Great creative may touch a nerve, bring a tear or generate laughter, but it is doomed to fail as effective advertising if it is not built on a solid positioning strategy.

Throughout the history of advertising, creative minds have toiled to make products popular and services desirable. Many have succeeded. Most have failed. And failure is not reserved simply for those advertisements with clumsy creative.

Need proof? Think back to this year's big-budget Super Bowl ads. Many were memorable. But "memorable" is only a fraction of the equation for making successful ads. Great advertising always starts with a solid positioning strategy. Unfortunately for many of the clients who paid big bucks for their Super Bowl ads, their agency failed to nail the strategy before concepting their ads.

Here's good news for those looking for effective advertising (and who isn't?): Positioning strategy typically is simple and obvious. With smart thinking and solid background, your agency should come to you first with a positioning strategy before ever doodling up a headline and concept.

Innis Maggiore recently delivered a campaign promoting Aultman Hospital's cardiac care leadership with a creative positioning approach based on a solid positioning strategy. The strategy was straightforward: Place the emphasis squarely and unwaveringly on Aultman's overwhelming leadership position in the number of cardiac procedures it performs, and deliver the message via a multi-media campaign that included newspaper, radio, out-of-home and online ads.

With the positioning strategy determined, the work turned to developing attention-grabbing creative. It was all about the numbers -- Aultman does twice the number of heart procedures of all other hospitals in its market combined. It was not about smiling cardiologists or scary operating rooms.

The campaign's centerpiece was a custom-designed outdoor board with lighted vinyl extensions representing an electrocardiogram read-out to establish an immediate high-visibility connection with heart procedures. For maximum visibility, the agency selected a location that is one of the highest traffic spots in all of Stark County.

The positioning strategy and the attention-grabbing creative resonated throughout Stark County -- and beyond. It caught the eyes of the editors of outdoor advertising trade journal Signs of the Times. They featured Aultman's heart-beat EKG billboard in an article that detailed the positioning strategy and the uniquely creative execution of the leadership messaging.

Good things happen when advertising starts with getting the right idea. Thousands of Stark County residents now know in no-uncertain terms they can rely on Aultman Heart Center's leadership should they ever suffer the need for cardiac care.