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Feb 13
The creative process in advertising, from idea to impressions

The creative process in advertising, from idea to impressions

Someone once told me that creativity doesn’t exist. (?)

While I can’t help but disagree, it also got me thinking—what, exactly, is it?

We often think that creativity is reserved for those who are in those “creative” roles, aka designers and copywriters. I think it’s about time that idea is challenged. I believe that every single person is creative and that, in business, everyone in every department has a unique creative process, especially a unique creative process in advertising.

At the end of the day, creativity is about coming up with solutions, doing things a little differently, and finding unique ways to problem-solve. This is especially true for those in the advertising industry, where truly original ideas are #goals.

The creative process in advertising

There are a lot of ways we can spin this, but today we’ll focus on three main ideas: ad design, digital project management, and the creative workflow as it applies in the digital marketing and advertising space.

Digital project management

What do you want out of your campaign? One thing we see a lot is that many agencies don’t start with their end goal in mind—and that’s crucial to getting the most out of your creative assets.

Start by defining your campaign goal(s) and then work backward from there. Ask yourself, your client, and your team: What do we want the end result to be? Furthermore, who do we want to reach? Then, your creative assets can be perfected around that central idea.

  • Think about your buyer’s journey. It’s not just about the immediate campaign. For example, for a nine-month-long journey, you’ll need to think about how you want to feed them into the funnel and what your ultimate goals are. You won’t want to use the same creatives that you’re using for an awareness campaign to encourage someone to convert later on down the line.
  • Make your goals clear right away with everyone involved. Have your campaign managers sit down with the designers as early on in the process as possible. Make it even more seamless by getting your creative assets for each stage in the campaign ready to go at the start—this way, once a comprehensive campaign has moved to the next stage in the funnel, a fresh, new creative is ready to be plugged & played.

Banner ad design

Now that you have your digital project management under control, when it comes to the banner ad design itself, the most important thing to keep in mind upfront is that the messaging needs to be aligned with your goals. You wouldn’t want to put “buy now” as your call to action on an awareness campaign, AKA when the person seeing it doesn’t even know who you are.

If you own a bike shop, you can’t just throw a bike on a banner and expect it to perform well. What age group are you targeting? What colors, fonts, and messages would appeal to them?

A couple more tips:

  • Manage creative expectations. Don’t leave any one banner ad design up for too long to avoid consumer fatigue. Also, tailor each creative to each stage in your campaign lifetime or funnel. (More on that later.)
  • How you upload your creative assets is key. Be clear with your names and descriptions, and don’t forget to include your landing page URL (where do you want people to go when they click on your ad?), your click-through URL (do you want to redirect them for internal click tracking or analytics? If not, just copy+paste your landing page URL), and any third-party tracking URLs.
  • Use the resources available to you. If you don’t have an in-house designer or a way to outsource your banner ad design, do it yourself! We like free tools like Canva and Bannersnack, and Flexitive is a great (paid) tool for creating HTML5 ads. This post by CreativeBloq has some great resources as well.

Creative workflow

A major theme in this post so far has been about aligning on goals right away. We can’t stress how important it is to know the right information. This will lead to strong creative output so that you’re better able to align the team on a creative direction.

How do you get there?

  1. Start by simply getting prepared. For now, take a step back from your end goal and identify the problem you’re trying to solve. Need more customers? In it for brand awareness? Outline the reasons you’re here in the first place in order to get crystal clear on the why behind the how.
  2. Now, it’s time to brainstorm, but don’t let your inner critic get in the way of your best ideas. It’s hard to give a silly idea the time of day when you know for a fact it’s not what you’ll eventually land on, but write it down anyway. Get crazy! It’ll come together eventually.
  3. It’s pretty obvious what the next step is: refine! Work with your team, campaign managers, or designers to land on your top 1-2 ideas for the campaign. Don’t forget to keep the entire buyer journey in mind.

We talked a bit earlier about setting up creative assets for the entire campaign at the very start. Here’s a common example of what that might look like.

Sequential messaging via retargeting: Utilize retargeting segments to build new creatives off of each previous step in the funnel

  • Queue up one creative for awareness, one creative engagement, and one for conversions.
  • Throughout the lifetime of the campaign, switch the creatives out as needed to appeal to different retargeting audiences.
  • This will move them slowly but surely through the funnel, ultimately leading to conversions.

Armed with expertise in the three focus areas above, your new and improved creative process in advertising will lead you straight down a path to success.

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