Who says creative advertising is the preserve of big businesses with deep pockets? With tips from Dave Monk of the award-winning Grey London ad agency, we take a look at how smaller businesses can make great creative a part of their marketing activity.

This week, the great and the good from the advertising world gathered to celebrate the British Arrows awards – the BAFTAs for the men and women who create the advertising campaigns that we see on our TV screens, online, outdoors and at the cinema. But as the champagne flowed, is it just big businesses that can include advertising as part of their marketing and promotional mix? After all, who else could afford the services of Don Draper and co to come up with an award-winning creative, let alone the cost of placing an advertising campaign in the appropriate media?

Fortunately, the availability of online media channels has brought the cost of advertising down and made it a more accessible and realistic marketing tactic for the small business. And when we talk about advertising, we’re looking at it in the broader sense than simply display advertising. Take content for example – articles, videos, infographics and images can be a great way to creatively showcase your brand personality, without having to spend a penny. Lower cost of entry though shouldn’t disguise the importance of getting your creative right to deliver the right impact and great results.

What’s your brand?

When it comes to advertising, first think about how you want it to develop your business brand. Big businesses spend a lot of time and money developing their brand because it helps differentiate what they sell; smaller businesses have just as much to gain from building their own brand. What does your brand look like? How does it speak? Spend some time thinking about the tone of voice you want to use. Here at Hiscox for example, we’ve worked hard to differentiate our advertising from the pack and have been careful to develop a very distinctive brand style in terms of look – bold, striking imagery, black and red colour scheme – but also in the language we use. It’s designed to be jargon-free, engaging, thought-provoking, unexpected, and hopefully a bit witty and intelligent too.

Get creative

Think about how your advertising will grab attention; what emotions can you provoke amongst your intended audience? Get people involved in the creative process. If you have employees, get together out of the office and brainstorm your creative thoughts. Children allow themselves to think freely and outside the box, so why not do what one advertising creative suggests, and act like a child to help generate that great idea.

Take inspiration from the ad experts

This year’s winners of the web-based series at the British Arrow awards (sponsored by Hiscox, incidentally) was advertising agency Grey London with their Unquiet Film Series – long form (three to four minutes) branded web-based content for The Times and Sunday Times newspapers.

We asked Grey London’s Deputy Executive Creative Director – Dave Monk – for his advice on how small businesses can replicate this winning approach. “Lots of small businesses have interesting stories to tell, or a challenge to communicate complex ideas, and long-form, web-based branded content can be very effective. It’s personal, engaging and people are more likely to sit down and engage with the founder of a company telling their story than they are for a 30-second advert. It’s more artisan and more crafted, in a world where the internet punishes people who are untruthful.

“Technology has made this advertising tactic available to small businesses. You can shoot great quality at low cost. Smaller businesses, with smaller budgets can do this stuff.”

Collaborate to create

We asked Dave Monk to offer small businesses considering using advertising his five creative tips:

  • Collaborate wherever possible
  • Ideas can come from anywhere; be open…
  • and also open your ideas up for criticism
  • Small, crack commando teams working on a creative project are better
  • Talk eye to eye, rather than disappear under a deluge of email.

As Dave says, advertising can be a leap of faith, but there is no reason why, if done right, small businesses shouldn’t use it as a successful marketing tactic provided they can work as a team: “The success of Unquiet ultimately came down to everyone holding hands, making it happen, taking the risk and playing their part.”

Inspired to create your own advertising? See our previous blog for tips on the more technical side of advertising – running your own display ads in the digital world.

And have you shown some promising creative flair of your own in this arena? We’d love to see what you came up with – share in the comments below.

Grey London British Arrows award

The Grey London team accepting their award from Hiscox Global Brand Director Annabel Venner