How Great Creative Elevates Digital Marketing | Element Three

I’m a born and bred creative. I grew up drawing, singing, writing songs, making up stories, and playing music at the family reunion talent show. I came up in the advertising world as a writer, and have collaborated with art directors, videographers, other writers, musicians, and illustrators.

When I came to Element Three, I was most excited about working with not just fellow artists but also a team of digital and paid marketing specialists who dive into the details of where the right audiences are, what their interests are, how those interests overlap, what behaviors we should be tracking, and what messages are most effective.

I quickly realized how much we both—digitals and creatives—need each other. And how every campaign needs us both. Read more about why that kind of collaboration is important here.

Social platforms are publishers. It’s about the content.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Snapchat have all become less about your narrow group of friends and more about a wider bevy of interests, people, and brands. Effectively, they’re all publishers of content first and foremost. That alone tells you how important the content itself is.

Between digital and paid marketing specialists, you can hone in on the right audience, the right timing, the right type of ad (image, video, carousel, slideshow, collection, stories), and the right objectives and goals. Read about how to make those choices here.

It’s amazing how refined your choices can be, and that’s the right foundation. But it’s only the foundation. On top of that, you have to build content that’s worth a user’s time.

We can’t ignore the fact that users can ignore us.

We’re all exposed to somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 ads every single day, according to digital experts. Flat out: our brains can’t process that much information, give it our attention, and then get anything else done in our day. So we’ve all gotten pretty savvy at ignoring most of the advertising we see. I don’t blame us. I do it, too.

We shouldn’t be discouraged by those kinds of figures, though. They’re just a challenge for us all to do better.

We’re all battling for attention, but once you have my attention, creative is the variable. If your video sucks, you will lose.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Every great creative I’ve ever met is deeply passionate about contributing only good advertising—never badvertising—to the world. We want to make things that resonate with people and make their lives better, not just add to the clutter.

When we pour that passion (backed by solid digital strategy) into the creative we make, we see users respond in droves.

In the past few years, we’ve seen incredible lead conversion in our Airstream campaigns, which tells us when we say the right things to the right people, we can really make things happen.

Check out our Gift of Adventure Campaign case study.

You can also view our Airstream case study on Facebook’s website.

We should always set the medium and the message up on a date.

We’ve all heard “The medium is the message,” and its contradiction “Content is king.” But I tend to think of the medium and the message as two people I’d set up on a date with each other in hopes that they fall madly in love and have a destination wedding I can drink at. Or maybe they just cohabitate for years and years. Whatever feels right for them.

Point is, the user doesn’t see them as separate, mutually exclusive entities, and so they aren’t. And great ads are those that are built not just for the medium they’re on, but also the state of mind the user is in when they’re viewing that particular medium.

Appealing to a state of mind is what being a professional creative is all about. Truly inspired concepts come from empathizing with the audience, from digging into the why behind a brand, from finding a key truth that people can really relate to, and from communicating that truth in the right way. I look at my own work through the lens of the same three criteria every time:

Does it move you?

Does it inspire an emotional reaction that you’ll remember? Does it connect with you on a deeper level? Does it make you laugh? Cry?

Does it teach you?

Does it open your eyes to something new? Does it show you a new perspective? Does it teach you how to feel more comfortable in your own perspective?

Does it remind you?

Does it start/continue your journey? Does it remind you to research whether something is right for you? Does it get you a step closer to deciding whether it’s right?

Simple interactions should matter.

I’m not saying simple interactions can’t have short, sweet, simple creative. They can and should. I am saying that they all have to be considered from a creative perspective. Explaining a product feature doesn’t always demand an expensive TV spot, but telling the story creatively still matters.

Take this Tesla video that shows how Dog Mode works.

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Open your mind to how digital and non-digital can work together.

Concepting ads used to start with big ideas for traditional spaces, and then you’d work them into the digital space. These days it’s the opposite. But I think there’s still some nice hand-in-hand opportunity between the two.

Take this Spotify billboard campaign.
Spotify Green Billboard on side of New York Street

Green Spotify Subway AdImage of a billboard with Ed Sheeran in it on the side of brick building
Source: Spotify

These are billboards (that could easily appear as digital assets as well) that represent an online experience (streaming music) in an offline setting. But they inspire you to open Spotify, so they take the experience right back online. Plus, the creative just “gets” you, even if you don’t overtly relate to the specific playlist. They’re tapping into a key truth: all of us make weird playlists of the music we love. And Spotify lets you do your own thing.

Don’t start from zero every time.

At E3, we strategize a starting point for every campaign, and then optimize from there. It helps that we’re not too precious about our work and we’re always willing to change things when those changes will make a better experience for the user. Sometimes we learn that users are looking for video or longer content, which tells us they’re ready to dig in and learn a little more. So we deliver that. Other times we see that users are anxious to get right to product specs, so we cater our creative to get them there quickly. It’s different every time, but we also don’t have to start from zero every time. After tweaking throughout a campaign, I take everything I learned and let the next campaign start that much further ahead.

Here are some of my favorite learnings from my fellow E3ers and our work together:

Ultimately, great strategy without great creative or great creative without great strategy will leave you in the same predicament. The strategy gets you on stage, but you still have to make the speech. So do all of your hard work justice and make sure you’re saying something worthwhile, catered to the people you’re talking to.