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Why creative advertising has no place in B2B

by adrian nicholls

August 5, 2021

I think I’ve written that wrong, it should be: ‘Why is B2B advertising devoid of creativity ?’. Or maybe even, ‘Why is all B2B marketing so rational?’.

Let’s prove the point.

Name your favourite B2C ad ever:

The Guinness surfing dudes

Nike’s ‘Just Do it’ (technically a creative platform, but OK)

Budweiser’s ‘Whassup’ (now you’re showing your age)

KFC’s ‘FCK’ (cheeky Mother London)

And now your favourite B2B ads…

Nope, nothing.

I even Googled it and had still never seen any of various ‘top ten best B2B ads ever’.

There’s even empirical evidence that B2B ads are pretty rubbish.

The LinkedIn B2B Institute, along with research agency System1, concluded that 75% of B2B creative is ineffective. They showed 1,600 ads to six million people over the past four years and 75% scored one star out of five on System1’s FaceTrace emotional measurement tool.

A one star ad means it contributes nothing to long-term market growth. The only way the ad will be remembered is by outspending the category with paid media.*

Quick aside: what makes a 5-star ad? System1 lists the principles of a 5-star ad as:

1. A strong story arc

2. Characters

3. Soundtrack

4. Emotion

5. Fluent device that drives brand recognition.

So, why is the emotion being sucked out of B2B ads? When in actual fact there’s heck of lot of emotion riding on a B2B decision. These are normally expensive decisions. Yes, there is the rational side – but make the wrong decision and you’re fired – that’s pretty emotional.

IPA Databank study showed there’s about the same amount of relative importance of emotional versus rational considerations – whether it’s B2B or B2C.

My guess is that we’re too caught up thinking our prospects are also caught up in the details - prices, specs, SLAs, and so on, rather than the emotional response.

But we’ve shown this not to be true.

If you want to stand out, you need to be remembered. And what drives memories? Emotions.

If you’re looking for long-term brand building and recall over short-term sales, then crank up the emotions in those ads.


b2b advertising
B2B Brand Strategy
Emotional Advertising