Why data-inspired creativity is the future of effective marketing

Sadie Thoma / August 2019 / Emerging Technology, Video

There’s never been a better time to be a creative. In an increasingly cluttered world, there’s more need for big thinking and enormous power in great ideas. Research backs up what we intuitively know to be true: Creative assets are still the most important element in driving sales, according to Nielsen Catalina Solutions

At the same time, new data, technology, and possibilities with machine learning are emerging every day. There are more platforms, more signals, and more data sources to inform the creative process than ever before. In my work with the best creative agencies in the world, I’ve seen time and time again that those who draw on this data and technology are able to take more creative risks, make better choices, and prove the value of their ideas. Here are three creative challenges they’ve been able to overcome for their clients with the power of data and technology that others can learn from.

Three questions data and technology can help marketers answer

3 blue and gold icons + text: Magnifying glass looks at a person; 1 How well do I know my audience? Cube hovers over a square hole; 2 Am I offering personalization at scale? Lines connect a dot to 3 squares; 3 What does my experiments road map look like?

1. How well do I know my audience?

Most marketers think they know their customers. But do we know them as well as we could? Maybe not. Recent research has found that 61% of people feel that the brands that should know them simply don’t.

But with the myriad data and tools available to strategists and creatives, it’s never been easier to get a deeper understanding of your audience’s needs and passions — and ensure your marketing aligns with them.

That’s exactly what Olay Skin Care did for a recent campaign. By digging into Google and YouTube data, the team discovered that their audience (perhaps unexpectedly) loves football and horror movies. So its creative agency came up with a YouTube-led #KillerSkin campaign that centered around the Super Bowl and told a unique and gripping story that led to tens of millions of views and a huge uptick in search interest.

2. Am I offering personalisation at scale?

New technology and tools can also help you reach the audiences you care about and serve them relevant, compelling stories — which is important, because research tells us that relevant video ads get 3X the attention compared to the average video ad 1.

A recent campaign for Abreva did just that. Using Director Mix, the brand created 119 versions of one base ad, customising the copy to match what a YouTube viewer was watching.

Someone knee-deep in celebrity gossip videos might have seen this version of the ad:

Two images show teens — a girl and a boy — looking at smartphones. Overlay text reads: “You can’t get rid of celebrity breakups.” Blue end card reads: “But you can get rid of cold sores in 2.5 days. Abreva” with hand holding tube of product.

Whereas someone about to watch a beauty tutorial might instead have seen this:

An array of makeup — eye shadow and lip gloss palettes, brushes — rotates. Overlay text reads: “Keep amazing pouty lips, but lose cold sores.” Blue end card reads: ”Get rid of cold sores in 2.5 days. Abreva” accompanied by tube of product.

All in, the campaign drove a 41% lift in overall ad recall and a 342% lift in search interest among its target audience across Google and YouTube.

3. What does my experiments road map look like?

If I’ve learned one rule from working in the creative space, it’s this: There are no rules. But smart, strategic experimentation can help us get closer to understanding what resonates and what doesn’t.

A great example comes from brands who partnered with our Unskippable Labs team to explore the question: What is the optimal amount of customisation in a campaign? The results were varied and fascinating. In a quick summary, Coty’s CoverGirl saw that six-second ads with copy-only customisation outperformed or performed on par with the ad that had customised copy and visuals. And Czech auto manufacturer Škoda experimented with long-form ads specifically and saw higher ad recall the more it customised.

You can learn from the experiments of others and also use platforms like YouTube to test and iterate on the go, watch how everything performs, see how engaged viewers respond, and refine your approach based on that immediate feedback.

Using creative intelligence to fuel your work

A lot of people wonder whether technology is coming to take creative jobs. Whenever I get asked this question, I say that there is no machine that can replace a creative thinker with big ideas.

Technology and data are tools that can be used to amplify and fuel your work, but never supplant it.

Explore creative inspiration, tools, and best practices on Google’s creative hub create.withgoogle.com.

Machine learning is like having a billion extra interns, not one Einstein, to make effective ads