What is a Creative Strategist Role, and Why is it Important?
Creative Strategist. It may seem like an oxymoron, like a biased judge or a cowardly soldier.
After all, to be a creative requires imagination, world-building, risk-taking and an element of dreaming. On the other hand, a strategist requires systems, structure, calculated decisions and a clear plan of action. However, the merging of these two results in the Creative Strategist role- a position that is becoming increasingly popular in workplaces. The job combines the left and right brain- keeping your head in the clouds while your feet are on the ground. It requires the merging of emotion and logic, a partnership between the dreaming and doing, in order to meet targets and help businesses grow their revenue.
So, why the rise in need for Creative Strategists? In the last year or so, creative has become the most important cog in the Facebook media buying machine. Let’s discuss the 3 major reasons for this shift.
1. Human Behaviour
According to studies, our attention span has changed remarkably in the last few decades, decreasing from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2018. In fact, scientists now believe that we have shorter attention spans than goldfish. This means marketers and creative teams have a very narrow window to capture their audiences’ interest and “stop the scroll”. Studies have proven that the act of scrolling is highly addictive and stimulates brain pathways in the same mechanism as a chemical addiction. This means social media ads have to be so engaging, they literally stop human nature- quite a task!
Digital marketing experts estimate that most Westerners are exposed to around 4000 to 10,000 ads every single day. At some point, we start a screening process for what we engage with and start ignoring brands and advertising messages that we don’t resonate strongly enough with. On social media especially, the number of businesses joining the platforms increases exponentially on a daily basis. This results in rising CPMs, stiffer competition and a creative bar that is constantly being raised.
3. Every Changing Marketing Environment
By now, everyone is privy to the iOS14 updates, and what they will mean to the media buying space. Pixel tracking will become less efficient, ROAS will no longer be a reliable success metric and overall targeting will become more difficult. However, while this change may leave many marketers scratching their heads, those who focus heavily on creative will come out on top. This major shift has now brought us back to being true marketers- connecting with people and tapping into psychology in order to introduce them to, and sell them on a product.
So, let’s summarise what we’ve just discussed. As humans become less receptive to advertising, updates are made to iOS, and competition and CPMs grow across the platform, creative assets have become the most powerful tool marketers have up their sleeve. While there are many optimisations that media buyers can make within the business manager to improve results, the simplest way to reach targets will always be creative. The better the ad, the more people click, the more people in your funnel, the more people you can retarget, the more conversions you will achieve. Seems simple enough, right?
Well…not exactly. As the social platforms evolve, the creatives must evolve too. Gone are the days that a single still image could be profitable on Facebook for 8 weeks- now teams must focus on building a strong feedback loop between the creative team and media buyers, anticipating when campaigns will burn out, and be ready with the next tests. This is where a Creative Strategist comes in.
Now, what exactly do they do…?
Understanding the Client
One of the most important elements of creative strategy is researching and understanding the brand. Who is their audience? What pain point are they satisfying? Who are their competitors? What would a customer’s biggest objection be?
Market research is an essential process for all businesses and will lay down the foundation for marketers. Broken down to the basics, it focuses on understanding your customers by exploring their attitudes, needs, motivations and behaviour as they relate to the business.
This ultimately helps you better identify, understand, analyse and retain customers. By gathering data around buyer personas, target audiences and competitor analysis, you will be able to meet buyers where they are.
What platform are they most likely to use? Would they interact more with a product shot or a lifestyle image? Are they likely to purchase the products upon their first time seeing it, or will this be a longer buyer journey that requires nurturing?
There are a few useful tools that will help you gather this information:
1. Facebook Ad Library
The Ad Library is a database where you search for all ads that are running across Facebook platforms. Your competitors’ social advertising strategies provide incredibly valuable insight into your own campaigns.
You can search by Brand Name or even Keyword. At the top of each ad, icons indicate the placements in which it ran (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, etc.) and you can also view how long the ad has been running for.
By analysing the creatives your competitors are using, you can identify how they are positioning themselves in the market, and also infer what their audience is resonating with. Are they using a variety of creative formats, such as videos, carousels and collection ads? Do they include text overlays in their images? If so, what type of message are they pushing?
Additionally, the Ad Library is a fantastic place to observe how competitors are writing their copy. Is long-form or short-form more prevalent? Are they writing in a formal or colloquial tone? Analysing this data helps you understand your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and allows you to refine your strategy in response.
2. Google Trends
Google Trends is an insight tool built by Google that allows you to visualise the popularity of searches. You can choose to see the relative popularity of a search term over the entire history of Google or within a certain time period.
This data allows marketers to analyse spikes in searches and identify trends within specific locations to make predictions about the future. You can also view related topics, which is useful when building buyer personas, as you are able to get a fuller picture of the interests and buying habits of your target customer.
Additionally, this tool can be used to compare search terms, which helps when selecting keywords to highlight within creative or copy. Choosing trending “buzzwords” is one way to immediately connect with your audience.
3. Facebook Audience Insights
Facebook Audience Insights helps you connect your brand directly to your customers. Understanding your audience is about more than just their age or gender. What do they do for a living? What are their hobbies? What pages do they like on the platform?
While this tool is vital for media buyers, creatives should also take advantage of Audience Insights too. Building a complete customer profile and understanding their activity outside of the Facebook platform is an incredibly useful tool when writing creative briefs and copy.
4. General Customer Feedback
Besides the major platforms listed above, a savvy Creative Strategist should always keep a lookout for customer feedback and opinions. Websites such as Quora can be a gold mine for understanding what topics people are interested in within your specific niche.
If, for example, you are working for a beauty company, it’s important to know which skincare products people most are interested in at the moment. Similarly, if you are doing lead generation for a real estate agent, you can search Quora for commonly asked questions, and address this immediately in your creative and copy.
Comments under your or your competitors’ organic posts are another great way to expose yourself to the current dialogue in your niche. Find out what people are commenting on in real-time, and use creative methods to address these in your ads. Other resources, such as polls, surveys and statistics are also readily available to marketers online.
While a lot of the research groundwork is conducted in the early stages of a campaign, a Creative Strategist should be constantly monitoring the above resources (plus more) to keep ahead of the market and stay relevant in a rapidly changing landscape.
The Importance of Creative Reporting
So, now you’ve done the research. You understand the unique selling propositions of a business, target audience, key competitors and what common objections may arise. You are ready to create and test a new campaign.
What comes next? Well, perhaps the most important part of the Creative Strategist’s role. Communication.
Communication of results (both the wins and failures) is essential for the success of a campaign. Digital marketing requires a dynamic, reactive and responsive approach. We receive performance data instantaneously; how many people clicked on the ad, what percentage of the video they watched, how many people viewed the content, how many people added to cart, etc. There are many metrics that marketers can observe to obtain valuable information, however below, we will run through a few of the key ones.
1. Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPMs)
CPMs can also be considered as a ‘relevance score’. The higher the relevance score is, the lower the CPMs. This metric can be used to gauge exactly how relevant your ad is to the audience you are presenting it to. When launching a campaign, if your CPMs are extremely high, this means your relevance score is low, and the ad is not resonating with the audience in the way it should. There are many factors that can affect CPMs (competition, time of the year, audience targeting) however, it’s a useful metric to keep an eye on to see if your campaign is appropriately relevant.
2. 3 Second Video Views
The first 3 seconds of the video matters the most in digital marketing. While traditional advertising follows a more conventional storyline with a gradual build-up, social marketing needs to be reverse manufactured. The first 2-3 seconds need to capture interest immediately, while the remainder of the creative needs to backfill the rest of the vital information. If this metric is low, this is a good indicator that the ads creative is not thumb-stopping enough, so it might be time to go back to the drawing board on the opening scene.
3. Video Engagement
To understand how long people are engaging with your content for, it’s incredibly useful to dig into the Video Engagement section. This will allow you to see how many people watch the first 25%, 50% and 100% of the video and the average watch time. From this data, you can understand where your video views begin to decrease, and exactly where the drop-off occurs. If the drop-off is early in the video, this might be an indication that the first few seconds are not engaging enough, and you may need to brainstorm a new, more “thumb-stopping” opener. Conversely, if the drop-off occurs later in the video, this is an indicator that your video has a great hook but gets less interesting towards the end. Video engagement data is a great metric to measure strong and weak points within your video.
4. Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Perhaps the most important metric for creative performance on the Facebook platform is CTR, which measures the ratio of clicks (how often someone clicked on your ad) to impressions (how many times your ad was viewed on the platform) for individual ads. According to a 2020 study, the average Facebook CTR is approximately 1.00%. A low CTR but high average watch time means people are seeing your ad, but aren’t taking action, which may mean that the messaging isn’t clear, the call to action isn’t strong enough or the offer isn’t enticing enough. When Facebook sees your ads are getting impressions but no clicks, it logically assumes your audience doesn’t find the ad relevant and this can result in paying more per click and overall poor performance. Improving CTR can be facilitated through copy change or a creative refresh.
While there are many metrics that can provide marketers with valuable data, the four above provide an insightful overview of creative performance. The method in which you receive, interpret and communicate this data back to your creative team is highly personalised and depends on a multitude of factors. The end fact, however, remains the same- reacting to creative data is pivotal to a campaign’s success.
So, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this post! I hope you’ve now got an insight into what a Creative Strategist is, the importance of the role and the reason it’s growing in popularity across all industries. As human behaviour changes, competition increases and the platforms themselves develop, it’s pivotal to understand all aspects of your business, and also to develop clear and thought-out methods of reporting in order to constantly improve your creative output. Ultimately, a Creative Strategist is a diverse role that combines creative thinking with thought-out business plans in order to create thumb-stopping social ads that result in conversions.