Unravelling the Process of Creativity in Advertising: A Praxiological Approach

  • Mahsa Ghaffari

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the process of creativity in advertising from a practice-based perspective and illustrate the dynamics and relations between practices that can constitute this phenomenon. A nine month long ethnographic study was conducted in the context of an international advertising agency in Iran, where the organisational aim of doing being creative is in contradiction with the broader social system of the country which largely promotes conservative thinking. Such tension makes practitioners aware of their intertwinement with the practices involved in the creativity process and thus it is easier for them to reflect on what they are doing (Sandberg and Tsoukas 2011). This setting thus provides a good platform to capture the logic of practices. By drawing on Schatzki’s (1996) theories of practice, the everyday practices of creatives, their interaction with other members of their advertising agency, their clients and audiences as well as with existing advertising and ideas within the social and situational milieux from the start of a campaign until receiving approval are examined. The findings indicate various stakeholders participate in the process of creativity in advertising, such as creatives, other ad agency members, the client, the campaign’s audience, and the governmental officers, all of whom can have different requirements and preferences.While prior literature makes valuable contributions to our understanding of creativity in advertising agencies, in particular related to the important features of the creative outcome, the environmental factors that hinder or foster creativity and the people involved, particularly those individuals that are responsible for delivering creativity, their traits and personalities, we lack an understanding of its process and the recursive roles of environmental and structural factors that can shape and be shaped by the process of creativity in advertising. The present study contributes to this literature by adopting a practice lens revealing the process of creativity in advertising to be entwined in relational/socio-material practice, be the alignment of different preferences of various stakeholders, and be a cumulative process. In addition, techniques for pursuing different end tasks are explored and practices are found to be carriers of culture, and the internal and external rewards in practices are found to be the perceived competences of a practice and the embracing of the identity of a practice respectively. Finally, some managerial implications based on the outcomes of this research are proposed. These cover the establishment of practice-based guidelines with a corresponding reward system for evaluating creativity in advertising, introducing an appropriate physical layout and structures for ad agencies that can enable the alignment of various objectives and avoid potential tensions, providing a comprehensive induction and training for staff, ensuring an organisational flat structure as well as deploying collaboration as the most appropriate type of leadership for controlling creatives.
Date of Award1 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMichael Beverland (Supervisor)


  • Creativity
  • Advertising
  • Practice Theory

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