Stop Overthinking Your Advertising Creative

Advertising is an inherently creative industry. Sure, there is a lot of work that goes into the analytics side to ensure that you’re targeting the right customers at the right time and place. But at the end of the day, what captures the attention of your target audience is the creative. The words, images and videos you use to tell your brand’s story.



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© Portra | Getty Images


The thing is, this is where a lot of advertising campaigns fall short. This isn’t because the people behind the creative content aren’t any good. Rather, it’s because they fall into the trap of overthinking their creative.

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When you overthink your creative, you have a tendency to second-guess your decisions. You spend money on things you don’t actually need to create a compelling ad. And quite often, this results in creative that your audience will simply gloss over — especially if they’re looking at it on social media. Here are three areas you can and should stop overthinking immediately.

Related: How to Reach Millions of Europeans With Creative Advertising

1. Obsessing Over High-Fidelity Images

One of the biggest pitfalls on social media is the use of high-fidelity images and video. Advertisers are right to value quality images on social. According to Brain Rules, pairing information with a relevant image increases three-day recall rates from 10 percent to 65 percent. A 2018 survey from HubSpot found that 54 percent of customers wanted more video content from their favorite brands.

Online advertising creative has naturally seen a shift to prioritize videos and engaging images. But quite often, marketers put too much effort into making everything look “just right,” and that can ultimately backfire with lower online engagement.

While high-quality images are a must for ecommerce product pages, they can actually be less effective when used for a social media campaign. This is in large part because of how Facebook and other social platforms integrate advertising content as part of a user’s feed. Ads are mixed in with organic content from friends and family.

When advertising creative looks obviously staged or overly produced, it can create a visual clash with the surrounding organic content. This instantly signals to the viewer that this is an ad, not a post that they’re looking for. Zdnet reports that as many as four out of 10 users scroll past social media ads without reading them.

High-fidelity images signals that your creative is an ad to be skipped. Using low-fidelity creative that looks more like an organic post can help counteract this by getting users to stop and read. Then, copy and other elements make the emotional connection that gets them to click. While you should still aim for eye-catching and engaging visuals, leaving the final result slightly “unpolished” could make all the difference for your engagement.

2. The Quest for Viral Content

The rise of social media has led to a dramatic shift in the way we talk about advertising creative. Nowadays, far too many creatives have shifted their focus to trying to produce something that will “go viral.”

The problem with this strategy is that it causes you to overthink your creative and under-think the actual purpose behind your online marketing content.

As Matt Rhodes writes for Social Media Today, “Social is about interactions, not broadcast, and brands will get most success if they focus on truly understanding the role they can play in this mix. And this requires good planning and strategy skills — understanding the audience you do (and can) reach on social media. Who they are, why they might engage with you and what you might have to add to their discussions and challenges.”

If you pause to think about it, how often does content that tries to go viral really fulfill this role? When the focus is on getting as many people as possible to see a funny video or image, the actual needs of your target audience are likely to get overlooked. Even your core products and services may be neglected in the chase for viral content. Rather than focusing on the customer and their needs, you are instead focused on your five minutes of internet fame.

Your creative should always come back to the needs and interests of your target audience. Going viral is an exercise in vanity. Quality creative helps you build a sense of community for lasting online engagement and traffic.

3. Letting Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Once the creative has been developed, there’s a natural tendency to want to ensure that it is completely perfect before it is sent out into the world. This is a constant in advertising, regardless of whether you’re producing a blog post, a Facebook ad or a traditional print ad.

There’s nothing wrong with fine-tuning advertising creative. For agencies, getting notes from the client can be a helpful way to ensure that delivered creative homes in on the desired message. But far too many advertisers overthink this and get more people involved in the review process than there need to be.

Writing for Content Marketing Institute, Sujan Patel puts it this way: “If you’re passing an article to 10 people to review, make changes and approve before it can go live, something has to give. You’re wasting time on things that have minimal impact on how your audience receives the content. You could even damage the quality of the content itself. Too many changes by too many people, and parts of your original message could get lost. The same rule applies to your content ideas. If it takes teams of people to say ‘yes’ before you’re able to proceed with an idea, you’re going to lose out.”

Avoid the pitfalls of overthinking advertising creative as a team by limiting the number of people responsible for the review process. Streamlining this process will help you get more creative out to where it can make an impact. Similarly, having one chief creative or team developing creative across campaigns can ensure the consistency of how your brand is being perceived.

Related: Advertising is Changing — Know How to Lean into the Change

When you stop overthinking your advertising creative, it becomes easier to generate engaging ideas and concepts without stressing over it being perfect in every way. When you remove these mental roadblocks, you actually free up your creative team to test ideas that are more likely to grab the audience’s attention and make an immediate impact.

When the entire process for creating advertising content becomes less complex, you’ll get better results without needing to match the marketing spend of the big brands. You’ll get a genuine ROI boost.

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