Digital marketing has surged into the advertising world like a tsunami. And as this revolution was unfolding, the creative side of the industry took a back seat to tactics… search marketing, programmatic, web platforms, social media, blogs and marketing automation.

However, a new reality is now upon us. With the exponential growth of digital advertising, it is becoming more and more difficult to cut through on consumer online platforms. Facebook and Google are getting better at playing traffic cop for the virtual world. Ad blockers are more popular. The sheer volume of display ads is making people simply ignore most of them. The clutter is numbing and, as a result, online consumers have become very selective in granting time and attention.

With this deluge of digital advertising in place and fierce competition underway for consumer mindshare, it is no longer enough to know how to harness the latest Google algorithm or mobile app. Now, more than ever, there is a greater need to cut through the clutter in order to connect. Great creative is once again vitally important. For marketing to resonate with consumers, creative must regain its swagger and get its digital mojo on.

How Did We Get Here?

Like many things in life, great creative has always been produced out of the necessity to stand out among the competition. Nobody ever bought pizza and stayed at the office late into the night designing new creative because they wanted to. They did it because they had to.

However, as the digital revolution came on, it wasn’t the creative that was driving digital campaigns. It was the tactics. It was knowing how to do it. For a while, the creative didn’t have to be better than the other guy because everything was new, and everyone was running to it. The industry was generating engagement simply by being where the online consumers were.

I know very few clients who want to spend time and money on great creative merely for the sake of great creative. They make that investment when it is called for and beneficial. And for a while, it just wasn’t as necessary when it came to online marketing. Those late night pizza deliveries to the office were no longer as frequent.

Back to the Future

But now with the ad density and clutter on the digital landscape, the challenge is greater than ever to cut through and get attention. And the need for great creative is back on the center stage.

A study by comScore ARS combined data from hundreds of unique digital campaigns to see which variables resulted in the best relative impact on sales, the most important business metric. The research confirmed what we’ve practiced here at EVR for over 30 years: Great creative is responsible for 52% of shifts in brand sales (market share), making it the #1 driver of revenue.

So what creative works on digital? Well, the same concepts apply as they always did. Evoke emotion. Be clever in a way that rewards the viewer. Don’t shout for the sake of shouting. There is uniqueness on the edges. Much of the industry is missing all of this.

Because of the clickability and measurability of online marketing, immediate gratification is important. We need engaging content to inform and entertain. It’s like call-to-action on steroids. Look at banners as the new version of the billboard. You have four seconds to get their attention, so it better be an arresting graphic and short, pithy copy.

We’ve been here before with the original pioneer of online marketing: websites. Early websites weren’t pretty. They were archaic, cryptic and ugly by today’s standards. Early web designers were just trying to catch up to the technology. UX and more web design grew up to help the visitor navigate and absorb the content. The challenge became to hold their attention long enough to get them engaged and remain on the site.

How Do We Fix It?

You don’t see a TV ad or a billboard ten times a day. But the market is barraged by digital ads, so we’re creating lots of them every day. And it can be hard to do that at the drop of a hat.

One of the keys to getting this done well is to cultivate a seamless integration of thought process among the creatives and digitals who now sit at the same table for almost every project. It might seem like a daunting task to get these left and right brains together in a harmonious way, but it can happen if you have the right people and establish it as the fabric of how you work.

Just Do It

A great example of this at scale is the ongoing expression of the iconic “Just Do It” tagline at Nike. A brand that was founded on selling the concept of “inspiration” expands this beyond just a well-produced TV spot. While very digital, Nike is creating meaningful micro moments that go beyond just the latest All-Star sponsorship. Stories of inspiration are told through a very diverse cultural lens leveraging influencers, social movements and narratives from the average person.

nike

This not only requires great creative, but a diverse mix of creative minds at the table to communicate the concept in many ways.

Just Doing It

In a recent panel discussion among brand strategists at Cannes Lions, a festival dedicated to creativity, eBay’s chief marketing innovation officer for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), Dan Burdett, said marketing departments are drowning in too much information.

When successful, it’s invigorating. And the results prove it works.