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The great playground of digital advertising

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From cave(wo)men to mad(wo)men – we have told stories for thousands of years through our creativity. And, although the medium might have changed slightly, less marks on walls, more 15-second Instagram ads, the objective is the same; capture attention, create emotion and generate action.

But in a world where marketers have more digital tools at their disposal than a Swiss-Army knife on steroids, what can we learn from best in the business, to see through the clutter and gimmicks and create fantastic advertising that delivers for your brand.

Utilise digital networks to amplify creative

In the 21st century every idea is digital. Even advertising in traditional channels has the potential to be shared instantly across digital media networks.

Take KFC, back in 2018 the fast-food brand faced a national chicken shortage. In the face of furious criticism from customers missing their chicken fix, KFC apologised in fantastic fashion.

But the real genius from Mother, the creators of the much awarded ‘FCK’ campaign, came from running the ad in print, a more credible medium for a serious apology, knowing people would do the rest. Despite the circulation of the two newspapers not exceeding a few hundred thousand, the effect of sharing it across digital channels resulted in over 1 billion impressions.

The key is finding the intersection between insight, brand authenticity and bold, brilliant creativity. When you find this sweet spot, you can dial into the real game changer from digital, your audience’s ability to share content at phenomenal speed and scale.

Creative use of digital

Digital channels themselves offer a new playground for creativity, where executions come alive in the context they are placed or generate impact in the way they are served.

Green Flag has used Instagram filters to change young drivers’ behaviour behind the wheel, Walls Ice Cream has overlaid temperature data to serve ice cream adverts when it’s hot and the Met Police has built interactive YouTube ads allowing viewers to create your own storyline.

It’s not just about the creative though, the way digital adverts are served can provide inspiration for creativity. Dove, campaigners of real beauty, sought to banish Facebook of ads pushing negative body images, outbidding them and replacing them with its own body positive ones.

To do this well, it’s essential to understand the channels in depth and the opportunities the technology provides, but also knowing how people use them. When you bring these skills together you can create ideas that don’t interrupt but engage and entertain.

Personalisation at scale

One of the greatest opportunities digital channels have given marketers is the ability to personalise experiences at scale. Tap into this and unlock a powerful trait in human psychology where we ‘tune in’ to things that are relevant to us.

One brand is so well known in this space I don’t even need to name them. You know. A certain music platform that sends you a summary of your listening behaviour. That one. Exactly.

Whilst personalisation can be challenging, the benefits are worth it, over 80% of Econsultancy’s CRO report’s respondents mentioned uplift in revenue attributed to personalisation. More breakthroughs are coming, and organisations are realising the importance of integrating their systems and empowering their marketing teams to utilise data more.

Don’t let your excitement to go viral overtake your common sense.

Don’t set out to create viral digital content, and don’t write a brief requesting the next Ocean Spray or Oreo ad. Instead remain authentic and true to your territory to win.

This is especially important around purpose. Pepsi came unstuck when it strayed into civil rights and Brewdog took fire when it took on gender inequality.

Brands that try to do creativity-by-numbers, injecting things that people like and care about into their brand communications for the sake of it are as likely to generate thousands of shares for the wrong reasons.

What’s next for digital creativity?

The world of digital advertising will continue to evolve at pace. New channels, new techniques and new technology will give brands amazing opportunities to share their creativity.

And, while Fred Flintstone and Don Draper might not recognize this new world, the principles to deliver amazing creative haven’t changed.

The winners will continue to understand their audience, be bold and brave to try new things and remain curious about technology.

Richard Carroll, senior marketing consultant, Capgemini.