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March 25, 2018

Creative Decisions Inspired by Data

Creative Decisions Inspired By Data-2400x1256Illustration by Sharon Romang

This article was originally published @ Blog

Performance marketers live and breathe data and often base their decisions on campaign performance. Yet, creative teams are often left to rely on imagination and product information to create campaign assets. How can advertisers bring data and creative one step closer and craft ads that are not only imaginative, but effective, too? Learn how our creative team uses actionable insights to design beautiful digital advertising.

Delivering Data With the Creative Brief

Before we jump into interpreting data, let’s stop and dissect how marketers can deliver data to the creative team through thorough briefing. If you’re a creative, chances are that, at some point of your career, you’ve been briefed with vague one liners like “Let’s just wow them!” or “Make this look pretty.” While they may sound like directional advice, these do not a creative brief make.

After almost a decade in the creative industry, I dare to say that vague or non-descriptive briefing is the most common culprit to unsuccessful campaigns. If the creative team is not briefed properly, the result rarely hits the nail on its head – at worst the project can become a complete waste of resources.

The goal of a creative brief is to set the strategic groundwork before moving to creative ideation and concepting, preferably through data. The brief should communicate who the audience is, business challenges, desired outcomes, as well as creative guidelines. This information is paramount for the creative team to design content that serves the correct purpose. The clearer the creative brief, the better the campaign.

Our creatives have had the most success with briefs that include at least:

  • The audience profile
  • Marketing challenges
  • Campaign objective
  • Insights from previous campaigns (best performing ads and concepts)
  • Design and copy guidelines

Go Beyond KPIs – Look at Behavioral Cues

When you analyze campaign performance through the lens of a specific objective, such as app installs, your data can tell you much more than just how it is performing against that singular KPI. Take a look at how the audience behaves and base your creative decisions on the bigger picture.

For example: we were working with an app advertiser and analyzed what happened after the audience downloaded the app, from driving purchases within the app to repeat purchase behavior or lack thereof. We realized that while the app rose to the top of its category in terms of downloads, only 10% of the users completed in-app purchases. Our team used that data to produce specific creatives to drive purchases up in retargeting campaigns.

Data, Seasonality, and Performance

Look at the context to understand why your numbers are the way they are, sometimes the creative isn’t to blame alone. If you notice that your costs are increasing, you should look at the larger context.  Are you advertising during high season? Have you scaled your spend significantly recently?

  • Seasonality affects CPA during high-demand days such as Cyber weekend or Black Friday
  • If your app becomes the most downloaded in its category, every new download will be more difficult, and hence, more expensive to acquire
  • Ramping up spend tends to drive up costs: the more people you reach, the more you pay because you’ve previously reached the cheaper actions and impressions

Examples of Data-Based Decisioning for Uber


  • The creative on the left is a lightly animated version of a still ad – the team knew from previous campaigns that video outperformed still creative, which inspired this version.
  • The map creative started performing better once we added a simple layer of seasonality in the visuals and copy.

Testing Creative Performance With Ad Studies

Ad Studies are a great way to test creative effectiveness. In a nutshell, this feature allows you to test the performance of almost any property of Facebook marketing in a scientifically rigorous way. When the ad study is running, all targeted Facebook users are assigned randomly to one cell. If you assign two campaigns in different cells you can be certain that no users will ever see both campaigns, but only one of them. Before you set up the study, it’s good to have a clear idea of what you want to learn and how the results could impact your creative strategy.

Here are a few examples of what you could test, and remember, only test one thing at a time.

  • Branding vs. tactical advertising
  • Video vs. still creative
  • GIF vs. cinemagraph
  • 30 second vs. 15 second video
  • Copy variations paired with the same still or video creative
  • Video or still ad paired with different copy variations

Once you have the results, always ask yourself what you can deduct from your data. For example, if your CTR is higher than average but conversions are lagging, iterating the creative to include clearer offer messaging can improve conversions. You might also find out that the combination of branding and tactical creatives performs better than a single creative on its own.

Our creative team works closely with our customers every day, dissecting their data to better understand how to move the needle through design and storytelling. Stay tuned for more stories about marrying ad buying, optimization, and automation with human-powered creativity.

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