Advertising Guest Columns
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CreativeX and Meta at Cannes Lions: 5 takeaways for achieving creative excellence at scale

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As a group, we marketers don’t agree on much. Should we focus on direct response or brand? Is this a good ad or a bad ad? How is effectiveness best measured? 

Yet, in the last two years, we seem to have coalesced around something we all agree on: our lack of deep understanding about the creative is a huge industry blind spot. It is now accepted wisdom that creative has the largest influence on sales uplift and is the most important lever for brand profitability, and yet, compared to the time we invest in measuring the impact of targeting, audience, and placement, the creative is largely ignored. 

At this year’s Cannes Lions, I sat down with Jenny Bullis, VP of Marketing Science at Meta, to discuss how technology and data can help brands shed light on creative effectiveness and help marketers achieve creative excellence at scale. 

Here are the five key learnings from the session: 

1. You can’t manage what you can’t measure 

Creative content has been notoriously difficult to understand in a systematic and objective way in the absence of an industry-wide metric that can serve as a proxy for creative excellence. If brands aren’t measuring their creative in a scalable and objective way, how can they know what steps they can take to enhance and make it work harder for them? 

Unbeknownst to us, marketers are sitting on a huge untapped asset: creative data. Behind every image and video are thousands of data points that can now, thanks to advancements in computer vision, be harnessed and clustered to not only measure the creative decisions we’ve made across all of our content, but to combine that data with performance data to understand how those decisions have driven impact. 

Global leading brands like Heineken, ABINBEV, and Nestlé were the first movers in this space, using creative data for the last 2-3 years as a competitive advantage to help them scale and understand their creative decisions with the confidence of data.  

2. From subjective to objective: creative measurement overhaul

Good vs. bad creative has traditionally been subject to the opinion of the most senior person in the room. As marketers, it’s been well documented that we suffer from the Empathy Gap, often mistaking our preferences for those of our users. This latent bias, if left unchecked, will lead to perpetual content creation that doesn’t speak to the very people we’re trying to reach

This journey of a thousand miles can start with a single step: the Creative Quality Score (CQS). Hundreds of studies from millions of impressions have demonstrated that there are indeed some basic creative first principles (like the need to brand your asset or feature your product upfront) that have repeatedly been proven to move the needle on both sales and brand growth in a statistically meaningful way, and adoption of these best practices, as measured by CQS, are statistically correlated with a decrease in CPM and an increase in brand recall and ROAS.

3. Getting best practice right 

Best practices are platform-specific, and they’re far from the whole picture. But they create a canvas in which a creative idea has a chance to be seen and heard, and without them, it’s been proven that a creative is significantly likely to underperform. 

Meta, for instance, has developed the Brilliant Basics, a set of both media and creative best practices that have been repeatedly demonstrated to improve performance on Meta properties. This includes everything from branding the ad, making it compatible for both sound on & off consumption (most of us scroll through Facebook and Instagram without sound), optimising it for a single business objective, and highlighting the product, or the key value, front and centre, and doing so early. 

If they sound simple, it’s because they are, and they shouldn’t offend or derail any creative idea. However, across an analysis of 1M ads, only 28% incorporate these statistically validated best practices into their content, which means 70%+ of creative work is inefficient. Taken in aggregate, this can mean millions in wasted advertising spend.

4.  Creative in a time of inflation

Inflation. Layoffs. Recession. Today, our marketing budget has about 80% of the spending power than it did when it was first agreed upon 6 months ago, which means we have to figure out how to do more with less. 

There are tremendous efficiency gains to be made from focusing on the creative. Even getting the basics right and increasing your Creative Quality Score has been shown to decrease your CPM costs and cost per views. 

Take Nestle, for example, who demonstrated that optimizing for CQS not only drives lower CPMs, but also higher ROAS. Higher creative best practice adherence (or high CQS) had +66% higher ROAS vs. lower adherence (or low CQS). For every dollar spent, Nestlé saw 66% more returns on the dollar from campaigns containing these creative guidelines.

5. Creative data is an untapped competitive advantage

Similar to programmatic data in the early 2000’s, creative data offers a largely untapped opportunity to truly get ahead. Those who nail down creative quality are graduating to more advanced uses of creative data, tracking everything from brand consistency to the diversity of their casting choices at scale to how, and how frequently, they talk about their ESG commitments. They’re upgrading their existing marketing models to tie this creative data back to sales and brand, thereby gaining a largely untapped competitive advantage that allows them to finally demystify creative performance and measure the most important part of their marketing mix.   

Anastasia Leng
CEO and Founder, CreativeX

CreativeX provides technology that empowers marketers at the world’s leading brands to define, measure and scale creative excellence across their global content. Used by brands like Facebook, Heineken, Bayer, Unilever and more, CreativeX provides the first-ever creative data platform, which allows digital marketing and consumer insights teams to scale great creative decision-making with a single source of truth for tracking the efficiency and effectiveness of images and videos globally. Their unique tools and data set bring transparency to complex challenges, providing a common language to improve creative work and delivering globally relevant learnings to power creative thinking and help marketers build effective and responsible brands with confidence.