The Case for Creative Integration – Ignore at Your Own Peril

Try asking anyone in an agency environment or in a marketing department how great creative contributes to the marketing campaign. They’ll quickly reply with all the best practice approaches like marrying good creative with good placement, bringing creative professionals early into the planning stages, and blah, blah, blah. The reality is usually something far different and it shows. Our digital world is littered with forgettable ads, dumb websites, and other digital experiences that don’t apply what we know about our prospective audience. These efforts don’t give a clear next step, don’t use the power of creative to tell an interesting story, or fail to communicate a relevant and memorable message.

Creative can mean many things to all the people that touch it professionally. Ads and apps, websites, search copy, and Twitter replies are among dozens of options that provide communication touch points that have the power to inform, entertain, and persuade – or not. Digital creative goes far beyond the obvious visual or copy writing elements to include timing, tone, and channel chosen for outreach or response.

Good digital creative requires the integration of media planners, UX pros, social community managers, the search team, technology experts, research folks, the client or account team – in fact the whole agency or team must think creatively and in concert to ensure a solid strategic foundation and the desired impact. The “creative department” is or should be the whole agency as we are all in the business of creating powerful digital experiences that support a business objective.

I polled a cross-section of our “creative team” to get their insights and tips on delivering great digital creative.

  • Consistency in creative builds confidence over time yet the creative must evolve, change, move forward, intrigue, and entertain. The consistency comes in that brand essence, that brand messaging. What makes people think of brands like Target and Apple as integral parts of their lives? Aside from great prices and wonderfully innovative and designed products, it’s the consistent essence of the brand over years and years. Not resting on laurels, bringing that brand essence into every single thing associated with the brand: from associates, to color mixes, from fonts to floor plans. In those examples, doing something that is not spot-on brand would be obvious to someone who has never consciously thought about advertising or design.
  • Coming up with great creative doesn’t happen by some sort of magic in a vacuum. Sure, you need smart, imaginative, people who are well versed in the cultural zeitgeist and who are empathetic enough to know what will appeal to a 10 year old, a 75 year old, and everyone in between. But, without great input (research, competitive analysis, focus groups, social media monitoring, in-store shopper analysis, etc), you will not get great, focused creative that will work. Once in a while, you might get lucky and the creatives might intuitively know what the research would have proven, but more often than not it will be off the mark and not resonate to the level that it needs to be successful.
  • Brand feel or tone has to take a stance to be effective. There is so much brand clutter out there that getting lost in the crowd is a strong likelihood. If you have done your homework, you can avoid a middle-of-the-road effort that will get lost. The safe route might please your internal audiences but it is far less likely to provide business impetus.
  • Digital creative is not passive. People must interact with it. That experience could be as simple as viewing or it could be sharing, responding, or something much more complex and deep. User generated content also gets folded into the brand experience and we must frame that appropriately in the context of the audience experience.
  • A brand experience is both tangible and intangible. Good creative requires understanding how the user or consumer will experience that brand, in what context. It’s about storytelling, evoking emotion, creating need, desire, appreciation, and loyalty.
  • Effective creative should feel effortless and cohesive, even at a subliminal level where most of those connections are made. Controversial or thought-provoking design often generates emotion, which can lead to an engagement of consumers sharing, conversing, and “living the campaign.”

Good design and creative execution are not about pretty pictures or clever copy, at least not by themselves. Extraordinary creative results often come with some risk that is not always comfortable or even appropriate in every situation. So while not all creative can be great, it can certainly all be good/effective. And the way to get there is by involving your full team in the creative process.

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