For many companies, experimentation can be met with hesitation because, let’s be honest, the fear of failure is real. However, even more real is how crucial it is for companies to have an experimental mindset in order to be ready for what’s to come — especially with AI in the picture.
Agencies are critical partners in keeping brands up to speed on new AI-powered solutions and helping them stay competitive. We asked an expert at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi Canada/Synergize about how to foster a culture of experimentation, and why it’s crucial to embrace this mindset in order to harness the power of AI-driven tools to multiply your business results.
Easing the client in
Adopting an experimental mindset can come with a host of questions and risks. For Saatchi & Saatchi Canada, helping a major client without an e-commerce platform test AI tools in order to increase return on ad spend was challenging. But having a trusting partnership helped in building creative work-arounds.
The agency took a staggered and conservative approach to this experiment, which helped gain client buy-in. “There was a lot of nuance that had to be factored in during the test setup,” says Melissa Redman, SEM account director at Saatchi & Saatchi Canada, “but we always ensure to keep our clients informed throughout the entire process.”
During a pilot program for this client last year, the agency handpicked campaigns of different volumes and implemented testing over three months to develop enough performance data to earn Saatchi & Saatchi the green light to continue experimenting.
We work very closely with our clients throughout the testing process […] they are really engaged and open to testing new campaign innovations.
The client’s established willingness to try new things was helpful, but at the same time, the client was also held to strict performance goals. The test-and-learn approach provided the security that senior stakeholders required. It ensured that the impact of a potential failed test was small — the learnings from it could immediately be applied to a new iteration of the test until the best outcome was reached.
“The mindset is already there [and] it’s very encouraging,” says Redman. “We work very closely with our clients throughout the entire testing process so that we can collaborate on the next steps while results come in. They are really engaged and are always open to testing new campaign innovations.”
Embracing the new, one step at a time
Convincing clients to adopt an experimental mindset is a tailored process. In Redman’s experience, smaller clients can have very fixed budgets, so a lot of effort is put into leveraging every dollar and maximizing spend as efficiently as possible. Even for midsize clients, new tech isn’t always their first thought, and that can result in the hardest conversations around embracing and experimenting with AI.
Shifting a client’s mindset is as much about how the money is spent as it is about strategically aligning with business KPIs and goals.
Businesses of all sizes are concerned about their bottom line, and it can take many rounds of convincing to be able to shoot your experimental shot. “We want the clients to feel like they are part of the conversation when we are looking to adopt new technologies,” says Redman, “so they feel confident that this is the best strategic direction for them.”
And this conversation isn’t just happening with media teams, but all the way up the ladder, to prove why hopping on a new tool is worth the exploration and, ultimately, risk.
Shifting a client’s mindset is as much about how the money is spent as it is about strategically aligning with business KPIs and goals. “Once we make the case of ‘Here’s a new innovation, this is what we want to do, this is what it is, why it should work, [and] what we anticipate to see,’ they usually say yes,” says Redman.
An experimental mindset also applies to leveraging tools refreshed with AI capabilities, like broad match. While Search relevance still matters, machine learning techniques and large language models can help marketers better understand a user’s intent. This means relying on trained AI to match ads to Search queries not yet considered, which could actually lead to successful business results.
How to implement an experimental mindset
While there isn’t an exact formula to future-proof your business, it’s the experimental mindset that can set you up for success to embrace a rapidly changing technological future.
According to Redman, these are three key approaches to take when shifting to a culture of experimentation:
- Ensure there is a firm understanding of the technology so that it can be easily conveyed to the client.
- Have a plan in place, know the steps to adopt new technology, and set the right goals or benchmarks.
- Run a set test so that there’s something to compare campaign performance to.
Fostering a culture of experimentation and embracing the power of AI may seem risky — but it’s even riskier for marketers to get left behind. As technology evolves and new releases become new standards, taking the chance to learn as things are released ensures your business is at the forefront.
“The culture at Saatchi & Saatchi is to be strategic partners to our clients and to share innovative solutions that will help drive their business forward,” Redman says. “We work very closely with Google to gain insight and access to these new tools so we can do just that.”