It’s time to stop making ads, and start creating content


Coegi’s Savannah Westbrock argues the real future of creative is not ads but content – performance-driven, consumer-centric, and driven by cross-discipline teams.


Our industry has come a long way from the days of every banner flashing ‘Click Here’ or ‘You’ve Won a Free iPod’, but true creativity is still being shackled by the perception that ads meant to drive performance have to look and feel a certain way. In reality, everything a brand releases to the internet plays a role in how that brand is perceived, so why is there still such a disconnect between brands’ organic and paid content?

The answer won’t be surprising to any art director who’s had to resize their work a dozen times, or to the programmatic buyer who’s been asked to place a five-minute video on CTV: branding and performance teams are rarely in the same room. There’s an artificial divide between teams focused on creative and teams focused on media, and audiences can feel it.

The result of these siloed efforts is a compromise no one is happy with: the core concept of the creative isn’t translating onto a 300×250 static ad, and the aesthetic and emotional vision beloved by the creative team isn’t driving any measurable results. Worse yet, pressures to improve are driving a wedge between teams, blaming each other for poor performance rather than working together to find a solution. The key to avoiding this scenario is simple: insist upon collaboration from the start.


Creative and media, together

But avoiding the ‘hand-off’ across teams is easier said than done; often, the separation between creative and media develops due to multiple agencies being tapped by a single brand to accomplish different bits and pieces of a campaign. However, it’s still possible to break down barriers across disciplines to develop innovative, holistic campaign plans with creative and media teams working in lockstep.

The brands seeing the greatest success today are blending these disciplines, understanding that creative accountability and effective content is needed at every stage of the consumer journey to persuade today’s savvy audiences.

Planning creative and media simultaneously unlocks higher creative potential. Not only will content feel more cohesive, but media teams will inform on logical placements and opportunities for sequential messaging, automation and dynamic optimizations, and practical benchmarks for measuring the effectiveness of the full marketing plan, whether paid, earned, or owned.

Combining the research and data approaches from both branding and analytics-driven teams allows for a more actionable understanding of the consumer journey. This is the real future of creative: a performance-driven, consumer-centric mentality fueled by cross-discipline teams with a unified vision of success.


Beyond the transaction

Rarely do brands expect broader awareness plays to drive results, but this comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the modern consumer journey. Your ‘bottom-of-the-funnel’ tactics aren’t driving performance in a vacuum; they’re just picking up the credit for months of touchpoints between a brand and its audience.

Rethinking how creative and media support each other throughout the full consumer journey unlocks the ability to hold your awareness efforts to a higher standard of performance. When teams have mapped out a brand’s media efforts, social calendars, and PR opportunities in tandem, the story within performance analytics becomes clearer.

Without this full context, your performance marketers may find themselves optimizing campaigns based on incorrect assumptions, or your creative teams pivoting their messages based on engagement metrics that aren’t leveling up to business-critical goals. If teams align on KPIs for the full marketing ecosystem together during planning, the benefits will continue throughout the lifecycle of each campaign.

Today’s audience is smarter than the creative we’re trying to deliver to them. Few will respond to invasive ‘Buy Now’ messaging, and fewer still will watch your short-film-length commercials. It may seem naive or pollyannaish to recommend simply bringing branding and media teams together, but it works. The old-school hand-off approach has been made antiquated by advances in media technology and in a more complicated audience journey. Working together, teams can go beyond antiquated approaches to craft stories that build loyalty and affinity that goes beyond a singular transactional moment in time.


Coegi is an independent digital agency providing services across digital strategy, media buying, paid social, search and influencer campaigns. We bring together people, platforms and tech partners to create custom marketing solutions focused on your business results.


Story/image credit: The Drum

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