Transform Your Marketing Performance Through Your Creative Planning Process

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Robbie Wiedie
VP, Creative Services

An illustrated rocketship shoots off into space

Digital has transformed along with the explosion in new channels and behaviors that are challenging the way brands show up online and in culture. With a need to meet increasingly fragmented and oversaturated audiences, going all in on one “big idea” no longer suits audiences’ increasing expectation for relevant, channel-native content—and certainly doesn’t deliver the top-line outcomes of engagement and conversion brands so hungrily seek.

CMOs understand this need to meet audiences where they are more effectively: research from WARC shows that half of marketers say they are spending more on performance this year than last. If marketers are not marrying the performance levers of media and measurement to that of creative, they are not leveraging the most-malleable potential for aptly fueling for performance.

Adopting the performance creative mindset does more than enhance the rigor of ideas; it helps brands develop creative that is authentic to each channel and made for a target-specific audience. If done strategically, it educates and informs consumers, meeting them where they are—at the right place and right time, motivating them to engage with the brand speaker and (eventually) move down-funnel to purchase. Let’s dig into the tenets for performance creative success.

Be data-first, always.

Rethink your approach to creativity to make room for data inputs and outputs. Challenge yourself to view each new idea as potentially iterative, malleable for specific audiences and the different ways they interact across the user journey. This also gives ideas legs to stay relevant in the long term.

Monk Thoughts Data is the ultimate creative director; think of it as the North Star that guides everything you do.
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The old agency practice is antiquated, but many still place longform TV spots on digital. Rather, we must put in the time and energy to meet people where they are, creating meaningful experiences for audiences in a personalized and culturally conscious fashion. When we think with our audience truly in mind, they accept our invitation and welcome us as a speaker.

In this respect, performance creative isn’t about ticking off the boxes to optimize for the lowest common denominator in the audience. In an interview with SoDA Executive Director Tom Beck, Media.Monks Co-founder Wesley ter Haar put it this way: “It’s about how we message and personalize in ways that are actually meaningful for people and fun… understanding where the content lives and whether the effectiveness of the work you’re doing actually delivers the results you want.”

We aim to create the most-refined “fuel" for the media engine through rigorous iterative testing. With data as our driver, we continue to learn virtuously through an ever-evolving approach where performance metrics inform future creative briefs. Because we have the data, we understand what messaging and visuals perform best with our audience. And, in turn, we can more-confidently invest in larger creative production efforts.

Produce at scale to extend campaign lifespans.

To fuel experimentation and maximize the lifespan of any campaign, it's important to capture as much raw content as possible when investing the time, energy and capital in live production. This yields a healthy reservoir of raw content that you can continually draw from in post-production to craft an ecosystem of deliverables that are channel-specific in terms of best practice and intended audience consumptive behavior. And, past 2-3 weeks of placement, we can continue to adjust iteratively based on performance data indicators.

Here's how it worked for Hatch, a brand whose devices help people achieve better sleep. We used an out-of-the-box creative approach combining feedback data and content production to iterate fresh content at speed. We identified top-performing creative placements based on key metrics and began our efforts by iterating messaging and intro visuals as our baseline to quickly improve rising CPAs. Initial learnings led to wider, net-new messages and visual testing utilizing post-production only, and also instilled confidence in briefing live production efforts. Following this plan, Hatch was able to meet larger audiences more effectively, all with a greater variety of data-driven creativity.

Meet people where they are.

An insights-based approach to production also helps teams focus on which creatives best appeal to audiences on different platforms. Think about it: people turn to YouTube to lean back and relax, Pinterest for shopping inspiration, or TikTok for user-generated content and snackable reels—and content that performs best on these channels is designed to meet those expectations. We must, therefore, always begin all efforts with our audience in mind.

It’s important to be purposeful in how you show up across channels and play by the best practices to reflect the content each audience seeks. A look that fits the feed means all the difference between a viewer who’s engaged versus one who’s pining to hit the “skip” button as soon as five seconds are up. And be aware of what you’re up against: on social media, for example, your content competes with the personal relationships and connections that people care most about. Making a strong opening hook is crucial to capture attention, stopping audience thumbs and eyes and driving them to engage.

Also consider creative’s place in the funnel. Awareness content is most powerful when it’s educational and informative, while consideration content lends itself well when focused on a product’s single-minded, USP-specific message. Conversion content should be quick to incentivize the viewer.

Turning fear of failure into data-driven success.

If you don’t see improved metrics out of the gate, you must go back and keep trying. A lack of performance doesn’t necessitate a lack of learnings to inform future creative efforts. Even when a creative placement “fails,” we’re able to glean data on what does not work and devise new approaches. Follow the mantra: “Always be testing.”

Once you have built an ecosystem of deliverables that enable creative testing at scale, you’ll be able to iterate content at scale with data as your guide. So don’t be afraid to fail. It takes the best scientists time to synthesize the purest fuels and ignite transformative, new compounds. Likewise, performance creative begins by making a commitment to being data-driven, producing at scale and being willing to test, iterate and learn to meet audiences meaningfully where they are. We must be creative scientists in the endless pursuit to synthesize better and better assets to fuel media efforts.

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