09 April

Creative Performance Marketing: Party Like It’s 1999!

As originally featured on

Bud … Weis … Errr …

Hoots mon there’s juice loose about this hoos … (Maynards Wine Gums)

If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit … (Club Chocolate Biscuit)

Wassuuup! (Budweiser)

The 1990s may have given us neon windcheaters, denim on denim and Rachel cuts, but they weren’t all bad. The decade can also lay claim to being the heyday of television ads — when commercials were often more entertaining than the main show itself.

The rise of digital media since the turn of the century has gradually eaten into TV’s dominance. Zenith Media forecasts that this year, more than half of the global advertising budget will be spent on digital channels. This is a watershed moment. This shift hit warp speed with the sudden onset of the pandemic.

The way we consume media today has changed dramatically over the years — whether we’re streaming on Netflix, browsing our friends’ stories on Instagram or puffing along to fitness coach Joe Wicks on YouTube. Even before we step outside, we have a wide range of channels, devices and touchpoints all vying to grab our precious eye time. For the advertising industry, capturing our attention in this multimedia and multisensory forest is more complex than ever.

As they’re faced with digital chaos, marketers often favor data over creativity. Highly emotive and immersive ads that tell an inspiring story have given way to audience targeting and algorithms. They often opt for media optimisation tactics that bring a quick fix in the least amount of clicks.

From my perspective, this has largely been successful; however, as consumers have become more discerning about their data and privacy, some of these media and targeting tactics have increasingly been questioned — and in some cases, restricted altogether. The changes in cookie tracking and the Apple iOS 14 update — which will prevent developers from tracking us for advertising without explicit opt-in — show the direction we’re traveling in.

One of the main reasons that creative took a back seat in the digital age is the sheer volume of audience-specific variations needed across all the digital touchpoints. It results in “grunt work” that, let’s face it, is nobody’s idea of a good time (least of all a creative), nor is it the best use of your budget given the time it takes to produce.

Creatives need to get back to crafting memorable, immersive ads, but this time with a twist. The ads need to perform in the digital world.

Back To The Future

So what does this mean for the advertising industry? How can we make consumers fall in love with advertising again? Many of us can recall our favourite TV ads, but the same can’t always be said for digital campaigns. There’s no going back to the Mad Men era (more’s the pity). However, the rich storytelling of old can still provide plenty of inspiration. As the CMO of a company that offers creative performance technology, I believe it’s time to leverage a creative performance approach. Welcome to a new category that provides a bridge between art and (data) science, as well as left and right brains. Creative performance converges creativity and media to grow marketing return on investment. Rather than focussing solely on media optimisation tactics, creative performance switches the dial back to the creative as an equally, if not more important, driver of results.

You can start creating more impactful and engaging digital creative right now. Video is the first place to start. Video allows you to play with movement and noise so you can tell a much more immersive and emotive story that captures more attention. Vertical video is even better: People typically hold their phones vertically, so you can cover more of the screen — think Instagram Stories or Snapchat ads. It’s also important to front-load your story arc. You only have a few seconds to capture attention, so you want those first impressions to be as impactful as possible to encourage viewers to keep watching and hopefully take action, whether that’s through a like, click or purchase.

However, technology does help make things easier. Recent advances in creative automation technology, such as dynamic creative and AI, allow marketing teams to produce captivating and relevant video creative at the speed and volume needed to keep up with today’s consumer. You can incorporate automation to cut out the mundane processes and free creatives to stick to what they are good at: creating beautiful ads. Meanwhile, the media team can easily traffic and optimise multiple variations across channels.

The Best Of Both Worlds

I see a future where all creative and video ads are built using dynamic templates and layers — giving brands the agility to increase the volume of creative without compromising on creativity and ideas.

The future is already here. Creative AI can play an increasingly significant role in the success of digital campaigns. Marketers should look for ways to incorporate computer vision and machine learning to analyse and provide insights into the most attention-grabbing elements of their creative — which informs the creative team of what assets should be crafted at any given time. They should also look to remove elements of human bias in favour of a more data-driven approach. The role of the creative will need to adapt in step. I believe those who can adapt will find that their creativity is only enhanced by the power of technology.

Brands that embrace this new era of data-driven creative can captivate the hearts of their consumers with inspiring and useful creative — that is just as memorable as the TV ads of the 1990s and just as performance-driven as the media of today.

Anything’s possible. Even denim on denim is back in fashion …