Macquarie University
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The role of insight in advancing the creativity of an advertising message

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posted on 2022-03-28, 22:11 authored by John Rohan Parker
To solve advertising problems, account planners frequently call upon insight to direct the development of advertising execution. However, how account planners identify and deploy insight to develop a compelling advertising message proposition and the empirical contribution of insight to the creativity of advertising executions is not well understood. To address these concerns, this thesis uses qualitative research to explore account planners’ views on the value of insight and then tests the contribution of insight with an experiment involving working creatives. To this end, this thesis consists of 3 papers. Paper 1 explores how account planners identify, evaluate and apply insight in developing a compelling advertising message proposition and the contribution of insight to the creative process. Using grounded theory, the study investigates the insight phenomenon through in-depth interviews with 20 Sydney-based account planners. The findings reveal that insight is a creative process designed to inform an appropriate and original message proposition, from which creative execution can leap. In searching for insight, account planners rely upon various techniques: research, personal domain knowledge, challenging conventions, borrowed sources and central narrative extension. However, as not all insight is equal in its contribution to an advertising message proposition, account planners evaluate the strength of insight based on its originality and three types of appropriateness: the relatability of an insight among consumers, the usability of the insight by creatives, and the vision insight opens for the brand. Paper 2 investigates how insight interacts with strategy and originality to predict the perceived creativity of advertising execution. This study explores the effect of insight on originality and appropriateness (strategy) based on a 3 x 2 between-subject experiment with 60 Sydney advertising agency creatives, who developed a print and television advertisement against a fictitious brief, manipulating insight under three conditions: strong insight, weak insight and no insight. Independent judges assessed the work produced for how strategic, original and creative it is. The results show that insight interacts with the originality of advertising execution to predict creativity. However, strategy does not interact with insight. That is, when the originality of creative execution is weak, insight can substitute for originality; however, insight cannot substitute for strategy. Paper 3 goes deeper than Paper 2 in that a more sophisticated and comprehensive modelling framework is used. I draw from the Componential Model of Creativity by integrating insight into the context of intrinsic motivation and domain knowledge. Also from a theoretical perspective, I consider how insight may induce mental-set fixation, but sometimes compensate for low intrinsic motivation. In light of these effects, I also compare actor-observer differences in that both self-assessment and judge assessments are used. Thus, the influence of insight on strategy, originality and creativity is explored, especially where the measure for creativity conforms to the “standard definition” of creativity, e.g., being both original and strategic at the same time. A 3 x 2 between-subject experiment was performed on 60 Sydney agency creatives, manipulating insight quality under three conditions: strong, weak and no insight. Participants developed a print and television commercial that was judged by professional creatives and completed a self-evaluation questionnaire for measures of creativity, domain knowledge and intrinsic motivation. The findings identified that insight can improve originality in print execution, however, in television, insight displayed classic signs of inducing mental set fixation. The study also suggests that insight improves the self-assessment of creatives’ intrinsic motivation, yet in judge assessments, insight interacted with intrinsic motivation such that when motivation was low, insight improved creativity. Domain knowledge had the most consistently positive effects on strategy, originality and creativity of advertising, as it improved the advertising execution in all cases except self-assessments of originality. Paper 4 explores a possible mechanism for insight’s influence: shifts in the balance of functional and emotional appeals. The way insight works on creatives is that it provides them creative licence to focus on emotional advertising. Effectively, insight guides creatives to develop “inherent drama” or brand narrative based on the deep consumer motivation identified in insight. This emotional focus, however, does crowd out functionally oriented themes, presenting a trade-off between functional and emotional appeals. Strong insight provides a more efficient trade-off in that one does not have to sacrifice as much functionality to gain in emotionality. The findings in this thesis make a significant contribution to closing the gap between the academic and practitioner divide in our understanding of insight. The qualitative study provides a definition for insight based on practitioner accounts, extends the current literature that suggests insight is based solely on consumer research and identifies the attributes of quality insight. The experimental-based studies provide the first empirical study of insight into the creative development process. These findings have important implications for practitioners who adopt insight in constructing a compelling message proposition, and provide important constructs through which insight can be further investigated.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introductionn -- Chapter 2. The creative search for an insight in account planning : an absorptive capacity approach -- Chapter 3.Does insight constrain or liberate creativity? -- Chapter 4.The role of consumer insight in creative advertising development : essential aid or cognitive bias? -- Chapter 5. Consumer insight supports the “leap” to a creative idea by shifting the advertising appeal from functional to emotional -- Chapter 6. Conclusion and discussion -- Complete reference list -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 182-201

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Marketing

Department, Centre or School

Department of Marketing

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Scott Koslow

Additional Supervisor 1

Ang. Lawrence


Copyright John Rohan Parker 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




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