Creativity Under Water – Surviving The Digital Tsunami

We all look forward to the Cannes Lions, a week on the French Riviera where the smartest advertising minds gather to pass judgment on the thousands of creative entries, and trade ideas and toasts.


Winners are celebrated with champagne and losers drown their sorrows in rosé. Everyone gets a nice tan. The Davos of Advertising is also a great barometer for the advertising industry, and the best indicator of what is in store for the future are the beach parties. Seriously.


The beaches can be booked for receptions and parties and whoever forks out top dollar for them has the attention of advertisers and marketers. They once were the playground for creative agencies, but are now booked by the movers and shakers of digital.


It is a symbol of the passing of the leadership baton from creativity to digital. Does creativity have a future as it faces the Digital Tsunami?


Data and creativity are two concepts that may seem to be at odds – Sir John Hegarty thinks so. But these days, marketers are constantly looking to data and analytics to help inform decisions about their brand and marketing strategies. Surprisingly, many marketers still lack the tools and information they need to apply data to marketing problems in a meaningful way – in a way that brings data and creative together to make something amazing.


All the attention around “data-driven” and “programmatic” marketing is for good reason: there’s an enormous upside to using data to inform marketing decisions. It’s an incredible way to gain insight into target customers and prospects. It’s improved the way we can track, analyze and optimize advertising. It helps us target people in opportunistic moments, when they’re likely to convert. And it can even help us predict future scenarios, like what customers will want in the future.


With all the benefits of a data-driven approach, it’s easy to see why it’s taking over the creative and advertising scene. In a Global DMA & The Winterberry Group Review report, 92% of marketers surveyed said that data is going to contribute even more to their marketing efforts in the coming months and years.


It’s important to note that data-driven advertising is about much more than how marketers buy and sell media. In the past, that was all we could track: which media placements generated the best return on investment. But today, we have the ability to track, measure, and understand so much more. Today, our data driven approach extends to the way we design creative, too. Data can impact just about every part of an ad – from the headlines and body copy to the images and videos to the color and background choices and the call to action.


Today’s world of data-driven creative has led to creative teams being new stewards of data and testing. By being a part of the testing and learning process, creative hands can take the traditional elements of an ad and apply machine learning to optimize their creative development and to improve performance.


Though the core elements of an ad remain largely the same across channels and platforms, we can learn a lot when we re-frame their place through the lens of data-driven marketing. When we look at the design of online ads, the four major elements below can be impacted pretty remarkably by the application of data.


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1. Compelling Images

Images are critical to awareness and engagement: they are the number one viewed content on any social media site. In fact, a recent study done by Xerox  found that including visuals increases people’s willingness to view or read a piece of content by 80%.


When it comes to online ads, there are obviously guidelines when it comes to size and placement of images. But there’s a lot you can learn by looking at different approaches to the imagery for your ad. A close up of a person having a moment with your product or service could be a more emotional image, while a photography-driven approach showcasing your product as hero is a more functional approach.


By developing several different looks, you can gather data on the most compelling approach for key audiences and continue to build your campaign in support of your findings.


2. Thoughtful Colors

If you’re familiar with environmental psychology, you may know that the colors red and yellow (central to a certain familiar food chain) are full of the warmth and energy that tend to make people move – and eat – more quickly.


Colors have associations that we sometimes don’t consciously recognize. When developing online ads, it’s important to consider how your color choices will affect your goals. The colors you choose should be rooted in the brand or product to create a cohesive look. Then you can start to ask questions like: does an orange call-to-action button attract attention and clicks? Or does green create a better harmony with the brand’s overall color palette and look, leading to more engagement?


3. A Strong Call to Action

It’s advertising 101: an ad needs to ask people to do something in order to be effective. The trouble is, it’s not always clear what exactly you should be asking.


The first step in developing a strong call-to-action is to understand your campaign goals. If you’re looking to generate sales, sticking to language like “Buy Now” or “Click Here to Purchase” is probably a better fit than “Learn More” or “Visit Our Site.” When you’ve decided on the type of call-to-action you need, you can test several versions of copy to see which performs best.


As you develop a strategic call to action, don’t forget to consider where the click will lead your customer. There’s nothing more frustrating as a customer than clicking “Buy Now” and being taken to a lengthy copy block explaining the origins of a company or product.


4. Carefully Considered Branded Elements

Would you ever run an online ad that didn’t include the company’s logo? What about the tag line? These might seem like questions with easy answers, but there’s no one right way to approach branded elements in an ad.


In some cases, it’s worth testing versions of an ad that have no branding – instead, they might have a compelling line of copy that ends in a provocative question, enticing customers to click through and learn more. In other cases, the brand name and/or tag line might be the only copy needed, alongside an arresting visual or video.


When designing an online ad, it can be tempting to just plug in the key pieces on autopilot. But data-driven creative has the potential to deliver one of the most powerful ad experiences in your customers’ news feeds. In addition, it can bring back real intelligence that you can use to build better campaigns in the future. And even more importantly, the learnings you collect through a data-driven approach may even have applications that can help you improve other areas of your business.


Only by embracing the synergy between data and creative can marketers effectively harness the power of the Digital Tsunami to create campaigns that work.



Winner of Facebook’s Innovation Spotlight Award for Creativity, ReFUEL4 is the world’s leading data-driven creative platform. We deliver ad designs from 10,000 global creators backed by AI technology capable of predicting ad performance and fatigue. We own the world’s only automatic creative refresh platform that supports scalable production, intelligent selection, auto-swapping and auto-refresh of creatives for campaign optimization. Find out how we can ReFUEL your next Facebook or Instagram campaign.


Vernon Vasu

Vernon practices anger management through Muay Thai and wine appreciation. But not sequentially.

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