#Inside iProspect

Is the Marketing Industry Ripe for a Redefinition of Digital Creativity?

On the sidelines of The Cannes Lions in Montreal event organized by the Réseau APCM, we asked some major industry influencers for their point of view on digital creativity — what it is, and what it should be. We also wanted to know their opinions on the roles of both advertisers and agencies in digital creativity.

  • Valérie Sapin, Marketing and Innovation Director, Gaz Métro (and president of Réseau APCM Board of Directors)
  • Samuel Parent, General Director of Réseau APCM
  • Guillaume Bouchard, CEO, iProspect (and member of Réseau APCM Board of Directors)
  • Simon Lamarche, Associate at Adviso

A Skewed Perception of Creativity in a Rapidly Digitizing World

Too often, due to a lack of in-depth knowledge or confidence, agencies and advertisers try to promote digital technologies without taking the nature of those technologies into account. Uniting knowledge and creativity is often challenging for advertisers and agencies, skewing the perception of digital creativity on both fronts.

Guillaume Bouchard, CEO of iProspect, agrees. “Can we really call an advertisement that was initially created for television, and later promoted via YouTube or Facebook, ‘digital creativity’? I really hope not. However, this is the type of case study we usually see presented in contests rewarding the best of digital, including the Cannes Lions.”

Not all of the cases presented in contests, including the Cannes Lions, are models of digital creativity, according to Valérie Sapin, Marketing and Innovation Director at Gaz Métro. “I have never been on the jury of the Cannes Lions, but I imagine that the problem lies in the way the categories are defined, and the way that the jury is briefed. The cases that receive a prize can be disputed.”

Because digital creativity is still poorly defined, and the line between digital and traditional media is becoming increasingly blurred, prizes are often awarded to cases that don’t necessarily belong in the digital category.

A New Definition of Digital Creativity is Needed

In light of these factors, all of the interviewees agreed that as the digital space evolves, we will need a new definition of digital creativity. It is no longer enough to have a good idea, bring it to life so that it tells a good story, and then distribute it via digital media buy. We need to reflect more deeply on the meaning of “digital creativity”.

So what is digital creativity? “For me, digital creativity is the use, through all channels, of a digital element, which, joined with a creative element, inspires emotion and action in the consumer”, explains Guillaume Bouchard. “In other words, it’s the capacity to join an element that is native to the digital space with creativity”.

The key word is “join”. “Digital creativity cannot exist without technology, and vice versa”, explains Samuel Parent, Director General of the APCM Network. “Digital creativity is born within the intrinsic parameters of the digital space. In my opinion, there are two possible factors: the first is that the campaign should make use of the interactive component of digital, which other media cannot offer. The other factor is that it must take advantage of digital culture.”

A recent EA Sports campaign is a perfect example. This campaign used elements of the digital culture, like animated GIFs and memes, in a creative way. See for yourself here:

Another excellent example is this YouTube ad from Geico. They took advantage, in a humorous way, of an intrinsic functionality of YouTube—the ability to skip pre-roll ads after the first five seconds. By including their promotional message in the first five seconds of the ad, but encouraging people to keep watching the video through humour, they have perfectly understood the essence of digital creativity:

Finally, Valérie Sapin thinks that digital creativity should be based on insight into users’ behaviour on digital platforms. “Digital offers infinite possibilities, but they have to be driven by insight. Otherwise, using technology just for the sake of using it doesn’t demonstrate any creativity.” Digital allows us to collect data and react in real-time, giving us access to insights that other marketing channels don’t offer.

Digital Agencies as Educators

The move towards digital requires an increased role for agencies, according to Valérie Sapin, because advertisers’ maturity is not the same throughout the country. “I think advertisers are evolving, and we see that they want to put their trust in new technologies and the creativity that they offer. On the other hand, advertisers are facing tough objectives. Often, 80% of advertising budgets are spent on proven strategies (and this already includes a lot of digital), and the other 20% is used on more risky campaigns.”

So the role of agencies is to demonstrate the value of digital creativity, in order to give advertisers confidence. “You have to go in with good examples which have generated impressive results.” Often, the creative aspect will not be explicitly asked for by advertisers. “The client will never come to you with a brief asking for digital creativity. It’s a result that occurs along the way.”

Samuel Parent agrees with Valérie. “Today the challenge, as much for the advertiser as for the agency, is keeping up with the possibilities that are available with digital, and taking the time to reflect in order to generate creative ideas that are in line with client objectives”. It’s important to resist the urge to try out every new technology without thinking; instead, we must take the time to link technology and creativity in a way that makes sense for business objectives.

Creativity and Performance

In an industry that’s more and more results-focused, it’s important to know how to demonstrate that digital creativity increases performance. According to Guillaume Bouchard, high-performing creativity will affect consumers the most. “Naturally, a campaign that touches people in a powerful way is going to have a positive impact on performance. On the other hand, as digital agencies are often working at the end of the sales funnel to generate sales and conversions, we are dependent on the creativity of the campaign. It has to send the right message in order to leave room for the more commercial ‘hook’.”

As our industry matures, these two realities become ever more interconnected. A few years ago, advertisers would release an ad and say “This reached people, so it’s OK”. In the current context, “reaching people” doesn’t always translate to “generating sales”. The alliance between creativity and performance will be stronger if the industry becomes better at measuring what is creative, and the impact of this creativity on performance.

Simon Lamarche, associate at Adviso, adds that the rise of social media allows creative campaigns to generate performance in an organic way. “Social media add a new dimension to the potential performance of campaigns. On the creative level, if you have made something that people really have the desire to share, the probability that a campaign will generate good results increases tenfold.”


The points of view we have gathered show a consensus that digital creativity must be better defined. To summarize the definitions of the panelists from The Cannes Lions in Montreal, we can say that digital creativity is something that only exists when elements native to digital are used in a creative way, with the help of data and insights.

In light of the fact that not all advertisers are at the same stage of digital maturity, the mission of agencies in the coming months will be to clearly demonstrate the value and performance of digital creativity to advertisers. More and more frequently, this requires that they demonstrate the concrete performance of all their mandates.From their end, to stimulate creativity, the role of advertisers is to give better tools to agencies — for example, giving them additional access to data in order to offer them as many insights as possible.

When the bond of trust is solidified between agencies and advertisers, digital creativity will flourish and take its rightful place in today’s marketing.