Creativity in Ads Matters More Than Ever

By Alvaro Fajardo


Every marketer and brand these days has a little black box of tricks that they can use in advertising technology: animated ads, ad trackers, rich media with video and audio, high-impact playable ads. The list goes on. But while the technology gets more sophisticated, the experience for consumers has arguably gotten much worse.

That's because technology's mystery box of infinite possibilities has come to define digital advertising. And in our programmatically obsessed, multi-zillion-impression industry, the concept of creativity gets short shrift.

Marketers (and especially their agencies) are putting technology first, searching for more and more ways to automate marketing decisions, drive prices down, extract data, and increase intrusiveness — regardless of how useful this is, and regardless of the toll it might take on consumer experience. They tell their platform partners that unless they can deliver billions of impressions and blanket the entire population of the world with ads multiple times, it's not worth playing or paying. And consumers are revolting, with ad blockers, by denying consent and much, much more.

But when was the last time you were truly wowed by the creative in your own digital ads?

Exactly — and that's a shame. Technology is a supercharger, and a good technology partner can help you get the good stuff and use it properly. With creativity it's much harder to flip a switch and turn it on. But it's worth the investment.

Truly great creative can be an asymmetric advantage.

With the right creative, middle-market brands are well poised to compete with larger brands with bigger war chests. After all, there are more than 6 million advertisers on Facebook and they all have access to the same technology. The real differentiator is not the tracking you use or the animation, it's the creative.

A good example of creative being a differentiator was apparent this year at the Super Bowl. Companies spent so much money this year on formula commercials that took millions of dollars to create, let alone run. And yet the most successful commercial was a simple QR code bouncing around the screen. Lots of other ads ran before and after it, but the Coinbase ad got lots of post-game attention and drove 20 million customers to the Coinbase site in a single minute when it first aired.

Why did it work? Because it was different, it looked nothing like any of the other creative that's typical for the Super Bowl, and it cut through all the noise. It was low-tech and genius — and takes us back to our roots when advertising was a source of inspiration and delight.

Unfortunately, rather than making technology an enabler of great consumer experiences and creative, we have put technology first, searching for more and more ways to automate marketing decisions, drive prices down, extract data from consumers and get in their faces — ignoring the user experience and what consumers really want.

We need to get back to basics and think about the experience first — and this year's best performing Super Bowl ad was a great reminder of that. You can execute something with remarkable simplicity if it's the right thing. A good idea and well-executed creative can generate performance and lead to a successful campaign, even without over-the-top bells and whistles.

So, let's not be seduced by the mystery box of technology.

Instead, let's make the advertising and media conversation about what moves people, not just what makes them click. Let's rely on big ideas, integrated thoughtfully with technology, to deliver the magic.

Isn't that why we're all here?

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Alvaro Fajardo is the director of user experience and design at AUDIENCEX.