Optimize the Creative: Youll Like It

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed how to improve the communication between the media and creative departments in an agency. In that article, I failed to touch on an important concept that can help all of our campaigns become more efficient: creative optimization.

Most of us are familiar with the notion of testing one piece of creative against another to determine the creative factors that contribute to response. And as media planners, we’re also familiar with changing media placements on the fly in order to improve response. However, many of us are not combining the two concepts, using response data to tweak pieces of creative as a campaign runs.

Maybe it’s because creative folks haven’t been trained to think like interactive media planners you generally don’t see creative types running daily campaign reports and changing their creative on the fly, as media folks do with their campaigns. Maybe that’s all about to change.

Which works better? The banner with the black background or the white one? Does a particular creative concept work better with a solid “click here” in black or with a blinking “click here” in red?

Media people are used to testing these creative factors against one another, provided they have enough time to devise a test plan. Dividing a media plan up into test cells to help cast some light on the best factors for determining response is a common exercise. Through third-party ad serving, we have the ability to swap creative on the fly, so why don’t we generally see creative directors running campaign reports like their counterparts in media?

It’s probably because tweaking creative takes longer than making changes to a media placement. It might also have something to do with the state of communications between the two departments.

Lucky for us, at least one company has recognized that on-the-fly creative optimization can boost response significantly, and has developed some tools to help make the idea a reality.

The folks at BlueStreak have developed a web-based tool to help manage and make changes to their rich media E*Banners. The tool allows for changes to be made quickly. When this tool is coupled with BlueStreak’s serving technology, tweaks to creative can be pushed out to the ad campaign as soon as they are finished.

Are we ready for creative directors who optimize creative like media planners optimize placements? Probably not their lives are already complicated enough.

Interactive media planners have been using ad management and other optimization tools for years now. They are used to running reports and using the tools on a continual basis to improve performance. They also have the know-how to make sure that campaigns are structured in a way that will provide a statistically significant test, from which response can be projected. Logically, they would be the best choice for handling creative optimization.

At the same time, media planners are not going to be the ones who make changes to creative. (That’s why agencies hire creatives.) So the logical solution is to improve communication between planners and designers. After determining what creative factors to test, media should work with the creative department to structure a test. Once the results of the test are conclusive, media should communicate those results to the designers. This should lead to a swift tweaking session in order to push creative changes out to the web as soon as possible.

In order to do this, designers will need to see (at the very least) cumulative totals across the plan for each individual piece of creative. This will allow for easy comparisons and suggestions for optimization.

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