Andrew Perry

In the mighty world of programmatic advertising, marketers have the power to target and retarget groups of people based on demographics, behaviors, psychographics and website visits at their fingertips.  We can serve ads to the right person, at the right time and at the right place—new channels and tactics are coming on board each quarter from newer display publishers, audio, TV and digital out-of-home.  Programmatic is such a strong channel it is estimated that 87.5% of all display media will be bought this way by 2021.  It is all about the data!  Or is it?  We put a great deal of emphasis on the integrations, the targeting and tactics that most tend to forget—or at least glaze over—an important piece…the creative.  More importantly, how creative affects campaign performance. 


US Programmatic Digital DIsplay Ad Spend, April 2019, by eMarketer

A chart of the US Programmatic Digital Display Ad Spend, by eMarketer. Updated in April 2019.


While I have often been vocal about the creative process being overly burdensome at times, even I can admit when I’ve been wrong and can appreciate that the creative one sees is a crucial step in the success of a campaign.  Even a display campaign.  I am referred to as a data-driven marketer, often shying away from the debate over which colors to use, whether to use “Free” versus “Complimentary” and the impact of stock imagery; it has always been anecdotal to me. I always leaned on surface metrics like CTR, CPC, Conversion Rates and KPIs like Cost per Conversion and ROI metrics to guide my optimization decisions, not once thinking about what the ads looked like.  Particularly in passive display ads, who really looks at these things…we just hope they get served enough times for people to subconsciously search for the content we’re promoting or eventually click on the ad itself.  As they say, hope is not a strategy.

Enough with the hyperbole; I think my point is understood.  According to a recent Facebook Marketing Partners agency planning toolkit webinar, they referenced a Nielsen stat that “56% of a brand’s sales lift from digital advertising can be attributed to the quality of the creative.”  We can debate many ways creative plays a role in campaign success, but as a lead generator here are three main ways I see creative impact campaign performance.

Creative is a key factor in dertermining campaign performance - chart
“Five Keys to Advertising Effectiveness: Quantifying the Impact of Advertising on Sales” by Nielsen Catalina Solutions, Aug 2017. Adopted from “Agency Planning Toolkit” by Facebook, Aug 2019.


1.  It’s all about relevancy.

I am still surprised at the lackadaisical thought around calls-to-action within display ads, for example, falling back on the dreaded “Learn More” when the landing pages is offering so much more.  Whether its long form video, a new student information packet, or a bariatric surgery patient checklist, downloadable content offers prospects instant gratification and provides a marketing qualified to nurture.  The point is, the call-to-action on the landing page needs to match the CTA on the ads.  It’s incredible how much this is not adhered to.  On-page metrics will decline over time, suggesting that prospects do ‘listen’ to the ads’ message, click, and expect a familiar experience on the webpage.  


2.  Stock imagery.

Avoid it if possible—if not, don’t pick images on page one of the image source of choice.  Authenticity of the imagery will create a sense of real-ness prospects want to see (thank you, social media) and it tells them that thought and time was put into the creative, time to acquire real photos of existing clients, time to tell the story, time to get it right and get the message across.  


3.  Awareness versus Retargeting.

Whenever possible these two creative concepts need to be different, at the very least in CTA.  By virtue of running retargeting, there is already a sense of which pages one navigated to (if first-party audiences are set up with granularity…another blog post topic).  Therefore, this lends itself nicely to retarget users with content relevant to the page they once were, with a harder CTA.    For example, a higher education university may promote having Education Degrees with a soft CTA to “learn more” or “download your free info packet.”  And perhaps this user then navigated to Master of Education page on the site, what a great way to retarget this user with a relevant ads and harder CTA like “Apply Now” with a deadline for urgency.  Creating ads can be daunting, but we have come across Bannersnack’s ad generator as an inexpensive way to generate multiple display ads at once to help with the potential onslaught of many different creative concepts.  We have also found no difference in the performance of animated HTML5 ads versus static ads used for retargeting.  Save development time and let the animated ads live in awareness for those who are brand unaware.

Awareness vs. RTG ads.


Final Thoughts

Recognizing that not everyone has the production budgets to product world class imagery, video and visuals, these three highlight what marketers can start doing today to improve their lead generation campaigns.  Yes, there are more that could be added to this list; what creative elements do you find successful in improving campaign performance?  


If you want to learn more about creative affecting campaign performance, drop us a note at hello [at], call 561.868.9080, or contact us.

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