Anastasia Leng, Founder and CEO of CreativeX, discusses why brands should embrace innovation and make creative and strategic use of AI to better understand what works and what doesn’t.
Marketers are rarely bestowed a seat at the board table where a company’s biggest strategic decisions are hotly discussed. And as we progress into 2023 – a year forecast to be stagnant, at best, for British businesses – it’s important to remember that times of macroeconomic volatility are ripe with opportunity for market share rearrangement, incumbent displacement and innovation.
Marketers have a unique window to accomplish two things: elevate their company’s position and boost their strategic role amongst the board. They’ve been granted a rare moment to steer their company in a new direction by taking advantage of three things that only they enjoy: control of a meaningful percentage of budgets, access to data and proximity to the user.
Scarcity is a gift: using slashed budgets to spur process innovation
Too many column inches have been lost to the discussion of whether we are, or are not, in a looming recession. For the purpose of this argument it doesn’t matter (I’ll leave that discussion to the economists): we need to plan for the worst, and even if we expect the best, we know the best for 2023 is rather bleak.
So how do we do more with less? Before taking a knife to budgets, marketers first need to put a microscope on efficiencies within their existing investment and improve processes to get the most bang for their buck.
Take advertising, for example – one of the largest line-items on a marketer’s budget. The majority of advertising today goes behind image and video ads, of which we produce a lot more than we did just five years ago. Yet these ads, thanks to the rapid-fire assembly production line they’ve been put on, score abysmally low on the Creative Quality Score (CQS), a metric that’s been statistically tied to improved media efficiency, such as cheaper CPMs and Cost-per-Completed-Views, as well as better ROAS on offline sales.
CQS measures adoption of basic creative principles – such as logo inclusion or incorporation of subtitles – and each ad’s suitability for the media platform it’s intended for. If it sounds incredibly basic, that’s because it is – but its impact isn’t. In the past two years, nearly 50 Fortune 500 Global Brands have revamped their creative processes to track and measure CQS. In recent months CQS has been mentioned by the CMO of Nestlé during their Investor Day presentation and by the CEO of Diageo during their earnings call for its ability to drive down media cost, thereby further proving the impact marketing can have on the bottom line.
Access to untapped data is a powerful differentiator
Most Fortune 500 organisations have deployed millions, if not hundreds of millions, of image and video ads in the past decade. Underneath each of these ads lies a powerful yet dormant agent: creative data.
Creative data is a collection of thousands of data points that can now be extracted from millions of image and video ads thanks to advancements in AI and machine learning technology. This data can be clustered and grouped to measure everything from the aforementioned CQS to the consistency, diversity, sustainability and accessibility of advertising (not to mention myriad novel use cases that marketers will surely develop).
Armed with a new source of data, especially one that can be embedded into MMM studies or brand lift measurement, marketers can forge a greater sphere of influence by gaining, and sharing, a deeper understanding of what is driving brand and sales success.
The advantage of creative data is its scale: while previous marketing research at the creative level stopped at campaign-level insights (typically overlooked by the board), advancements in technology allow us to measure every creative and move far beyond sampling in understanding the impact of our creative decisions. And scale is something that boards love.
Proximity to the User Propels Organisations Into the Future
Marketing organisations have the unique advantage of being guardians of a company’s users, and a deep understanding of the evolving needs and preferences of your users is a gift. According to the 2022 UK Spencer Stuart Board Index, only 15 per cent of board members in the FTSE 150 (the FTSE 100 and first 50 in the FTSE 250) have a minority ethnic background, and some argue that boards are out of touch.
That argument can be tough to make, and even tougher to advance, but there’s an opportunity here for marketers: by using creative data to measure in-content representation, marketing leaders can shed light on an organisation’s casting and storytelling choices at scale.
They can lead the way on DEI initiatives that will drive change, with a much shorter time to fruition (unlike hiring, for example, where gaps in talent pools need to be addressed through investments in education, which can take a decade to realise). They can also continue to align their company’s positioning with the inclinations and trends of future consumers.
And anyone who can help a company meaningfully and systematically increase its future chances of success and relevance is bound to get an invitation to that elusive board room.
Founder and CEO