Great advertising needs a place for both the winning formula and the unexpected
A tremendous number of eyeballs are fixed on monitoring the logistics and metrics of advertising and marketing these days.
Which channels perform best when the story is piped through? Is the story loud enough relative to the chatter in the channel to rise above? Do the people attached to each respective pipe react in the way that drives revenue?
At an event I attended a few years ago, there were a significant number of young marketers astounded by how much math and Excel wizardry went into what they do. They weren't unhappy about it; some of them just seemed a little surprised.
While data science continues to explode, we mustn't allow the metrics of behavior to prevent us from trying unexpected things. Testing needs to emerge not just as a data function, but as a function of a story.
Are you testing variables or your story?
I believe those who love advertising study it. They consider who came before them and why those people (and their work) were great. But too often, we study famous campaigns and don't take the time to know what was behind them.
I've seen that Claude Hopkins, an advertising pioneer, has had a recent resurgence of popularity. People love to know what he thought, how he tested and, of course, what David Ogilvy, who has been referred to as the "Father of Advertising," had to say about how Hopkins approached the challenge of selling. Hopkins and Ogilvy weren't just "story people." They were "stories that perform" people.
It is essential when we are studying to apply what we're taking in. One of the things I take away from anyone great in advertising is that they were a risk-taker. They tried the unexpected — they pushed people out of their comfort zones and dared them to try something different.
Does your process leave room for an illogical test?
There must remain a place for risk-taking in advertising and marketing. While clients move toward guaranteed performance and seek to remove risk from budgeting and spending, we can't forget how vital risk-taking is in standing out and riveting an audience.
While we are busy analyzing our algorithms for what converts best, we need to be contemplating what might perform even better. This thinking is too often subjugated to a dynamic bot loaded to the teeth with variable headlines and alternate picture options.
If you've dumped your A, B and C creative options into the platform and find yourself on rinse and repeat — I like to call it "rinse and report" — take a step back.
Build a place in your process for your creative thinkers, especially those with an instinct for sales, to shake up the formula. To do this, ask yourself and your team: Are there any crazy ideas you haven't considered? Why are they crazy? Is the idea something just creatively self-indulgent, or is there a behavioral trigger you haven't pulled that could change everything? Opt for the latter, of course. This encourages your team to think outside the box.
The next time you "rinse and report," and add the slide that says, "We're performing at optimum-industry performance, so you should keep paying us," consider adding another slide that says, "We want to take a chance on something crazy to see if we can move the needle even further."
In the end, clients will pay you for the previous slides in the deck, but they will retain you in the long run for the thinking that informed that last slide.