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7 cut-through creative techniques that will inspire societal change

Written by: Rose Mountague | 11th November 2022
7 min read

The unique blend of creative and behavioural science at Magpie enables us to understand our audiences and deliver compelling cut-through creative campaigns that will create impact and help positively change behaviour.

Here is my rundown of 7 key techniques that can help your campaigns inspire societal change:

1. Understand and interpret behavioural insights

One of the most satisfying things about working on creative at Magpie is that you know that everything you do will be informed by real-world behavioural insights. These insights help to write and define the brief for a campaign and ensure you make the right decisions about key campaign messaging, creative direction and delivery. Understanding the behavioural diagnosis is the magic which helps to define campaign strategy and execution. It’s the backbone of every campaign at Magpie and underpins everything we do.

2. Keep messages simple

We tackle some extremely complex issues with campaigns. One of the key strengths of our creative team is to cut through the complex and make the complex easy to understand. To do this we spend time learning everything we can about each campaign, whether it’s low-dose painkillers, antibiotics resistance or the commercial determinants of health, our job is to make the complex make sense to everyone so we can communicate issues in a way that makes sense and cuts through.

Distilling messaging to create simple statements that cut through is one of the hardest but most rewarding tasks. When you are crafting your key messages, take a step back and ask yourself how you can make it simpler; how can you make your message clearer? Often our messages need to appeal to the general public and be inclusive of everyone, so making sure messages are accessible, clear and simple so they are easily understood.

Finally, test your messaging. Go back to the insight focus groups and run messages past them. Often it’s better to do this separately from the creative if possible (so bias doesn’t kick in) but if not, message testing can go hand in hand with creative testing.

3. Explain why

This is a no-brainer, but you see it so often when you look at public health communications. Often you see communications which communicate a key message, or instruction or statement but it don’t explain why. Why should people isolate for 10 days? Why is it important for me to care about antibiotic resistance?

It’s basic human behaviour – once you understand why you have been asked to do something, you generally have more empathy and are more likely to do what you are asked. It’s no different in communications. If you want your audience to do something, explain why and the benefits they will see by taking action.

4. Keep it real

Some of the most successful campaigns to date have one thing in common… They keep it real. One of my ultimate favourites is the ‘This girl can’ campaign by FCB Inferno. Why do I love it? Because it speaks to me, it shows me people like me, doing things I could do. I can see myself in that campaign. Show your audience themselves in your campaigns and they are more likely to be able to relate to it. I have attended many focus groups where people have said ‘I want to see myself in the campaign’. Or when you show them some campaign creative, they often are drawn to real-life photography, quotes, testimonials – anything which makes the campaign seem more genuine and real.

When we are crafting social marketing campaigns, people don’t often relate to polished images or stock imagery, it needs to feel like real life and like it’s going to affect me.

5. What’s the call to action?

This is a question that I regularly challenge and ask because with every piece of communication you produce the call to action needs to be clear. Ask yourself:

What are you trying to achieve with this piece of communication?

What do we want users to do when they see it? Click a link? Read a blog post? Book a review with their GP? Take their inhaler back to their pharmacy? What action do we want to inspire?

How can this piece of communication help to change their behaviour?

If it’s not clear, there is no point in producing it.

Whilst thinking about the call to action it is also worth thinking about the user experience once completing that call to action. E.g. if you link someone to a website from your social graphic or poster, what is their experience when they land on the website? If it doesn’t look anything like the poster or social graphic, they might quickly exit or not continue on their journey. All aspects of the user experience must be thought about when designing any communications so the experience is seamless and the action can be made.

6. Test test test

This is SO important and something so ingrained in the DNA of Magpie. As a creative, you are used to being scrutinised by clients but at Magpie, you are openly scrutinised by your audience… who don’t hold back. Which is the beautiful thing about the feedback we get. It’s so honest, raw and true. It makes you a better designer, it throws open questions, avenues, and thoughts you hadn’t even considered… a unique perspective that only fresh eyes from your target audience can uncover. I love this part of campaign development. It’s the scariest but also most rewarding.

Getting your audience to comment on your work and test out concepts, approaches, copy, tag lines, visuals anything and everything really helps to make your final developed output stronger. Testing can really help to narrow your focus so getting your audience involved in rounds of testing throughout your campaign will help campaign development and strategy. It also helps when you have to present to clients or other stakeholders, they are never going to disagree with what first-hand feedback the target audience has given. It makes decisions easier for clients/stakeholders too and you often have a network of campaign advocates ready at the end to help promote the campaign or feature in it!

7. Wow moments: Stop people in their tracks

People are bombarded with so many messages these days. Everywhere you go, on your phone, your computer you are interacting with brands, campaigns, products, ads… how do you cut through with your campaign and stop people in their tracks? The trick is to be bold and do something different. Something no one else is doing. Something that your audience will take notice of…

WOW moments can be big –

Giant black sheep in Hyde Park to communicate ‘What the flock’ – a drugs awareness campaign

Installing sand art on a beach in Sunderland for ‘Painkillers don’t exist’ to show the effect of painkillers on the body (the sand art will eventually disappear when the tide comes in) to highlight that painkillers only mask pain.

or they can be small and subtle –

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