How Marketers Can Regain Confidence in Creative

By Van Diamandakis, CMO Persado 

Just when Artificial Intelligence moved from “buzzword” to “must-have,” when people realized, in fact, that they were not going to lose control and AI wasn’t going to take their jobs, the idea of AI influencing marketing creative became part of the narrative. And suddenly, people got nervous again.

Many teams enjoy being creative, coming up with concepts, thinking about design and the aesthetic. They don’t want AI to take that ability from them. I’m here to tell you it’s not going to.

Humans and Machines are like Tony Stark and Iron Man

The idea with AI bridging the gap between creative and optimal customer engagement and revenue begins with the idea that humans and machines are more powerful together. First, we’re talking about direct response marketing, which is designed with a singular purpose to drive engagement, conversion and revenue. When brands have huge e-Commerce revenue their marketing is designed to engage with people, drive them to the website and get them to buy something. Within that realm, we found that the combination of humans and machines generates the best results because it delivers creativity, precision and can deliver the perfect, personalized branded message at scale across every customer journey. 

The average adult knows about 40,000 words. The problem is, we can recognize these words in a book, on a computer screen or when someone else says them, but we don’t readily volunteer them, including in marketing campaign brainstorming sessions. The Persado UK team analyzed 20 top brands in their region and found that, on average, they only used 300 words in email communications. For brands sending out hundreds — if not thousands — of emails per year, that’s just not much variety, and it won’t do much to improve brand engagement and revenue performance. 

A machine knows millions of words, phrases and images, and can sift through thousands of combinations until the precise, best creative is found for a campaign, based on the performance of thousands of campaigns executed before it. It’s evolved now to where it’s not just email but the entire customer journey from email to display and Facebook ads to web and even radio and TV. Humans also need holidays, lunch breaks and they hit creative blocks. Machines don’t. They’re reliable and can provide humans with the boost they need to lift them (and the business) out of a rut.

That’s better than the old way, isn’t it? We once looked at ads as a headline, subhead, call to action (CTA) and promotion. We had qualitative data for what worked or tested well last month and what didn’t. We’d try it, or a/b test it and see what happened. We were relying on hunches, and our a/b tests may have included creative that was “just ok” and “not good at all.” 

Applying data science and AI to creative is the next generation of marketing. It will allow CMOs and other executives to generate digital marketing creative with mathematical certainty, which will, in turn, hold marketing creative accountable for the first time. This is absolutely necessary. A 2018 Nielsen CMO survey reported that 71% of CMOs don’t believe in their creative’s ability to drive results. And after more than $93 billion spent on marketing technology in 2018 alone, 66% of CMOs report that they are not hitting their business targets.

We are a confidence crisis. We’ve hit a wall, and we must do something different otherwise, our strategy is to keep making the same mistakes. That’s insanity.

It’s Math, Not Mad Men

Although the Mad Men days were a lot of fun, times have changed. And, though creativity is still at the heart of marketing, math is now its soul. The digital revolution has taken marketing by storm as has Cloud Computing and e-Commerce. Direct to Consumer business are cropping up by the thousands and many of them have rapidly grown to $100M business or more. With digital, there is a direct relationship with the consumer and every interaction can be tracked and measured. Math now plays a major role in marketing. And, we have already applied data science and AI to marketing, except to the creative. Why not? Words matter and words are the foundational DNA of marketing. Optimizing the creative--and every word in marketing communication is also the last massive greenfield opportunity in martech for marketers. By exactly communicating why we are using each word, phrase and image and being able to measure and predict results objectively, we will be able to deliver a consistent on-brand experience at a personalized level across every moment in the customer journey. Instead of looking at the ad in a Mad Men way, humans and machines will tap into a language knowledgebase of over 1 million words, phrases and images and run experiments against thousands of possible word and phrase combinations to arrive at the exact right creative message that is both on brand and drives the most engagement and revenue. 

CMOs can now be 100% accountable for their creative and have the confidence to know every ad, every message and every word is optimized for every audience, persona and person. Further, the CMO will be able to prove marketing’s contributions to meeting business goals and supporting revenue. There will be no more finger pointing around the table and no more armchair copywriters second-guessing the creative. In fact, CMOs and their teams can and should leverage Analytics from their digital campaigns and apply them cross-channel. The Iron Man impact to both brand engagement and revenue are on average 40 to 70 percent better than what Tony Stark could do alone.

Those numbers are nothing to be afraid of, are they?

Read the first two parts of this series:

Why Marketers Find Themselves in a Creative Confidence Crisis

CMOs: Get Your Organization to Love AI