Move Aside Media, Make Way for the Creative

Media SaaS platforms are springing up everywhere, crowding the space. From start-ups to established players, sellers evangelize the centralization all of media planning, buying, reporting and first party data management, across premium, programmatic and native buys. Whether it’s mobile, tablet, desktop, programmatic TV, display, video or search, each platform touts a secret sauce to better media targeting and performance.

Engineering teams spend years building incredible software to make the media process simpler and more accountable. Publisher and adtech media planning teams pass long nights plotting out elaborate strategy decks detailing exactly how to reach an advertiser’s target audience.

After all of the effort generated to submit RFPs and formalize a media plan, what is actually served to that very specific, curated target audience? Generic creative. These ads that are often unrelated to what was detailed in the RFP. Media and media platforms are leading the conversation, leaving creative behind–huffing and puffing.

Advertising is not strictly scientific, it’s also artistic. Media platforms cannot be the sole solution for increasing mobile advertising ROI. Evoking an emotional reaction from consumers takes talent, not planning and analysis. Like watching a movie, the audience needs to feel something: laughter, joy, sadness, fear, anger or disgust. Whatever the feeling may be, it creates a connection and gives the audience a cathartic experience. The same applies to advertising creative. A consumer would never see an ad and think, “Hey, I am an upwardly mobile woman in my mid 30’s who lives in an eastern metropolis and drives a luxury vehicle… this brand wants me!”

A few simple steps can be taken to improve the targeting process, marry effective creative with media and further engage the consumer.

Prioritize creative.

In a meeting to review campaign performance with a major brand’s marketing team, a senior media director commented, “Oh were those the ads we ran? I never saw them.” He never saw the ads, not because he was neglectful, but because he was so overloaded with projects and deadlines, he never allocated time to review the actual ad unit.  Creative was not this team’s priority, so the creative was ignored.

 If media, creative and publisher teams make creative a priority, better performance should follow. The quickest way to make creative a priority is to review it BEFORE building a media plan. Think about how that creative can be made more addressable and relatable to the media strategy. When this is done early on in the advertising process, the teams should be able to produce high performing ads that reflect the honest collaboration.

 The same holds true for the publisher. While high performing, relevant creative is ideally the function of a creative agency, publishers should also take note. If a publisher wants to increase brand spend or grab market share from a competitor, creative performance is crucial. In addition to custom creative, there are ways publishers can move quickly to tweak an ad unit to speak to a specific target consumer audience.

 Be in the room together.

A contributing factor to the lack of collaboration between media and creative is distance. While there usually is a single media team building a digital plan, there can be numerous creative agencies executing on that plan. While each agency can be located on opposite sides of the country, pulling everyone together in the same location is crucial for improving communication.  Recently, a sizeable global agency shared that their mandate for media and creative is to be physically housed in the same building. Their “town” approach serves as a foundation to align media with creative, a small step in the right direction.

 Have a 1:1 conversation with your target audience.

When actors are auditioning for commercials they are told, “Look into the camera and know who you are speaking to. Make it a 1:1 conversation. You are talking to one person as if they were your friend.” Ads should speak directly to the consumer. There are numerous ways to quickly package a video or content-based ad unit for personalization through addressable messaging. For starters, an ad can be personalized with location features such with maps, weather and product feeds. Swapping out colors and specific calls-to-action based on age and gender can also improve engagement. Creative versioning, dynamic ads and multivariate optimization are all creative strategies that get the consumer more engaged with a brand. The more time a consumer spends with an ad, the more likely they will recall the brand and want to own the product.

 Test the creative beforehand.

Many new media platforms allow for creative testing prior to running a full-blown campaign. If media is planned in a silo and creative never interacts with media platforms, then some of the special features that allow for A/B or control group testing never get utilized. In other cases, the results of creative testing are never relayed back to the creative team. Together, media and creative could build into planning a creative testing phase, positioning both parties for success.

 Allow creative teams to review campaign performance.

Analytics on creative performance sometimes never make their way back to the creative team because they are often times seen as the responsibility of the media side. But if a creative agency is not involved in the performance review, then how do they know what they designed actually worked? Just like there should be collaboration at the start of an advertising initiative, there should be a consolidated effort from creative, media and publisher teams to understand what worked based on a campaign summary analysis.

 It is a given that media platforms have greatly improved workflow and the good ones are necessary as advertising continues to become more and more programmatic. But creative is equally as important, it should never be ignored or forgotten.

Contact me on Twitter @DeaLawrence1 if you’d like to know more about what I do at Aarki and how Aarki Encore keeps creative at the core of mobile advertising.


Topics: Creative Insights