Thoughts of viagra have been entering our minds of late, and not because of any (wrongly) alleged aspersions of dysfunction. With our work in ReFUEL4, we are obsessed with thoughts of breathing life into campaigns that are about to wither.


Anyone working in digital media knows of the time in any campaign lifecycle, after campaign takeoff, there is a big spurt of performance (stretching the viagra metaphor as far as decency allows), followed by a long tail of despair as the campaign runs its course. Hardly what can be called the warm afterglow of satiation, not if you are in charge of user acquisition!


An article in Forbes analysed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s many appearances in franchise movies, the Fast and Furious series being an example. He is renowned in the industry as ‘Franchise Viagra’. With his looks, swagger, charisma and presence, he has managed to save movie franchises from dying with a whimper.


He is an important analogy for the way creatives perform in digital campaigns. Like actors in Hollywood, ad creatives in digital campaigns have mostly short (sometimes illustrious, sometimes not) lifespans. This lifespan can directly impede campaign performance if you don’t have enough creative variations to sustain it.


Which begs the question: What is a creative variation and what does it mean in this context?


Some background:


The fact is, in the Facebook environment, automated media optimization is highly efficient. With audience insights, interest-based and other forms of targeting, any campaign set up quickly narrows down to the best performing target segments. This can take from a matter of a few hours, up to a fortnight, depending on audience size.


With this focus, the impression frequency to this narrowed audience increases dramatically – driven by the media budget, this smaller audience gets served the same ads in their newsfeed. This accelerates viewer fatigue as they see the same ads again and again. What does pick them back up (geddit?) are new ad creative variations.


In creative terms, we are not suggesting a new campaign direction. That would require ideation and would take too much time and resource and generally misses the point of efficiency.


But what does work is leveraging all the current campaign assets (copy lines, product shots, talent shots), to iterate guided by the campaign creative grid and brand guidelines.


Here is an example of the boost sufficient creative variations can provide:


Below let’s look at an ecommerce app that wanted to drive downloads, but had pushed media optimisation to it’s limit. They wanted change tactics and refresh creatives frequently and reduce CPI to drive reach and performance.


By boosting creative variation of ads (in formats ranging from carousel, video, and cinemagraphs) by 10 new creative variations per day into the auction, the team was able to reduce the cost per install by half, double the reach and the click through rate.


Creative Variation Boost


Finding a talent like The Rock is rare, which is why he is highly sought after in Hollywood. However, in the context of iterating campaign creatives it is possible to plan for the need of these iterations in advance, setting campaign budget and creative resources aside for this eventuality.


A quick checklist for developing creative iterations:


1. Be clear with your brand guidelines – what is allowed and not


2. Get usable campaign assets ready – unlayered graphics files make it easier to pull assets apart and reuse them


3. Don’t reinvent the wheel – creative iterations mean exactly that, ads that look slightly different from what was used before. There is no need to push creative boundaries so far as to create a new creative direction


4. Test, don’t assume: with more iterations, you are freed to A/B test. Don’t assume you know which ads will work


5. More iterations are better – Facebook’s oCPM function works best when it has more creative versions to work with. The larger your budget, the more you need. Think in terms of dozens of versions rather than just a handful


6. Refresh often based on data from A/B testing and amplification – frequency of refresh is determined by many factors, but a rule of thumb is that a single creative has the lifespan of 3-5 days


Vernon Vasu

ReFUEL4's Co-Founder and CMO, Vernon practices anger management through Muay Thai and wine appreciation. But not sequentially.

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