Advertising: Research Vs. Creative

Louis Cheskin (pictured above reclining in his chair, mid-thought) was an innovative marketing researcher who spent most of his life advocating for the benefit of using research to determine successful packaging and advertising. In the 1930s, he founded the Color Research Institute of America in Chicago. He also authored many, many marketing books that are quite difficult to track down now (I’ve only managed to find three so far). In his books, Cheskin makes the claim that the success of advertising can be accurately determined beforehand through research, and it seems that he was renowned in his day for his accurate predictions and startling ROI. His research methods focused on analyzing the unconscious psychological responses of test audiences. In his writing, you can feel the utter contempt Cheskin had for the prevalent notion that advertising should value artistic merit foremost, and blamed bad advertising on creatives who tried to express themselves artistically instead of promoting the brand using quantifiable methods.

On the other hand, there is Luke Sullivan. Sullivan spent 32 years in the ad business at elite agencies like The Martin Agency and Fallon, was afterwards a professor of advertising for many years, and authored the popular advertising book “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This“. In his book, Sullivan takes the exact opposite stance from Cheskin. He found no merit in researching ad campaigns beforehand to determine their likelihood of success. Like Ogilvy before him, Sullivan found research a pesky thing that only created road blocks to his creativity. Instead, Sullivan advocates that ads should value creativity over profit; that even if an ad was successfully profitable, if it doesn’t have artistic merit then it should be thrown out. He states that the alternative would be a world full of annoying, soul-draining (though ultimately effective) ads.

Who was right? My inner artist wants to side with Sullivan; a world full of uncreative, uninteresting advertising seems terribly dull, and there is something special about an ad that transcends to become a work of art. But art at the cost of profit seems too high a price to pay. Cheskin valued applying the scientific method to advertising so that each move was calculated and precise, with results that were predictable. Even still, he recognized the value in ads also being creative, but only if creativity was used to make an advertisement more effective.

History of Distributed Teams

The concept of Distributed Teams is not a recent invention. Militaries have long employed the best communication technologies of the day to strategize with and command distributed teams of soldiers across great geographical divides. Two hundred years ago, the Battle of Waterloo was directed with the use of flags and bugles communicating prearranged sequences of coded messages. Later developments in radio technology allowed soldiers to communicate more complex messages, over longer distances. This granted a greater degree of managerial control on battlefields.

Over time, communication technologies evolved further, and recent advances have made it easier than ever to keep teams connected virtually. The widespread availability of high-speed internet creates a platform for applications specially tailored to connect people regardless of location. Many companies now take advantage of these advancements to save themselves the cost of physical offices. For example, companies like InVision and Automatic have decided to forgo offices altogether and staff their companies entirely with remote employees. In 2018, a Facebook official was quoted saying that the company wanted as few employees as possible to work from home, because they were concerned productivity and accountability would suffer. Facebook recently changed their philosophy though and are expecting over half of their workforce to go remote by 2025.

Many employees favor this arrangement as it saves them commute time, but also because it is inline with the current cultural practice of constant job-hopping. Previous generations were more likely to stay at one company for prolonged periods of time, and companies often frowned on applicants who were shown to change jobs rapidly. However, younger generations are more likely to change jobs frequently, and companies can make themselves more attractive to prospective applicants by offering virtual positions. These virtual positions not only open companies up to a larger pool of applicants, but it also allows employees the freedom to change jobs without the expense and frustration of relocation.

O’Duinn, J. (2018). Distributed Teams: The Art and Practice of Working Together While Physically Apart. Release Mechanix.

Gupta, A. (n.d.). The History of Remote Work: How it Came to be What it is Today. Sorry, I was on Mute! https://www.sorryonmute.com/history-remote-work-industries/

Slack Versus the Competition

Slack is an internal communications hub that conveniently connects teams together, regardless of physical distance. I worked for several years as a web application developer in a department that relied heavily on Slack for all employee interaction, as our team was distributed across a large college campus and it was rarely possible for employees to have any face-to-face conversations. My team needed to be able to communicate quickly and easily, so we began using Slack exclusively for this purpose. We found that it was a great benefit to the unity of our team.

Essentially, Slack acts as an instant messaging system, with the added benefit of optional add-ons. There are two methods of chat in Slack: channels (group chat), and direct message (person-to-person chat). Direct messaging is a great way to connect one-one-one with colleagues, while channels allow the right people to get the right information in the fastest method possible.

When Slack came along, there were no real competitors in the market, however as the popularity of digital communication in the workplace grew, so did competition in the communication tools market. One current alternative is RocketChat, a communications platform that allows users to tailor its look and feel to their own requirements. Both platforms allow users the option of one-on-one and group chatting. However, unlike Slack, Rocketchat is a free, open-source solution. One of RocketChat’s most prominent features is how easy it is to migrate to: a user can export their existing files from Slack and upload them directly to RocketChat, making them a convenient option for dissatisfied Slack users.

Another popular Slack alternative is Chanty, a simple team chat tool for small and medium-sized teams that doesn’t limit its searchable message history. Chanty organizes a user’s files, links, tasks, and conversations into folders in a feature called Teambook. Compared to Slack, Chanty is also faster and more affordable (up to 75% cheaper) and it offers twice as much storage compared to Slack. Also, while Slack limits users to 10,000 messages in their free plan, Chanty offers unlimited messages in all their plans.

Regardless of which digital communication hub one employs to stay connected to their respective team members, the fact remains that no point in history has had such an abundance of choice when it comes to long distance communication options. Users can now select whichever platform suits their particular needs best.

Fallavena, L. (2020, December 14). We’ve Tried 4 Different Slack Alternatives & Here’s Our Conclusion. https://rocket.chat/blog/learn/slack-alternative/

Mykhoparkina, O. (2021, February 5). We’ve Tried 8 Slack Alternatives. https://www.chanty.com/blog/using-slack-alternatives/

Benefits of Distributed Teams

One of the costs of maintaining a physical office space rather than a distributed team is a limited pool of job applicants. The business must settle for job-seekers who happen to live within a convenient commute to the company’s physical location, and those candidates may not be as suitable or talented as applicants in other parts of the world. It is even possible that a company cannot find any suitably skilled candidates in their area, and this is especially true for positions that require very specific niche skills.

By employing a distributed team instead, and thus removing the geographical boundaries imposed by a physical location, a company has a much larger pool of applicants to choose from. This allows for greater diversity of experience and potentially more talented employees. A distributed team approach also lessens the risk of a company having trouble remaining adequately staffed, as some physical locations may not have the populace required to maintain staffing needs and could thwart company expansion.

However, there are also benefits to maintaining a physical location that cannot be replicated with a distributed team. For example, physical locations anchor a company to a local community. In some fields, that anchor is required for creating brand loyalty and awareness. Employees who live together in a certain community are also uniquely aware of the community’s needs and wants, and those employees are more likely to share some cultural experiences that could aid with communication and relationship forming within the company. Building and maintaining relationships within a distributed team is uniquely challenging; Sometimes communication is more easily achieved in close physical proximity rather than digitally, and a sense of shared community certainly aids the process.

O’Duinn, J. (2018). Distributed Teams: The Art and Practice of Working Together While Physically Apart. Release Mechanix.

Breu, K., & Hemingway, C. (2004). Making organizations virtual: the hidden cost of distributed teams. Journal of Information Technology, 19, 191–202. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.jit.2000018