Optimization and targeting. Segmentation and analytics. There are countless tools that let digital marketers track the effectiveness of their campaigns, and even tweak them on the fly for a better ROI. And yet, when it comes to accepting new ad formats and strategies, there are still cries for "better metrics" and "more accountability."
What of creativity? Don’t ads need to be engaging and beautiful enough to attract a click (if that’s the metric you’re going for) in the first place?
The notion of crafting gorgeous digital campaigns seems to be an afterthought to the analytics – particularly when it comes to display. In an Adweek op-ed, comScore CMO Linda Abraham argues there are two key reasons that the industry hasn’t focused more on the creative:
"Digital" brains don’t value creative like "analog" brains do
"This isn't entirely surprising -- after all, an industry that thinks in terms of the 'science' of ones and zeroes does not have a natural inclination toward valuing the 'art' of the creative."
Digital campaigns don’t attract big budgets, so the creative isn’t a priority
"Over the years, display ads have been treated mainly as commodities. Because these 'pork bellies' generated almost no click-throughs, advertisers and their agencies were reluctant to give the creative the time of day."
So bland ads fail to inspire clicks, but there’s no thought given to the idea of making the ads more enticing in the first place. Then, adding insult to consumer injury, the industry chooses to make the ugly ads more intrusive, bigger and harder to ignore.
Is that the way to go? Remains to be seen. The Online Publishers Association (OPA) says its bigger, bolder ads have been a success, but many outspoken execs disagree or question whether the research is unbiased. Interestingly enough, Abraham suggests more data – attained through creative testing – is actually the solution to the “bad creative” problem:
"It's no longer sufficient to simply acknowledge that creative may be important in online advertising -- it's time to demonstrate the value of our medium by turning online creative testing into a discipline."
Of course, comScore has a creative optimization and consulting division that aimed at doing just that. But Abraham’s shameless plug aside, what do you think? Is creative testing the key to producing better ad creative, or should the industry focus on developing better experiences (like iAds, branded entertainment, advergames, etc.) overall?