There’s a certain kind of smile that lights up someone’s face in response to great creativity. You can probably picture it right now.

It’s a smile that contains the memory of something delightful, an eagerness to talk about the experience and a hope that others might have experienced it, too.

“Have you seen that ad?” they might begin. “It’s soooo _____.”

Funny. Touching. Cool. It doesn’t really matter what adjective they use. The point is that creativity in advertising goes way beyond informing consumers about a promotion or raising their awareness about a new product or service. You’re establishing an emotional connection that humanizes a brand and makes it memorable.

There’s plenty of research to back this up. Five years ago, for example, the Harvard Business Review published the results of a study that showed highly creative campaigns had nearly double the sales impact as a less creative one. It may be important to note that the researchers defined creativity as “divergent thinking—namely, the ability to find unusual and nonobvious solutions to a problem.”

That’s why creative ads make us smile so brightly. By using humour or other elements of surprise, they make us feel like we’ve figured something out in an expected way. Just look at these three examples to see what I mean — and apply them to the advertising you do:

The campaign: Samsung’s ‘This is a phone’
The creativity: The shape of the company’s Galaxy device becomes a central element in a whirlwind of imagery that shows how smartphones have infiltrated every aspect of everyday life. Backed by propulsive electronic music that makes it feel much shorter than its 30-second runtime, the spot racked up half of all the more than 92 million views of the top 10 ads on YouTube in March, according to Marketingland.
The coachable moment: Samsung’s ad is a great reminder that creativity works best when you cut back your key messaging and make sure that audiences with low attention spans will be left wanting more.

The campaign: Campbell’s cognitive display ads
The creativity: Working with IBM and its Watson analytics tool, Campbell’s showed ads on offering recipes tailored to the consumer’s location, culinary preferences and weather. Consumers could speak directly into their computer to ask Watson to recommend dishes and ingredients, along with a top 10 list of other recipes people are browsing.
The coachable moment: Ads are increasingly being seen as an interruption, but not when you reward consumers’ attention with something they actually want. Campbell’s not only made good use of IBM and The Weather Company’s data and software, but combined great visuals with an experience that consumers could directly control. Providing a value exchange makes creativity deeply meaningful.

The campaign: Lowe’s ‘In a Snap’
The creativity: If Marshall Mcluhan was right about the medium being the message, creativity in advertising should build upon how consumers are experiencing content. Lowe’s targeted Snapchat users by taking its “tap” functionality and creating a series of videos showing how to pursue DIY projects like building a mud room. Each tap on your screen shows you a different step. As a result, you can easily picture what it would be like to do the same thing in real life.
The coachable moment: Lowe’s turned what might be perceived as onerous or difficult building projects into something ‘playable’ and fun. The campaign was ideally designed for mobile users — in fact, it felt like it couldn’t exist if Snapchat didn’t exist too.

ROI in advertising is vital, but without investing in creativity you won’t have much to measure. Create an innovative brand experience, on the other hand, and it won’t just be your audience’s faces lighting up — you’ll be smiling, too.