On The Future of Creative Advertising

By Jeff Goldenberg, Chief Strategy Officer, Abacus

We need to accept that a change has happened in advertising and deal with the painful fact that things will never be the same again. 

Only once we’ve collectively, as an industry, accept that things have changed, can we engineer our ways through it. 

Only once we’ve accepted the change will we truly be able to understand the context into which we’re advertising. 

Only once we’ve understood this context will we be good digital, social and mobile advertisers. 

 

We need to understand that it’s not The Man or The Machine. It’s The Man and The Machine. 

Contemporary debates (such as this one) revolve around how amazing the past was or how incredible the future could be

The future of advertising belongs to the people and organizations that can take the ‘best of the past’ and fuse it with the ‘best of the future’. Very specifically, I’m talking about the best emotional advertising ideas known to man combined with the sophisticated targeting, attribution and measurement disciplines. 

We need to get better at mass personalization through creative.

Imagine your TV could tell who was watching it.  Is it a male or a female? What generation? Married or single? Conservative or Progressive? Guitar geek or surfing freak? 

Let’s say it could.

You’d never create one commercial for everyone. You’d start by segmenting your audience into personas or use cases and start thinking about what each group needs specifically. Once you had identified the consumer through their TV, you would never show them creative made for the other personas; in fact, you’d double down on your knowledge and show more of that type of content to them.

You’d also never show them the same commercial over and over. Once a consumer hadn’t responded to a message, given sufficient frequency, you’d try another idea. If you knew people consumer content, as opposed to them simply being shown the content, you’d treat those segments differently and show them different ads.

Instead of creating one commercial and blasting it to everyone, consider producing 5 very different commercials and targeting the segments accordingly. 

This doesn’t stifle creativity at all. In fact, it creates the ability to dive many levels deeper into the psyche of the target customer, knowing that the creative is just for them and can alienate other segments accordingly.

If I know someone is a guitar geek, I can craft incredible stories that appeal deeply to the customer. If I create a guitar story ad, and blast it out to everyone, the results will be different.

 

We need to get much better at measuring our work

In the future, all advertising will be attributable, and we will be able to figure out what’s working.

I believe measurement is what sets you free.

If you know what’s working (regardless of what the old proverb says), you know which initiatives to focus on and (more importantly) which initiatives to stop doing.

Without measurement you are playing Black Jack without the ability to double down. For the gamblers out there, I think you’ll agree that that’s how Vegas was built.

If you’re a creative, ask yourself a question: what would it be like if you could solve for creative? You’d never have to guess again. Does that scare you or excite you?

In the future, performance won’t equal direct response. Even brand advertisers, or CPG’s who don’t have transparency into the final sale, can advertise with a performance mindset.

 

What we need today is CONTENT (that sometimes includes ads) and not ADS

Remember we talked about the battle between ‘always on’ media and campaign or sporadic creative?

‘Always on’ media uses algorithms to detect areas of opportunity for marketing efficiency. It requires a constant stream of new, modified and (most importantly) improved content on a weekly basis. 

If the team has a TV ad, a few cutdowns and some b-roll, it won’t suffice. It is actually impossible to cut down a TV ad into a social ad. The kernel isn’t the same, nor is the context, the strategy or the user journey.

Develop content that’s specific for each channel and not diluted to the point where it’s functional on all channels. This is where the outsized gains and efficiencies reside. If you don’t have a voice, find one.

In fact, we don’t call it ‘Always On’ anymore. We call it ‘Always There’

Because when your creative keeps up with your media, you’re always there when your customer needs you.

 

We need to learn every day, so our creative becomes better and better.

Marketing R&D should also be an always-on activity. Creative production needs to be agile as well; otherwise, the insights found through past campaigns won’t be relevant by the time they are executed. Or worse, the next campaign will be unrelated to the previous campaign, and the base insights are moot.

What we like to do is think about content creation holistically. We believe that if you have a social design system, and you think about creative shoots in terms of months of content and not a “spot”, you can scale your content faster, cheaper and more efficiently than anyone else.

So you need to produce creative, run it in-market, gather insights from it, and make it better quickly. Week after week after week after week. It’s a process and it’s a barrier to entry, because very few marketers are willing to do the work needed to grow.

By not spending your whole budget upfront, at a time when your uncertainty is highest, you can derisk the advertising investment by phasing it in. You’ll also have budget to come back and create more assets that leverage the insights. 

That’s doubling down.

We call on our industry to stop pushing a divisive narrative and begin embracing the notion that the future of advertising is The Man and the Machine. The world’s greatest marketing big ideas combined with all the benefits that data and technology can afford us.