Phil Livingstone
Phil Livingstone 21 June 2016

Digital Marketing - as Targeting Progresses, Has Creativity Been Left Behind?

Creativity, alive and well but sadly often overlooked in digital marketing.

We fight every day to grab people’s attention and engage them. We're all reported to be exposed to between 250 and 300 advertising messages per day and apparently we've got just 3 seconds to make an impact. Imagine how appealing mobile marketing needs to be given its delivered on a 5.5 inch screen.

Let’s face it we're a nation (and world) obsessed with smart phones. As I sit here on a train people gazing, as far as I can see there isn't a person without their eyes fixated on their phones.

We look at our phones 200 times a day. Hungry for breaking news, have an insatiable appetite for updates and a fear of missing out. A sad reality of the world today.

This captive audience is ‘snacking’ on media. Flicking up and down the screen. Searching and swiping. Short form content to attract, long form content to engage. Increasingly challenging to break through, make an impact, and resonate with audiences – unless you have cats, kids or more recently Chewbacca Mom (140m YouTube views in 3 days). As the old adage goes, right audience, right time with the right message still wins the day.

Digital marketing has grown at such pace we are almost guilty of bypassing creativity altogether.  One of the key advantages has always been measurement. If it can be measured, it is. We have killed direct response, done it to death. Advances in data, technology and targeting has given birth to the world of programmatic media buying. The promise of connecting audiences through the clever use of data and hey presto, the industry is reborn.   

We’ve improved audience targeting but what about creativity? It’s so easy to resort to ‘offline as brand’ and ‘digital as direct response’. Re-cutting and reusing the TV ad for digital creative. Slightly rose tinted view of the world but alas it still happens far too often. With all the talk of big data, first party this and third party that, little has been said of the creative side of things.

In my view, creativity is often ignored in the pursuit of sales. For too long we've been obsessed with direct response, CPA and traffic that we’re in danger of forgetting the basics. I blame the banner. We got lazy. We traded them in blocks of 1,000 impressions and bought them in their millions.

When I started in this industry we would get 22% CTR (click through rate) for banners, now we’re lucky to get 0.05% but in my view there's a good reason for that.

It’s forcing us to seek out and engage audiences in some many different (and more interesting) ways.

Creativity is alive and well. I think social media has to be given credit for this. It’s inspired a new generation to learn code, pick up a camera to create and be creative.  We’re getting back to 'being and feeling' human again and focussing more on the audience and thinking of technology as the enabler instead of the trigger. Casting a forgotten light on the art of storytelling.

We're also freeing ourselves up more – being more experimental, collaborative and "digital" in the way we think, feel and act.

Research shows, the benefits of 'being more creative' can ultimately increase conversion, drive traffic in-store (and to web), improve the level of customer engagement and brand advocacy and not to mention, generating higher return on investment. However, data and digital channels should not be a substitute for bold and brilliant creative ideas. It’s human artistry and creativity that truly engages. 

So the next time you pick up your phone, update your status, click on an ad or view a view, there’s human side of creativity that shouldn’t be forgotten. It's alive and well in a programmatic buying world. 

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