Computer can't measure creative

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Procter & Gamble's new system for evaluating agency creative turned up Fallon and Wieden & Kennedy as strong-performing agencies. It needed a specially designed computer program to learn that?

P&G and clients in general should be lauded for trying to raise the bar on creative. And in this era of advertising accountability, marketers have a duty to seek out creative that drives sales. But when it comes to judging an agency's creative prowess, art needs to be considered as well as the science of facts and figures on agency revenue and awards won per client dollar spent.

The exercise is beneficial in that it opens P&G's eyes to resources beyond its roster and to "challenger agencies" while stepping up pressure on its existing shops-Grey, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, Publicis and Kaplan Thaler-to perform.

"This study provides us with another way of looking at agencies we don't currently work with today," said a spokeswoman for the Cincinnati company. "We're constantly seeking the best-in-class agencies and right now not all of our roster agencies are on that list."

Those are strong words, and justified ones from a marketer that spends an astounding $5.5 billion on global advertising annually.

The goal of P&G, which has made strides toward bettering creative by attending and learning at Cannes, should be applauded. But its approach is flawed in reducing its evaluations simply to dry recitations of facts fed into a number-crunching program spearheaded by a purchasing executive. It's obvious to any industry-watcher which agencies and holding companies are highly awarded and which consistently produce excellent creative-no computer program is necessary for that.

John Wanamaker's maxim is still true: "I know half my advertising is wasted. I just don't know which half." We don't know either, but we know world-class creative when we see it. P&G should, too.

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