Creative agencies are being turned upside down and shaken by the ankles.
We’re witnessing the transformation of legacy models: inherited rules are being rewritten, the big idea has become lots of little ones – individual conversations on mobiles and desktops. What makes a brand is now more than what is shown on TV, heard on the radio or eyed in a magazine. Brands need to be everywhere; brought to life through millions of individual interactions every day.
Despite clients realising the potential that digital creative has, creative agencies still resist. But why?
It’s no secret that the last few years have been demanding for creative agencies. By hanging onto traditional approaches that defined their glory days, they’ve struggled to treat digital seriously; rather than cherrypick data to support their ideas, they have remained on the same old trajectory.
Many creative agencies still prefer to focus on the big screen rather than finding out how to run effective creative campaigns in a data-rich, programmatic world. In their eyes, digital (display, mobile… the small screens) is TV’s ugly little sister. While TV has glamour and experience, digital is naive and dowdy. They think of it as being separate from TV, despite the two moving ever closer together.
Similarly, digital companies without a creative team often demonstrate themselves to be unable to achieve an integrated creative vision; they rely on collaboration with creative agencies, conversations they’re rarely invited into from the beginning. They may be best positioned to own the future – defined by a drastic reduction in consumer attention time – but they have often failed to establish themselves as real strategic partners for brands.
The question is; how do we best deliver effective creative in digital channels?
In future it will be hard to imagine a time that campaigns won’t be delivered with creative and digital media media planning side by side, and running them as separate entities doesn’t unlock their full potential. We must transcend different groups of people arguing for and against different media. The evidence is clear: TV is essential for brand building and digital helps it by providing a link to the conversation. But digital is even more useful if that link is targeted and the creative is relevant to the consumer.
One area of digital and creative growth is programmatic creative. It enables designers to quickly build quality meaningful experiences in different formats and uses data to customise images and messages based on user context – their location, what they’re reading, the weather, what device they’re on, among other things.
The end result is tailored communication more likely to be valuable to individuals, demonstrated by significantly increased response rates to standard digital campaigns. The process gives brands the opportunity to develop more informed storytelling online, the way of the future. Although the process is automated, people define the framework and the strategy, with machines bringing the most relevant information to life, laying the foundations for thousands of possible outcomes.
For creativity to flourish, there needs to be an innate knowledge of what is possible from a data and technology perspective. Then the questions need to be asked: “What’s next?” “How can we make every interaction matter?” Having digital expertise and creative/experience in one means everyone is working to the same end. It’s better for everyone if it’s joined up.
This way of working is more important than ever, as marketers see the value in moving from one “big idea” to many smaller experiences. Having a strong social presence, speaking to people in the right way and learning with data in order to innovate and progress is becoming as important as big brand statements.
Social and digital are able to answer another new world pressure placed on marketers – the need to show trackable ROI. However, when you bring multiple agencies and platforms together, comparing apples for apples in attribution terms is not always possible. As a result, brands can’t always get a true picture of their campaign successes and failures.
Getting this to work requires working together and respecting what everyone brings to the table. Agencies need to concentrate on better collaboration, bringing partners into the planning process earlier, and sharing results when they are available.
So, what happens once media and creative work together? The focus must be on adding value – for the client and the end consumer. This makes it easier to ask the hard, existentially challenging questions.
Our mission is to make advertising more valuable to the world – whether that be to our clients’ business growth and outcomes, or to the end viewer, ensuring messages they see are relevant and interesting to them. Bringing data and creativity together ensures the end goal is always being thought about in unison.
The industry needs bolder moves and greater vision. 2019 is a year for change; for fusing a new model. For too long the ad industry has stunted effective creativity.
Tim Irwin is EMEA chief executive at Essence