Whoever Controls The Creative, Controls The Client


(By Spike Santee) When I first started selling radio advertising, I was told “Whoever controls the creative, controls the client.” What that means is whoever writes the best commercial is going to be the one who wins the client’s business. That’s how billion-dollar advertising accounts decide who will handle their business — the person with the best creative ideas, not the lowest cost provider. It’s not about the medium because all media can reach a consumer. It’s about who can connect with that consumer on an emotionally engaging level.

You can be the creative leader in your market with a little effort learning how and why listeners are willing to emotionally engage with a brand.

Here are some highlights from the latest Roth Capital Partners 2018-2019 Millennial Survey. This is their seventh annual proprietary survey examining current trends, spending patterns, and favorite brands across five consumer categories, including dining and restaurants; healthy food, beverage, and snacking; fitness and wellness; infant, juvenile, and pet; and, fashion, personal care, and décor.

The survey, conducted in partnership with MFour Mobile Research, features 181 questions and was completed by 2,500 Millennial-aged women and men.

•  Millennials are benefitting from low unemployment and 77% think the economy will be the same or better next year.

•  More than half have decreased their social media usage over the last year, mainly due to a perception that it is unhealthy.

•  Only 26% of Millennials are not okay sharing personal information for a more tailored experience and the vast majority are happy with recommendations from Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify.

•  Two-thirds of Millennials prefer to research significant purchases online, but 57% still prefer to transact in-store.

•  27% of Millennials are comfortable purchasing groceries online (up from 22% in our prior survey).

•  Millennials significantly favor Amazon over other online apparel sites and 62% of Millennials are Amazon Prime members.

•  More than one-third of Millennials have an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or similar product, and 24% of those use them to regularly make purchases.

•  15% of Millennials have used virtual reality (“VR”) to evaluate furniture purchases, while 16% have used “virtual mirrors” to try on makeup or clothing.

•  Clif, Kind, and Nature Valley are the favorite protein bars for Millennials.

•  More than half of Millennials belong to traditional fitness clubs like Planet Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, and Gold’s Gym, while 28% attend classes at boutiques like CrossFit, YogaWorks, SoulCycle, and Orangetheory

•  Climbing, hiking, yoga, and cycling are among the most popular fitness activities for Millennials, while Black Diamond, Mammut, and Arc’Teryx are the leading climbing apparel brands.

•  Nike, Adidas, and Vans are the leading fashion footwear brands among Millennials, while Gucci is the favorite luxury brand.

•  34% of Millennials are more likely to purchase Nike products after the company’s Colin Kaepernick ad campaign, while 15% are less likely.

The compelling thread throughout all these statistics is the emotional engagement the brands make with consumers. It has nothing to do with price. It has everything to do with how the brands make the consumers feel about the brand that drives the brand loyalty.

One of the most striking revelations is that 34% of young people are more likely to buy Nike products because of the Colin Kaepernick ad campaign and only 15% say they are less likely. After the ad came out, Nike’s online sales actually grew 31% from the Sunday of Labor Day weekend through Tuesday, as compared with a 17% gain recorded for the same period of 2017.

It’s not about price. It’s about stirring emotions in consumers. That’s why you want to become an excellent script writer.

Whoever controls the creative, controls the account.

Spike Santee is the author of The Four Keys to Advertising Success and the president of SpikeSantee.com. Contact Spike at (785) 230-5350.


  1. Indeed, Spike.
    I have to agree, but only because “reality” has an ugly head – and it is constantly being raised. 🙂
    I understand that the sales people are the copywriters, particularly since the bodies of the real copywriters are getting mouldy under the parking lot just across the street.
    My thing, and I’m going to sorta insist on this:
    AE’s, generally, have little to no education on what it takes to generate more effective advertising, and gawd knows that is exactly what is required.
    But, maybe that’s just me. From here. 🙂

    • An excellent article to which I wholeheartedly agree! I’m an AE who writes copy for my Clients for the exact reasons that Spike discusses. My ad writing abilities became better over time as I researched what makes ad copy effective and how to translate that into words that work for the Client. As you said, Ron, AE’s need to educate themselves on how to write good copy. And for Heaven’s sakes, lose the word: Needs!!!

  2. Dear Ron,

    It’s my opinion that the salesperson should be the Creative Director. They have the most contact with the client. They have the best relationship with the client. I think it also helps the salesperson be more than just a dsales rep and creates a bond that other salespeople cant break just by offering a lower price.

  3. Good read, Spike. I wish more AE’s would learn what makes good copy and what to leave out. Driving across the country recently, I heard so many spots full of cliches. I think the problem is lazy AE’s who don’t want to bruise their client’s ego when the client says they want to write the spot.

    Business owners want to talk about why they are the best, instead of the AE’s educating them that in order to create a good, effective commercial the creative needs to be entirely written from their prospective customer’s perspective.


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