the Creativity
Templates on Recall
Another form of assessing ad quality was a recall test.
Three groups of 18 individuals were exposed to the
same ads as in Study 3. Each group obtained the list
of 15 ad ideas consisting of five “template-based” ads,
five “free association” ads, and five “no training” ads,
in a random order. A day later, they were visited again
and asked to recall as many ad ideas as they could
from the list seen in the previous day. The results
showed that for all three product classes among the 54
respondents template-based ideas had the highest re-
call rate. Overall, 28.5% template-based ideas were cor-
rectly recalled, 20% were based on free association
training, and 14.8% ads were drawn from the “no-
training” set.
5
McNemar tests confirmed that the dis-
tinct order of the ideation methods (template training,
free association, and no training) was statistically sig-
nificant at the p0.01 level).
Discussion and Conclusions
The present research provides the theoretical reason-
ing and shows empirically that definable templates can
be detected in high quality ads. Viewed from a micro
perspective, individual advertisers may adopt idiosyn-
cratic templates and use them in generating new ideas.
4
An additional study was conducted comparing 24 ads generated by
advertising professionals (art directors and copywriters) trained in the
absurd alternatives version of the extreme situation template with
28 ads generated by professional counterparts. A competing training
condition was not included in this study given the familiarity of
professionals with the majority of the frequently used alternative
methods, which could potentially render the comparison unreliable.
The ads created by the trained professionals were rated higher by
five judges who were unaware of the template approach (mean
4.46) than the ads created by the nontrained professionals (mean
2.83, t(50) 5.48, p0.001).
5
This recall rate is consistent with an average of 20% obtained in
day-after recall tests (e.g., Wells et al. 1992).
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999 349
The present research lends support to a broader per-
spective which contends that the templates may be
widely applied across products, messages, and target
audiences. It serves to enhance the understanding of
the emergence of quality ads as well as creativity in
marketing communication.
The findings of the present study indicate the su-
periority of template-matched ad ideas in creativity
judgments, brand attitudes, and recall. However, a dif-
ferential impact was detected regarding the feelings
invoked by the templates. This is not surprising in light
of the cognitive processes that different templates are
expected to invoke. For example, the interactive ex-
periment (activation) template requires physical activ-
ity and effortful processing. Enhanced involvement is
associated with high cognitive activity (e.g., Assael
1998) and thus, the interactive experiment is likely to
be useful when the strategy is designed to cause a par-
ticular behavioral change which is less responsive to
peripheral cues. The Absurd Alternatives and Replace-
ment version are more useful when humor is the in-
tended strategy. Hence, while generally, the templates
appear to have a positive impact on recall leading to
potential sales increase, the ways to achieve this goal
are diversified.
These findings are a step toward defining a compre-
hensive model of the antecedents of outcome reactions
to advertising stimuli. Improved understanding of the
wide spectrum of reactions that connects the basic tem-
plates with end-user reactions is likely to be beneficial
for both academicians and practitioners. Such a frame-
work would create a synthesis between the activity of
creative professionals whose focal interest is generat-
ing the ads, managers, whose main responsibility is
strategy formulation, and the academic activity, which
focuses mainly on the consumer reaction-end of the
advertising process. Obviously, further research is re-
quired to shed more light on this important aspect of
creativity templates.
Three important features of the template approach
need to be emphasized. First, the templates are useful
in guiding the creativity execution process; however,
they do not prescribe the outcome ideas. In other words,
they provide the framework for generating ideas al-
though within the template constraints various ideas
may be generated. Second, templates are less transient
than the ideas produced, but this does not mean that
templates are permanent or that they are insensitive to
changes over long term frameworks. Indeed, advertis-
ing reflects social norms and trends, and as such, long
term social trends are expected to reshape the tem-
plates and provide conditions for the evolution of new
templates. Nonetheless, the dynamics of template
changes are expected to be much slower than the dy-
namics of changes in ad hoc idea generation. Third,
from a theoretical viewpoint, it is also expected that
the set of templates will always remain small: Only
under this condition will templates maintain their ge-
neralizability and ensure adherence to the overall in-
tention of the message and consistency with the chosen
marketing strategy.
It is postulated that the template taxonomy provides
the means to achieve “creativity expertise”. Unlike the
divergent thinking approaches, in which the required
expertise is not necessarily related to the creativity pro-
cess itself (e.g., individuals can be trained to be better
moderators in brainstorming), the creativity template
approach is trainable and has the capacity to directly
improve creativity outcomes.
6
In fact, training individ-
uals in creativity templates may result in higher levels
of “creative expertise” (Alba and Hutchinson 1987).
The template taxonomy facilitates the focused cogni-
tive effort involved in generating new ideas, the ca-
pacity to access relevant information, and improved
memorability of the reduced set of information needed
to perform the tasks.
Our research identifies an infrastructure of certain
regularities that may assist in screening and construct-
ing creative ideas. If we can define these regularities a
posteriori, we can reconstruct a priori ad skeletons,
which consist of their main parameters and can be fed
in only by those ideas that conform to these parame-
ters. In this newly generated schematic world most of
the ideas are likely to be perceived as creative, even
though the well-defined rules and the exhaustive
search used to obtain them do not easily reconcile with
6
It should be noted that while Study 3 successfully demonstrated the
value and potential of the template approach, it was applied on ver-
sions that constitute less than a third of the highest quality ads of
Study 1. It is suggested that future research will validate the ap-
proach in its entirety and screen the most effective templates for
training advertising creatives.
GOLDENBERG, MAZURSKY, AND SOLOMON
The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads
350 Marketing Science/Vol. 18, No. 3, 1999
what we traditionally have viewed as “pure creativ-
ity”. Yet, in view of the numerous problems we are
called upon to solve in our day-to-day lives, and if we
accept that creativity is assessed by the way it is per-
ceived by consumers, it seems that we ought to reap-
praise our fundamental approaches to creativity and
even reevaluate their operational definition. Our ex-
perience with using templates both in the reported
studies and in real-life applications among several
leading ad agencies, indicates that creative activity
prescribed by the well-defined, template-based pro-
cesses, is a trainable, resource-saving, and effective
tool. It simplifies and improves the decision-making
process involved in designing advertising strategy.
The template approach can be applied either by hiring
personnel that is experienced in templates and em-
ployed by a consulting firm, or by training the agency’s
own personnel to routinely evaluate past and current
ads, and engage in creative activity.
In addition, the present investigation concurs with
an emerging stream of research which deemphasizes
the traditional treatment of visual and verbal modes in
advertising as functionally distinct entities. Some of
the qualities of pictures which, in the past, were be-
lieved to characterize verbal information, and some of
the qualities of verbal information which were previ-
ously more closely associated with pictures, are being
reexamined. One direction of this research is visual
rhetorics. Scott (1994) challenged the assumption that
pictures are merely reflections of reality, claiming that
images represent complex figurative arguments. Re-
latedly, although bearing on verbal information,
Unnava et al. (1996) argued against the concentration
of consumer research on visual imagery as the only
type of imagery, claiming that words differ in the de-
gree to which they provoke imagery or influence read-
ing and listening. The creativity template approach is
in accord with this research trend in that it treats the
message and its delivery as a whole rather than de-
composing it into the functions carried by the visual
versus the verbal modes. The Nike-Air and the barking
lady examples serve to illustrate the complex figura-
tive arguments that are conveyed by pictures. More-
over, in the anti-dandruff ad, imagery-provocation
and informativeness are entirely independent of their
verbal and visual components; neither the visual com-
ponent nor the verbal component can be understood
as separate information entities but, in combination,
they achieve a high level of imagery.
7
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