It’s Time to Build Creative into Your Performance Strategy

By Craig Coblenz

Brands and agencies are collecting record amounts of data about their customers and are building data-driven processes into nearly every aspect of marketing. The one area that has not traditionally been data informed the way it should be is creative. Not until now at least. Smart brands and agencies are infusing creative data into the creative process and bringing media buying and creative closer together to enable greater agility when it comes to creative production and optimization.

With the right strategy in place, creative has proven to account for as much as 70 percent of campaign performance. And with the diminishing value of media targeting, finding growth in creative is wonderful news for brands and marketers who are willing to innovate.

Turning Creative into a Performance Driver

While many marketers have teams to measure campaign performance, search engine strategies, etc., very few have invested in talent or partners to truly integrate creative into their performance strategy.

For marketers who understand the value of data driven creative and want to lean into creative as an area of growth, one of the first to-do's is to hire talent with analytical skills who can be embedded in the creative process.

Chris Marino, the global head of performance marketing and media at Bloomberg Media, recently spoke about how he's building for the future with a heavy focus on creative data analytics and implementation. Marino noted that hiring data-driven marketers who can turn creative data into actionable insights that can then be used to consistently produce the highest performing creative is crucial.

A Deloitte survey of 556 global CMOs showed that analytical expertise was cited as more important than creative skills in almost every industry. This doesn't indicate that creative skills are no longer important, but that companies are investing heavily in creative analytical capabilities so they are smarter about their creative performance.

This shift is akin to my early days at Facebook when brands realized that as the way they connected with consumers evolved so would the marketing organization and skill sets necessary to support those efforts. This is when the role of social media manager was created. Today's creative analyst is yesterday's social media manager.

Using Data to Protect (or Grow) Creative Budgets

But marketers aren't just hiring analysts, they're rethinking the entire creative process in order to maximize the value of creative data during design, launch and optimization. This is a necessary transformation if a brand is to remain competitive in the next phase of communication in marketing.

Data is a valuable tool that should empower the marketer to test ideas that would have likely never surfaced and retain or even increase creative budgets to support those new ideas.

VidMob recently worked with a leading travel brand who was looking to differentiate themselves from the standard (yet beautiful) drone shots of beaches and people frolicking in the water every travel commercial contains nowadays. Data showed that people dancing in the brand's creative resonated with their target audience. With data in hand, this client was able gain buy-in to test and find success in this new idea. This has been a creative execution that continues to pay off for this brand.

Derek Schoen, VP of paid media investment and social strategy at MGM Resorts, was at the VidMob office for a Client Council event not too long ago. We discussed how as the world heads into an uncertain macroeconomic environment, creative intelligence will become a valuable tool for marketers to show the impact creative can have on media efficiency and how that impacts the business' bottom line.

Derek noted that creative data is something marketers can use to demonstrate specifically how they are being more efficient and finding more effectiveness within their media strategies. Marketing and creative teams can no longer just throw creative out there and rely on algorithms to find the right audience. Companies are getting smarter and watching every budget more closely. Being able to show — with data to support — that every dollar is working harder is critical, especially heading into a recession.

Putting the Pieces Together

For decades, creative and media have been separate, but today they really can't be.

The traditional approach is more of an assembly line of sorts, rather than a virtuous cycle: The creative team makes something beautiful and then hands it off to the media team who then launches the creative.

As performance declines the media team adjusts the levers at their disposal in hopes of increasing performance with a heavy focus on budget and targeting, not creative. Given that the creative itself is responsible for such a large part of campaign performance, it's time to rethink that approach. With the pace of communication, the availability of data to improve advertising creative before and during a campaign, creative and media teams need to be connected to ensure the best results for the client.

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.

Craig Coblenz is co-founder of VidMob.