Emma Popping is strategy director AUNZ, Media.Monks
I’ll let you in on the secret to successful advertising: it’s taking control of your data. Really taking control. That shouldn’t be a controversial statement—we’re living in the data age. But many in the industry continue to rely on the same data sets and generalised best practices rather than making their owned data work for them.
Simply put, when everyone makes use of general market data and the same processes in developing content, it’s all going to look similar. This is a disadvantage in an industry where breakthrough creative ideas have a proven impact on performance. On the other hand, the proliferation of mobile browsing and social shopping means context is increasingly important to reaching people at the right moment to have an impact. And data gives us that context.
Data as Key to Greater Creativity
This debate about the benefits or drawbacks of being data-driven is a red herring. We need to view data not as something that boxes us in, but as a tool to better understand the creative levers at our disposal and inform the creative leaps that make this industry so exciting. Hence, there is a need to create our own data streams.
One way to achieve this is to design campaigns that are built to capture, learn from and adapt to consumers' reactions. We put this premise to task in our work for WW (formerly Weight Watchers). In response to shifting social values like the body positivity movement and an uptick in holistic wellness in recent years, WW wanted to reposition itself and resonate with a new audience. This meant shedding its past focus on weight loss and broadening its definition of what makes a body healthy.
We collapsed the funnel and revved up the learning engine, launching hundreds of real-world ad experiments to drive immediate acquisition and audience-tailored insights. We explored everything from message to tonality to storytelling technique to background color to how much weight loss to feature, identifying the creative characteristics that mattered most to different audiences.
Putting those learnings to work, we built WW a marketing model that struck the optimal balance between brand and direct response. By optimizing top performers against a variety of barriers, perception issues and placements, the whole user experience became smarter and smarter. We established the new WW with an expanded audience via increased conversions at a more efficient rate—setting the foundations of future growth.
Ease Your Way to Data Creation
Like Cinderella’s glass slippers, one size does not fit all. Generating and taking control of your data will require that extra bit of effort, but it will certainly pay off in the long run. Know that the results may come iteratively or over time. Here are four principles for any business looking to become more agile, creative, and data-driven:
Focus on outcomes, not outputs. Don’t aim to just resonate and perform, but consider what you can learn. What new data can be generated, and what are the learnings that will drive the most business impact when you next develop and brief campaigns? Because creative breakthroughs can often mean better business performance.
Privilege prototyping before perfection. Test positioning, articulations, visual treatments and more by running numerous assets in low-funnel environments, such as digital and social channels. Respond quickly to performance signals, keeping top performers in market, and rapidly iterate and optimize to deliver new enhanced creative. Using these learnings to inform smarter briefs for up-funnel work (which is typically more expensive to produce) goes towards creative that better resonates with the audience.
Build teamwork. Data creation is an integration of art and science, often bringing together diverse disciplines of creative, data and production towards a goal post that may keep shifting. Ensuring everyone understands the “outcomes, not outputs” principle above can help lead to better teamwork. Assemble a team that comprises diverse backgrounds to challenge one another’s preconceived notions, expanding horizons rather than zeroing in on a single opinion or solution. Finally, a team that is open to learning enables true creative experimentation.
Move at pace. Once you’ve generated data, being able to move quickly to make it work for you is critical. A more agile and iterative approach—bringing in new inputs, responding to performance data and taking creative shots accordingly—is required in order to apply creativity in real time.
The “Test and Learn” Approach Never Ends
To be a data creator, you must feel comfortable sticking to a continual briefing mode. You’ll constantly create, learn and adjust in an ongoing cycle to measure changes in opinions and views—ensuring your creative output remains relevant in the process.
When done right, this approach frees you from assumptions that limit creativity. It also leads to commercial results—building resilient and agile brands with both brand and business momentum. But, most importantly, you’ll be in a better position to deliver what people really want.