Sometimes the unthinkable sells: Secrets from inside a (mobile ad) creative studio
Being on the creative team at a global advertising company is a highly coveted place to be – and for good reason. You get to work with some of the biggest brands in the world, creating entire campaigns from scratch while reaching millions of people. You’re surrounded by some of the smartest and most talented people in the industry, which means lots of opportunity for personal growth.
You know those “our culture” images that you see on ad agency websites? With the impossibly interesting-looking 20-somethings all gathered together, gazing at a wall full of sticky notes, looking like they are ready to change the world? That’s our team, and it really is like that – a positive, creative group of high-performing people, all focused on solving a problem.
Having said that, we connect with our role, our clients, and the mobile ad space in general. After talking to other creative leads in our LA, London and Buenos Aires offices, I’ve compiled some of the common pain points of working in mobile ad creation today.
1. We’re always a step behind
By this, I don’t mean the creative teams are a behind the times – quite the contrary. Everyone prides themselves on being up to speed on what’s hot in mobile, design and user experience.
But here’s the thing: What we do relies on mobile advertising technology, not mobile technology. So, just because Tim Cook gets up onstage and announces an “incredible, unbelievable and amazing” new feature in Apple’s latest device or OS doesn’t mean that advertisers will immediately be able to leverage that feature in their campaigns. Depending on how fast we can create a concept, develop it and sell it, it could be months before it’s ready to hit the market.
Think about all of the interesting innovations that are happening today in mobile, from facial recognition to depth-perception cameras. These are going to ultimately change the way consumers can interact with ads – the challenge here is adapting mobile technologies like tap, zoom, tilt, rotate, vibrate, and shake for mobile advertising and then building the demand in the market.
2. Sometimes the unthinkable sells
As designers, we are overflowing with great ideas, armed with various tools and techniques, and we are backed by years of experience developing creative. It’s our job to know what works, what sells, and how to provide a great experience. We use data-driven design principles to keep it clean and engaging, and use campaign data to evolve in the mobile advertising space.
But it’s very easy to overcomplicate mobile ads because marketers, by their very nature, want to accomplish 10 things at once. They want the stunning brand impression, the click-through, the video view, the social share and the purchase, too.
They’ll give you their opinion at the beginning of a campaign, during the kickoff, but then change their mind and add “a few small tweaks” at the end, which can often be the equivalent of adding an extra staircase after the house has been built and decorated. The worst is when they do this and the ad ends up being ridiculously complicated, cluttered and sometimes downright gaudy – but then somehow is the best performer. Sometimes the unthinkable is pretty darn painful.
3. Mobile is a mindset – and not everyone has it
You’d think after seeing hundreds of slides in pitch decks that hammer the point about how mobile is the number one growth area in advertising, and if you’re not mobile-first, you’re not going to survive, that advertisers would be 100 per cent sold on the medium. How many statistics have you seen about “eyeballs moving to mobile?”
The truth is, the shift hasn’t fully happened yet. With every client, there is always an education period. Despite what some of the more skeptical creatives in advertising might think, or say, brands do want truly creative ad campaigns. But, buried as they are in their day-to-day, or maybe coming from a background of different mediums, it can be difficult for them to grasp new-to-market concepts. That’s where digital storyboards, or a demo, or ad gallery can come in handy; they can get a better idea of how the ad works and how to interact with it.
Despite this constant push-and-pull, and the other challenges of being a creative in the mobile advertising, it’s still a great place to be. The speed of innovation, the variety of environments and dynamic capabilities, and the instant feedback you can get on your work are all extremely rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Jason Collar is a senior creative director at Opera Mediaworks - New York.