How Old-School Bureaucracy is Hurting Creative Messages in Digital Advertising

Learn how to start your own creative business in Ilise Benun’s online course at HOW Design University. Check out the full catalog to see what else you can learn.

By Melissa Greenberg, CRO, Flite

For every digital ad celebrated for its vision, creativity, and sheer audacity, there are a dozen that lazily transpose ad concepts from print and TV, with zero effort to innovate. Given the frightening headlines and stats on ad blocking which plagues the industry today, brands simply can’t risk thinking old-school anymore.

A photo by Alex wong.

Photo by Alex Wong, via Unsplash

Traditional attitudes are typically hard to shake, but surprisingly, they aren’t easy to erase in the digital advertising world as well. I’ve seen brands place too much value on the brand itself, so “digital advertising” to them, means slapping a logo on a banner ad. I’ve seen departments who are hell-bent on sticking to their scope of work instead of looping in other departments, no matter how much they would all benefit from a little collaboration. To really resonate with consumers, brands need to free the path for their creative to shine—and they can’t do that without doing some internal bureaucratic shifting.

One of the most common mistakes in the industry is when brands put media and creative on two different timetables. The media agency is typically briefed long before the creative agency, turning creative into more or less an afterthought. There’s so much time and energy spent on figuring out where the media will run and how efficient it will be, that by the time the creative teams comes in, it’s simply catching them up, rather than true integration.

But obviously there’s value in converging the agencies. The earlier in the process that creative is a consideration, the more the creative message will resonate with the consumer. Mediacom U.K. CEO Karen Blackett agrees, saying at a panel at last year’s Advertising Week Europe that creativity cannot be siloed if communications efforts are to be effective. If the creative and media teams are briefed at the same time, there is a mutual understanding of the target consumer, the distribution channels, the frequency of the media and the story the brand wants to tell to the consumer. (It’s also naive to think that “creatives” are the only creative people working on the business and that “media people” are the only ones with the experience or knowledge of buying ad space.) There needs to be a connection between the brand message and where and when the message is delivered, to truly drive results.

Brands need to forge other critical connections as well. I recently spoke with a huge brand that spent millions of dollars creating their own data management platform (DMP). The only problem? The entire creative and marketing arms of their company had no idea this DMP even existed, much less how to leverage it. Traditionally, data has been applied to media for better targeting, but modern marketers will tell you that even in the advanced world of programmatic advertising, creative is still woefully separated. Those same modern marketers will tell you that applying data to creative work takes you to the next level – creating a truly personalized experience for the consumer.

During campaign development, a lot of groups lay claim to owning the creative process: the brand’s internal creative team, the creative agency and sometimes even the media agency. Here’s my advice: stop worrying about what might happen if boundaries start to blur a little. Where I’ve seen the most success in creative messaging is when all that political BS is put aside, and everyone focuses on the client’s best interests, rather than stressing about who controls what. Here are some guidelines to help change those archaic attitudes.

1. Look at the entire ecosystem

Think in terms of the whole, not the parts. One agency I know is currently overhauling their entire marketing automation system to allow their media planning and buying and creative processes to be more agile. They’re evaluating all of their technologies—from the DMPs to the DSPs to the attribution platforms—to make sure they all work together. If you don’t integrate everything behind the scenes, your disjointed process will undoubtedly create a terrible experience for the consumer.

2. Shift your mentality

An ad banner doesn’t just have to be an ad banner – they can actually serve a purpose and drive ROI. There are simple ways to enhance the ad experience by leveraging technology that lets you implement a “Buy Now” button into a banner, turning it into an interactive shopping platform. However, you’d be surprised how many brands aren’t even thinking about that yet.

3. Break down barriers

Percolate brings together all of a company’s marketing stakeholders on one platform, allowing them to collaborate and communicate more effectively. 4C helps brands connect their TV data to their social data, helping them find the right consumers and deliver personalized messages to them. What’s the common thread? They focus on integration and flexible boundaries—breaking down arcane siloing that creates hurdles.

4. Try harder

Have you ever purchased a pair of shoes online, only to have that same pair of shoes annoyingly follow you across the wilds of the Internet, from Facebook to your favorite blogs? Brands shouldn’t be content with lazily slapping a logo on a banner or retargeting customers ad infinitum. Many brands are still mired in arcane attitudes about who owns what. Many of the mistakes I witness could be solved with a changing of the bureaucratic guard, a little creativity and personalization.

With contribution from Tori Telfer of Hippo Reads.