Three Fundamentals of Creative to Drive Performance

May 06, 2019

by Tim Bagwell, Senior Vice President of Operations, Triad

Man holding a credit card making a purchase on a mobile device

As the dad of two-and-a-half-year-old twins, I watch a lot of on-demand TV. In between the harrowing segments of Ryder and his Paw Patrol pups working to outwit the maniacal machinations of Mayor Humdinger, the boys and I also see a lot of ads. Whether it’s Barbie, Hot Wheels, Cars, or Nella The Princess Knight, commercial after commercial is met with a chorus of “That please, that please, thank you daddy.” For the brands that produce these video spots, the ultimate question is not, “is the ad content novel, Cannes-worthy, or even content that will catch the eye of a two-and-a-half-year-old?” The ultimate question is “did the creative work?” and “will these spots result in the toy finding its way into the Bagwell kids' hands?”

During my career, I’ve spent most of my time focused on working creative — that is, creative that was measured by return. Today, I oversee Triad’s team of creatives, which help brands market to consumers while shopping in-store and online. Every line of written copy, every well-touched and properly-cropped image and every pixel of digital design is measured by how effective those creative choices are at moving a customer from click to cart to making a purchase. During my time at Triad, I have found there are three key drivers of working creative.

1. Does the content inspire?

From my perspective, inspiration is a better gauge for measuring the impact of creative than awareness. Many of the greatest brand flops (from Google Glass to New Coke) obtained very high awareness that still resulted in poor outcomes. Inspiration doesn’t simply inform; it sparks an emotion inside of the recipient that fuels action.

A colleague of mine recently shared a spot with our Triad team that she had commissioned when she led marketing at a global CPG brand. It tells the story of a family from the birth of their daughter through the birth of their granddaughter, seamlessly weaving the product into the storyline and making this household cleaning brand a catalyst in drawing all the characters closer together. I realized I had just experienced a “teenage” moment with my seventeen-year-old daughter (yes, I have a lot of kids). After I dried my eyes, I sent a text message to my daughter with the spot attached. The creative inspired me to share, and this product now keeps my home cleaner – proving that the creative worked.

Other brands have seen similar results by focusing on inspiration instead of awareness. Nike famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) engaged Colin Kaepernick for a “Just Do It” ad. The brand took a risk by choosing to align with Kaepernick, who was closely connected to the NFL national anthem controversy that drew attention to racial inequality and police brutality. The spot knitted together scenes of athletes overcoming racial, gender, religious, socioeconomic, and even physical barriers to succeed at the highest level. The end leaves the viewer with this inspiring thought: “Don’t ask if your dream is crazy … ask if it is crazy enough.” The result drove record engagement and a spike in sales!

2. Does the content speak to the individual?

You’ll need more than inspiration for creative to work; you also need to remember to speak directly to the individual. If they are not addressed in your creative, then the marketing piece may fall short of moving the hearts of the audience to drive transaction.

While working at a previous employer, I spent a considerable amount of time pioneering technology that made personalized creative a scalable opportunity for brands. Using a combination of audience, environmental and event-based data, my team perfected the ability to speak directly with the end consumer. For example, we paired an eclectic set of product recommendations with individual audience interests to see if brand dollars could directly impact store sales for a major sporting goods retailer. In real time, we determined whether their core shoppers’ buying decisions were driven by a love for fashion, athleticism or the outdoors.

Did the creative work? Yes! This brand campaign outperformed all the other strategies, including their performance media and other campaign partners — driving a significantly high ROAS both in-store and online.

3. Does the content intersect the individual during a marketable moment?

Even when you create an inspiring message that directly addresses a person’s needs, the creative can fall flat if it does not engage them at the right time. Although we have a wealth of data about any given individual, it’s hard to determine whether that consumer is a buyer at the cookie level. This is why context is king, and why retail media is incredibly powerful for brands that want to drive business results.

That said, retail media won’t be a brand’s only digital channel. So, how do you determine a proper marketing moment outside of a retail media engagement? The URL is not your only tool to identify opportunities, as there are many other data signals that can help in this process. For example, you will need to understand how digital trends and social media impact an audience readiness to a make a purchase.

And, what about retail signals, such as geo-proximity data? This would indicate that the user is “out and about” and potentially close to a retail location. Does this affect their readiness? Localized weather data may signal their mood for the day, as a cold and rainy weather day impacts their desire to transact. Do your shoppers stock up when the weather is foul, or do they cocoon and wait for warmer conditions to get outside?

Lastly, how does seasonality impact readiness, and how does your content leverage the mood of this moment to market more effectively? Around the holidays, I’m certainly more open to disruptive messages, since I’m looking to satisfy the needs of the “Bagwell Bunch.”

The bottom line is that creative needs to inspire an audience to act — and to work most effectively, it must identify with the individual’s wants, needs and values. Lastly, it must be communicated in a marketable moment that maximizes effectiveness through real-time copy and creative changes.

So, did those toy ads work? Well, I’ll leave it at this. We have a Paw Patrol My Size Lookout Tower, some Comfy Critters, and a Barbie RV strewn around the house that I try not to step on.


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