In A World Of Fast Advertising, Great Creative Still Has No Shortcuts

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, “Why The Creatives In the Room Still Matter As Ad Dollars Shift To Mobile.” In it, I observed that marketers’ push into mobile would require talented designers and copywriters to ensure that consumers actually engaged.

Since then, mobile has evolved considerably and in most ways is easier than ever.

  • It has gone from being an experimental budget line item to a core tactic, giving marketing teams more resources to tackle mobile-specific challenges.

  • Buying digital media, including mobile, has been automated in ways that resemble how most people buy and sell shares in publicly-traded companies.

  • Market testing creative, a process that once required a panel of several hundred people or more, 3-8 weeks, and budgets ranging from $10,000-$20,000 per test, now can be done more quickly and less expensively on Facebook. Simply take Ad A and Ad B and run both against isolated segments of the same target market and Facebook will tell you which ad audiences prefer.

The lone holdout to this trend: creative. There’s still no app that allows the untrained to quickly and affordably produce high quality images and video. There’s no algorithm for writing copy that gets a laugh or tugs at our heart strings. If you want to build ads with stopping power, which ultimately is the point of all advertising, then it will cost you meaningful time and money.

This reality should surprise no one. All ad production entails creating something out of nothing. Building something great – getting the lighting right, capturing audio clearly, animating illustrated characters and scenery – all have been made easier by tools, but learning how to use these tools requires two skills that technology can only lubricate:

Mechanics and inspiration.

When I first broke into marketing, I was fortunate enough to work for a video game publisher that sold its titles to the likes of Walmart, Best Buy, and Target. I was responsible for both media and production budgets and learned two tricks to getting creative right.

First, set your creative budget to some percentage of your media buy. It will remind you that ad production is so much more than a trivial budget line item. Back in my video game days, I capped my creative budget at no more than 10 percent of my media allocation. That may sound like a lot in the context of a million dollar campaign, but it goes fast when you commit to doing it well.

Second, establish a process to govern the collaboration between client and agency, internal or external. Over the years, I’ve established a step-by-step approach to creative production that increases the likelihood not only of producing stand-out ads, but also stronger esprit de corps between these two teams.

Just as the world needs more software engineers to improve the efficiency with which marketers can target and reach consumers, we also need graphic artists, animators, film directors, special effects experts, and sound designers to bring the ads we consume to life.

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