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Better digital media ROI with data-driven creative

By Jay Thomson, Co-Founder & Chief Digital Officer at Hoorah Digital Consultancy

Brands need to realise that data is not just numbers. Data IS PEOPLE. Data IS treasure! Data that is used correctly, is your consumers’ voice. Data speaks! Data is a brand’s lifeline to better strategy, better execution of work, and improved ROI. Even far better creative execution, and guarantee better performance.

 So what then, is data-driven creative?

 It leverages customer data, via machine assistance, to create personalised ad executions for increased performance and maximum return on investment (ROI).

A data-driven approach in many ways flips traditional creative processes. These days brands have tons of data, but are they using it? Audience behavioural data, purchase and browsing data, user-journey data, device-usage data, location data, on-site and off-site SEO, consumer reviews, CRM data, media-campaign data, search data, app install and usage data, you name it.

This data needs to be the starting point for your next work.  But not just your next ad campaign. It can start to define what your brand or business actually needs to do as a larger business strategy.

The traditional creative process was largely focussed on ‘ideas’. The client has a brief. The Account Manager takes it back to the agency for a brainstorm. Ideas are generated, and these ‘big ideas’ are presented to the client. Once the client approves the campaign it goes live, reaches the target audience, and the agency captures some data.

Mostly what the client is buying is the ‘hope’ that the campaign ideas will work.

Goodbye ego’s and subjective opinions

When working in a truly data-driven way, the consultancy analyses all this data and produces insights and opportunities that are real data points. No arguments, no opinions, just facts.  Let the data drive it. You find actual brand problems, factual opportunities, actual overall approaches that need to be corrected usually as a matter of urgency.

There is no subjectivity. No ego. No fluff.

A gap in creative delivery

The digital advertising industry has terrific targeting ability, thanks to both Google and Facebook competing for brand dollars. With such sophistication, there are immense possibilities in terms of programmatic advertising and reaching the right audience at the right time.

Yet, creative is still creative; it requires graphic design, good copywriting, and design tools like Photoshop. Designers still have to sit down and grind out those banners, executions, formats per message, and target segment.

Most don’t realise the complexities here. Think animated videos, dynamic ads, gifs, jpegs, rich-media ads, and more…. But in every correct size and variant for each platform, carrying the correct message per target segment.  Long live the grind!

But is the message (ad) personalised and relevant, or is it still a generic execution? The same message rolled out across all the sizes, formats. No personalisation.

What the vast majority of brands are lacking is the ability to deliver tailor-made, audience-specific creative into the media platforms and deliver personalised creative at scale.

Dynamic ‘in-the-moment’ advertising

Let’s circle back and simplify all this ‘technicality’ into a simple Performance Equation.

Media Performance X Ad Performance = ROI

Getting in front of the right people from a media targeting point of view does not mean you are going to make a sale. How good is your creative? If your ad is generic the chances are that it is going to have a lower than average performance. This means wasted money, time, and effort.

But if your ad is highly targeted and your ads are personalised to a specific market segment, and you reach that segment with the right message at the right time, you are guaranteed to have business-impacting improved results.

Data shows that 56% of overall sales uplift is related to this kind of targeted creative.

Brands leaving business on the table

Getting this wrong means you have missed an opportunity to improve your bottom-line. These days, if brands are not getting their media-performance equation right, you are nowhere, as there are now so many channels and platforms out there. User behaviour has changed. Centennials use image search, voice search, and YouTube in researching more than traditional Google search.

Here is an example that shows data-driven creative differences. In this example, we’ll show just some ways to replace static info with dynamic targeted creative for far better user experience:

Dynamic and relevant pricing

Dynamic tailored imagery

Dynamic tailored messaging

Dynamic location mapping

 Suppose a user, Bonge, has been looking for a new phone. His research begins on YouTube and Google and asking friends about their opinions. Bonge sees your brand’s ad about a Black Friday sale, his visit is tracked via your Facebook and Google pixels.  You remarket these deals to Bonge, with count-down ads that say “Get the deal before it’s sold out!” Every time he is online, he sees the ads counting down, this reminds him. You build audience buckets of people that relate to researching cell phones. Bonge hasn’t decided which phone he wants to buy, so you serve him dynamic ads, showcasing the cellphones he likes most based on his interactions. Bonge clicks the ad displaying the phone and offer he wants, and is provided with a dynamic map of where to buy, or buy online for a further discount.

None of this is static, or impersonal. And, works equally well for vehicle sales, shoes, makeup or toasters.

The point is that the user experiences advertising that is highly relevant, on the channels they use, when they want to use them, in a way that is helpful and assists them in making the purchase.

Brands that are winning, are internally changing, and getting out of silos.

In South Africa, in my view, our industry is ‘hard baked’ into thinking in silos. Procurement departments put out RFP’s for media. Notable large ones still see traditional and digital as the same competency. Separately for digital. Separately for tech. Brand departments are constructed in silos. Agency rankings are in silos. And so are many awards categories.

Not all of these silos are wrong though as they do serve a purpose. But the model starts to feel old quite quickly, and certainly in my view not what is needed moving forward. Where will the industry be in five years’ time?

For brands to win in this space, they need to put specialised data insights and digital media at the core of their business efforts, and even consider the advantages of building out internal teams and tech to really do this well.

How is your Media Performance Equation working for you?