Three lessons on running creative campaigns

Published in
5 min readFeb 15


Above all else, creativity is about perspective. A way of looking, thinking, living, seeing and being. A set of skills, behaviours and attitudes.

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for creativity, but key components include being open-minded, seeking collaboration, and approaching things with a critical lens.

The challenge is how to get creative in your upcoming communication campaigns. What you can do first is to be smart by following all the rules we know about communication (defining your objective, knowing your audience, etc.) and then once you have mastered these, you can have fun breaking the rules.

This is easier said than done, so here are three lessons I learned from running creative campaigns and that I have applied in my chosen campaign success story (read at the bottom).

Watch the video interview LIVE with the author
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Lessons Learned

Lesson 1: simple ≠ boring

One of the first mistakes is overcomplicating the topic you have to communicate on. That’s how you end up writing slogans that mean nothing and scripted communications that resonate with no one.

If you want to really shape things, you would need to show, not just say. You need to abandon slogans and empty phrases. Video is a popular and effective form of communication, but it’s not the only one and not always the best choice for every campaign. When it comes to video marketing, again, do not complicate it more than you need to. Costly productions or fancy visuals will only resonate among a tiny part of your audience. A politician taking their own phone to actually record a message or do a live, spontaneous Q&A will do the trick for a wider audience.

People want to see authenticity in an age of over-produced content. For example, take a look at Macron’s latest videos that immediately went viral. They were shot from his house, with his own phone and as if nothing was prepared in advance. Of course, we all know that was not the case but the feeling was different. It was a one-to-one message talking directly to you.

Lesson 2: Humour can be tricky

Another common mistake is to mix up creativity with humour. When it comes to political communication, there is a starting point you should never forget: you are not funny. The sooner you accept that, the better. The politician you are working for is not funny either. And the sooner they understand that, the better.

But it is exactly there where you can find a window of opportunity. When no one is expecting you to be funny, you can play with the surprise factor. Going for the smile is always better than aiming for the big laughs. At the end of the day, especially if you are communicating in different countries, Italians will not laugh at the same jokes as the French in the same way they will not be interested in the same political proposals.

Lesson 3: seek coordination and collaboration

Let’s start with the don’ts:

  • Do not try to create a campaign alone.
  • Do not try to impose your creative mind over that of your colleague or partners.
  • Do not hide yourself behind the ‘hard’ topic. There is creativity in fun environments, but also in the challenging ones.

On the contrary, do:

  • Keep your team members close, offer a free environment and let them do their process.
  • Pay attention to details for each piece of content.
  • Be prepared for the worst rather than for the best.
  • Find partners to collaborate with.
  • Make sure everything is clear and understandable.

Being practical and useful for your audience is still one of the best strategies to follow. If the actual concept of the campaign is something you would never share with any of your friends, contacts or family… it will never find success.

Be proud of the content you create and the interaction you can build up. You won’t always be successful but the most important thing is to test, try and never give up.

Campaign success story

The EU Intellectual Property Office, based in Alicante, put in motion an initiative to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) recover from the economic effects of the pandemic. According to the European Commission, the pandemic has had a significant impact on SMEs, with nearly 60% of them reporting decreased revenue and nearly 40% reporting difficulty in accessing finance.

In response to this, we developed a social media campaign to provide practical and useful information to SMEs, as well as building a positive narrative to boost morale during these difficult times.

Our daily information pillar focused on providing tips and advice on topics such as intellectual property protection, online brand management, and navigating digital marketplaces. We also shared success stories of SMEs that have adapted and thrived during the pandemic. Our medium-long-term narrative was focused on creating a sense of community and positivity, using humour and creative visuals to draw out a smile in turbulent times.

The first example is a visual design aimed at getting a smile, something you wouldn’t expect from an account focused on the boring field of intellectual property.

Another example is a video showing how a European company is trying to solve a common problem: the boredom we feel when going to the gym.

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To measure the success of this campaign, it tracked metrics such as engagement rate, follower growth, and positive feedback from SMEs. It found that the daily information pillar received an average engagement rate of 8%, while the medium-long term narrative received an average engagement rate of 15%. Additionally, the campaign received positive feedback from SMEs who reported that the practical tips and advice helped them navigate the challenges of the pandemic.

The following recommendations of campaigns provide insights on the role of humour and laughter in shaping public opinion and building a positive narrative: “Public Opinion Does Not Exist” by Pierre Bourdieu, “Seriously funny: The political work of humour on social media” and “The Politics of Humour: Laughter, Inclusion and Exclusion in the Twentieth Century” by Martina Kessel and Patrick Merziger. The Reuters Digital News report 2021 provides a comprehensive summary of the current state of digital news and how it is shaping the public opinion.

Overall, the campaign was distinctive in that it built a positive story to improve morale during the epidemic and utilised comedy and inventive imagery to offer practical and relevant information to SMEs. The mix of daily information and medium-term narrative worked well in assisting SMEs in recovering from the pandemic’s economic consequences.

Author: Pablo Pérez Armenteros is a digital, political and strategic communication advisor. Formerly a journalist, he develops multilingual, multichannel and multimedia campaigns and communications strategies.

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