In the age of big data and analytics, it can be easy to forget that your campaign is ultimately only as good as your creative. Indeed, from a cost to returns ratio, the creative is arguably the most important part of a campaign.
Although more digital advertising companies are appearing on the scene every day, few specialize in creative optimization.
Here's a look at the three types of creative involved in a typical campaign, and why it’s important to think about all three types as parts of one larger customer experience.
The First Creative: The Display or SEM Ad Unit
The role of the ad is not only to get the user to click, but also to set an expectation of what the click will lead to.
With respect to SEM units, the job of the first creative is to convince users that the landing page will speak directly to their needs. After all, when users are searching online, they're looking for something very specific.
When it comes to display units, you've got to be sure that each placement on your media plan looks unique. But that's not enough. It's also critical to study your placements and to develop a creative that is appropriate for each environment.
The Second Creative: The Landing Page
The job of the landing page is to fulfill the promise of the first creative. When users click on an ad and find that they haven't arrived on the site they were expecting, the conversion rates are much lower. You need to be sure that the appearance and messaging are consistent from the creative to the landing page.
The search landing page has even more work to do in that it has appeal to the site visitor but also be SEO friendly. It has to include the right keywords but also have quality content and relevant information for driving conversions.
If you aren't seeing the types of conversions you expect, it could be time to look at a landing page optimizer, such as Optimizely.
The Third Creative: The Retargeted Display Unit
If a user clicks on an ad, visits your site, and then leaves without converting, you can now target that user with display ads. This is the third step in the conversion process.
Click-through rates for these targeted units are significantly higher and many retailers now find them crucial for driving their conversions.
As with the first creative, you need to be conscious of the landing page. If your landing page didn't drive the conversion the first time around, it's a good sign you should be making adjustments.
Site retargeting is still a relatively new phenomenon, but if there was any question that it's the future, it was put to rest with the launch of Facebook’s FBX ad exchange last September, which brought retargeting to a massive new audience.
What’s it All Mean?
In short, it means you can’t afford to look at your creative in isolation. You have to think of the entire customer experience. Look at the relationship between your ad unit and the landing page, and also understand when it's time to increase your conversions by targeting users who don't convert after the first visit with display ads.
It also, of course, means watching results very closely and A/B testing at every step of the way.