Can AI unleash creative nuance in J&J advertising?

Frame-by-frame, one healthcare giant is taking measurement of its visual ad portfolio to a granular level. Can machine learning really put a cost on creative?

Performance marketing sees a huge focus on media performance – understandably so. 

By contrast, the role of creative can be more hunch-based – the 'art bit' compared to the science of data and algorithms that analyse media spend and placement.

However, leaving creative to gut feeling can be costly, says Ander Lopez Ochoa, EMEA head of digital, media and e-commerce marketing at Johnson & Johnson.

“Creative can impact plus or minus 15% on ROI. It seems natural that we need to make sure that we are executing creative at top notch,” he says.

To try and understand how creative works and how to make it better by improving performance during a campaign, the healthcare giant has teamed up with VidMob in EMEA to use its platform to analyse existing social and digital creative campaigns at a granular level and optimise them in market.

VidMob OS uses AI to analyse ads frame-by-frame to understand how the different elements in the anatomy of the ads affect performance. VidMob will use the resulting creative intelligence insights to produce new and optimised versions through its community of creators. 

According to Pablo Dopico, head of global brands & agencies EMEA at VidMob, the AI-powered tools will look under the skin of every piece of creative. VidMob is looking back at two years of creative history including such elements as text and colour contrast, where the call to action is, where the talent looks, facial expressions, pace of the edit, and logo placement.

“We correlate those elements with performance and start to understand the role of each part of the ad for any audience anywhere,” says Dopico. “We can help optimisation of the creative decision. Traditionally it is hard to explain why a campaign worked or not.”

The difference between working or not can be tiny, but if you can identify it and change it, the results can be massive, he says.

Johnson & Johnson will use the technology to examine how different nuances play out in different parts of EMEA. Like many multinationals, it operates a lead ad model where one country produces ads for other markets potentially missing out on local cultural nuances.

Using VidMob, it hopes to be able to understand the nuances of creative performance specific to brands and markets to complement its creative briefings for 2022.

“Right now we may only be changing the actor and don’t know whether people smiling works better in Germany than Spain. That’s what we want to look at,” say Ochoa.

VidMob has also discovered that what works changes over time as well as by region.

Lockdown affected what creative approaches played best. In early 2020, the best performing ads had the talent looking right at the viewer. However, with lockdown, this approach started to underperform. 

“It was a consequence of social distancing and we found that an indirect approach was more effective,” says Dopico.

Another unexpected lockdown insight was that indoor scenes stopped performing as well as outdoor, as people perhaps unconsciously railed against being locked up. 

VidMob will also help Johnson & Johnson to globally implement best practice on various platforms. A channel like TikTok is front-loaded with emotion. However, Facebook is accessed in a more rational manner which can make it more product focused, compared with the people-centric approach of Instagram or other story platforms.

Ochoa says one of first questions from the brand teams was what role the technology played in the creation process.

“It complements other tools like Nielsen Ad Effectiveness and System One. It is not to help assess the quality of a brand idea and how it drives purchase and brand recognition – we have those. VidMob is here to help us once we have that done and optimise that asset,” he says.

As such, he says that any fears of AI taking over the creative process are ill-founded. 

“It will just add value, making the life of a creative agency easier and more rewarding because they will have access to affordable and quick tools to do their job better. No one was doing this before,” he says. “Imagine how powerful it will be to run meta-analysis on creative cultural nuances.” 

Dopico adds: “It helps you back up creative decisions but it doesn’t replace human creativity. It complements it.”