Digital marketers are increasingly realizing that social platforms, with their large scale and ample first-party data, present an unparalleled opportunity to reach audiences with personalized content. But creative relevance is key to secure that initial consumer engagement.
Take Nike’s Mamba Day initiative, which picked up a bronze award in this year’s Cyber Lions. The sportswear brand wanted to own the occasion of basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s retirement, so it rolled out a social campaign featuring a host of celebrities offering their “last word” on Bryant’s sporting legacy. The campaign resulted in 2.9 billion owned and earned impressions for Nike, and accompanying hashtag #MambaDay was used more than 2.5 million times.
Even more impressive, however, was the creative methodology used by the brand to connect with users across multiple social platforms. Nike ambassadors were able to post adaptable “Last Word” posters to their own social channels. On Twitter, the sportswear giant created the first branded athlete emoji, and on Snapchat, it rolled out a national geofilter to U.S. users featuring an image of Bryant holding his hand to his ear.
The creative challenge
Research by Ipsos has shown that 75 percent of a campaign’s brand and ad recall is determined by creative quality. Strong, platform-appropriate assets create “pausing power” in the news feed, allowing ads more time to resonate with consumers.
Yet creativity is too often sacrificed at the expense of other media goals, with assets simply being replicated across various advertising channels, irrespective of each platform’s unique attributes and functions.
Consumers use social in ways that differ greatly from how they consume more traditional forms of media, such as print and TV. They also display vastly different behaviors across the various social platforms, meaning that the “build it once, run it everywhere” model of advertising is no longer relevant.
Many advertisers face a clear obstacle in the pursuit of creative flexibility: cost. When working with traditional agencies, brands are often charged a significant premium, even when simply adapting an overarching concept from one social platform to another. As a result, many brands opt to simply rehash TV ads and print creative for paid social purposes—an approach that has been proven insufficient in the battle to win over discerning social users.
Decreasing user attention spans
In the light of fragmented consumer attention spans, capturing and maintaining users’ attention is more important than ever. Research from Facebook has shown that, on average, the network’s users spend only 1.7 seconds with any given piece of content served on mobile.
A thorough understanding of user behavior and preferences is needed to make the most of new and quickly evolving ad formats, but also to efficiently tweak assets so that they fit with not only the native style of platforms, but also with the needs of individual audience segments.
So how can advertisers best capture users’ attention with thumb-stopping campaigns?
First of all, it is imperative to keep the overall campaign goal in mind when building or altering creative assets. Enticing people to watch a video to learn more about a brand requires a very different approach than driving users to purchase, and creative, as well as copy, should always be tailored accordingly.
In addition, it is usually best to focus on one single key performance indicator; this, too, depends on the advertiser’s overall objective. If you’re launching a brand awareness campaign, take a closer look at ad recall as it relates to reach and frequency. On the opposite end of the funnel, the focus should be on a completely different set of metrics, such as cost per click or cost per action.
The importance of real-time optimization
Social advertising is also unique in that it allows brands to analyze and optimize campaigns in real time. A/B testing is a great way to hone in on what types of creative and messaging resonate best with an audience.
While the possibilities are close to limitless, advertisers ought to ensure that they approach testing with clearly defined goals and the right parameters in place. By quickly identifying best- and worst-performing assets, brands can amend their campaigns accordingly and also close the loop between results and future creative strategy to drive efficiencies going forward.
So how does the industry meet the challenge of creative optimization for paid social? The answer is simple: Rather than maintaining an old-fashioned system of traditional media, where creative input is limited to the start of campaign development, creative optimization should be viewed as an ongoing process that is revisited throughout the entire campaign lifecycle.
By adapting creative assets for the idiosyncrasies of each social platform—not to mention the fast-evolving and increasingly immersive ad formats—brands can ensure even more impressive social outcomes to wow both users and industry judges.
Lauren Brock is a client strategy manager at social media advertising agency Adaptly.