IAB Member Q&A: Effective Digital Creative Part 2

On September 02, 2020 Research & Resources

The latest hot topic for Q&A is the role of creative in digital advertising effectiveness and why it’s important to invest in creative, apply best practice, test it and create a brands own benchmarks to continually strive for optimal creative design and messaging.

This member Q&A is a two part series. In part one we covered off best practices for designing digital creative that stands out and gets cut-through, check it out here. In part two, our contributors will discuss ways to optimise digital creative including optimising attention, achieving integration across touchpoints and customisation to platform and how to cost-effectively test creative for learnings to optimise in future campaigns.

Many thanks to contributors from Kantar, Elastic Studios, Eardrum, Inskin Media and Unruly.


Mark Henning, Executive Director – Media, Kantar Australia

Integration across touchpoints and customisation to the platform are both important in driving advertising effectiveness. What are some of the key ways to achieve both?

Based on our global Cross Media research studies we can see that campaigns are 31% more effective for brands when the campaign creative is integrated across platforms. Integration does not necessarily mean simply taking your TV ad and re-airing it across digital platforms. It means keeping a consistency of look and feel across all platforms whether Video, Static or Audio, so it obvious to consumers that the ads are all part of the same campaign. This can be achieved through simple tactics such as consistency of colours, talent, product/packaging and brand inclusions.

However, in addition to integration, even better brand effectiveness results can be achieved when campaign assets are customised to take advantage of the unique benefits of each channel/platform where they appear. Campaigns that get this right average 57% better performance than those that are not well integrated.

Customisation means taking into account the context that consumers are in as well as the ad formats available within each channel. For video customisation that can mean ensuring that your video ad in digital platforms shows the brand and key message very early in the ad so consumers are able to see these before they scroll or click. But it can also mean ensuring that the visuals tell the story and you are not reliant on music or voice overs when audio might be turned off.

Integrated and customised campaigns enable exposures across media platforms to work together in an additive fashion to provide a true media multiplier effect.

For more creative tips and resources on the importance of creative, see the IAB Digital Brand Effect Report and Presentation Deck. 


Maria Rando, Managing Director, Elastic Studios 

Integration across touchpoints and customisation to the platform are both important in driving advertising effectiveness. What are some of the key ways to achieve both?

There hasn’t been a more prevalent time for brands to prioritise a customised approach to creative strategy. A common challenge that our clients are dealing with is greater fragmentation across audiences, attention span, and opportunity to see. Which is now overlayed by the ever-present COVID. From a creative perspective, we know that optimised creative has proven to pierce through fragmentation and deliver on other brand metrics for our clients.

We are seeing a greater demand from the brands and media platforms that we work to establish a more personalised direct to consumer approach in their creative. Dynamic digital is certainly having its time in the spotlight and is becoming a regular part of recommendations due to its sheer effectiveness of reaching consumers in a highly personalised and intuitive manner. This has taught us that one-on-one communication is a reciprocal need for both brands and consumers. We are looking at this as being an approach that is here to stay, and we are eager to continue to create this level of customisation for our clients.

Each client comes with their nuisances which makes customisation and integration the cornerstone to transforming and deepening the relationship between our clients and their audiences. By leaning into the needs of audiences and aligning them with creative messages that are intuitively relevant. We are able to create a brand experience that is unparalleled and something we are extremely passionate about empowering our clients to do.

I think the stand-out opportunity for brands is that customisation is channel-agnostic. There isn’t a platform or channel that is exempt from delivering a customised or integrated approach. Understanding this gives brands a new license to re-evaluate what they are saying and how they are saying it in market. We have seen for decades that channels have been bought to optimise media buying outcomes but now we can provide the same precision to our clients when it comes to creative output.

For clients that are considering making the leap from a one-to-all to a one-to-one creative approach. The journey is transformative when our clients are delivering the right creative with the right message thru the right platform direct to the audience. We are making our clients campaign’s work harder than ever before by delivering true creative effectiveness. Our clients that are adopting this creative optimisation model are essentially future-proofing their audience’s attention and loyalty.

Overall, integration and customisation to platform isn’t a new concept to us but seeing this delivered well consistently from brands is an evolving landscape. Customisation sits firmly on our agenda to support all our clients especially those with complex consumer purchase funnels or multilayered audiences.

Lastly, if we were to liken integration and customisation to anything it would be a picture puzzle. Without all of the pieces of the puzzle fitting perfectly together, you never have the full picture. Integration and customisation are your final pieces to your campaign puzzle, once in place, they create a full, bright and complete picture for your eyes (in this case audience) to feast on.

For brands with no/low current consumer demand due to COVID-19 (eg travel industry), is it the right time to start advertising and with what creative and messages?

This is a topic that has been in constant discussion across our studios, most would argue that the best time to advertise is when the COVID ‘dust’ settles and the new world starts to blossom. But we are of the view that if all brands were to take to this reactive strategy, consumers would be bombarded with a sea of the same messages and brands would be clawing for consumer attention all at the very same time.

We have seen a multitude of our clients and their respective industries immensely impacted by COVID, beyond what anyone could have anticipated. More broadly, never have we seen so many brands move away from channels, their advertising strategies, and effectively their audiences at the pace that they have during this time. Short term marketing decisions are now over-riding long term strategies and as result, we are seeing some big brands retreat from the market. Ultimately leading to a disengaged audience, fatiguing brand loyalty, and diminishing brand traction. This notion has definitely changed our conversations with our clients and what we recommend as a creative approach. If there is one thing we have learned throughout COVID is that proactivity is key.

We believe that now is the opportune time to get in front of audiences and take the lead. Demand may be low, but the desire for normality from audiences is high. Brands during this period can still offer meaningful communication in the absence of a product. An insight-driven approach, that speaks directly to a consumer’s need for hope, optimism, recognition of loyalty, or a sliver of normality can make all the difference. So, we are identifying these insights for specific categories in real-time and proactively engaging our clients; presenting both the creative and audience engagement opportunity that is sitting in their lap right now.

When we convert this approach into creative output, it isn’t your traditional product and price message. Rather a narrative that takes the hand of the consumer and leads them on a journey to the other side of COVID (wherever that may be). We have always found when the constraints are tight and there are firm boundaries in place, creativity will always push up against them and that’s where we discover some of our strongest ideas. We are finding momentum with our clients in this regard and as an output, we are helping our clients future proof their audiences, so they are ready for the post COVID world.

Right now, consumers need a message that feels intrinsically good, positive, forward thinking, and is authentic to the brand. Ultimately reminding them why they choose your brand over another. Because no one is going to forget who and what made them feel supported during these very strange times Creative communication right now is about recognising the value of consumers and future-proofing their loyalty.

The last thing we can do as brand custodians is to rely on the pre-COVID consumer behaving and engaging the same as a post-COVID consumer. Especially if you’re out of the game. By keeping the communication alive between our clients and their consumers during these very difficult times we are empowering our clients to continue to be a part of their audiences present and future.


Ralph Van Dijk, Founding Creative Director, Eardrum 

Integration across touchpoints and customisation to the platform are both important in driving advertising effectiveness. What are some of the keyways to achieve both?

Our media plans are adapting to the fact that there’s no longer one screen or speaker that dominates the consumer’s life. But creative is still lagging behind, with brands guilty of taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach. What you save in production costs is nothing compared to what you lose in effectiveness.

Your single-minded campaign message should be consistent across all platforms, as should the audio and visual brand assets you use. But to avoid your ad arriving like an unwelcome party guest, the tone and amount of detail needs to be tailored to suit the context. EG High engagement environments don’t require as much cut through but need to work harder to reflect the tone of the content. 

But regardless of platform, you need to remain true to your brand personality and see every ad as an opportunity to reinforce it. It’s what makes you recognisable and distinct from your competitors and it will generate a longer-term response.


Sam Walters, Head of Creative Development, Kantar Australia

How should advertisers cost-effectively test creative to establish best practice learnings for their brand and ensure they are on track for long term brand building?

The battle between advertising and research budget is as old as advertising itself; and the ideal creative development journey would always include a number of stages to steer the campaign towards the perfect and optimum delivery of the well-researched strategy.  But in reality, timelines and budget do not allow and a cost-efficient and more streamlined testing program needs to be implemented.

But where should an advertiser prioritise and compromise?  Getting the initial campaign idea right is always going to be the crucial factor in determining whether the creatives that follow are going to be a success. This typically should include some qualitative sessions to explain the ‘big idea’ and initial storyboards of campaign creative, to ensure that consumers are on board and understand the strategy and message the brand is trying to communicate. If not, then however great your creative delivery is of that idea, it’s simply not going to resonate. Once you have positive consumer feedback at the early stage the wheels in motion with developing the creative.

For campaigns with big budgets and high risk/reward of getting it right, the advertiser may decide to develop an animatic version of the ad. Animatic testing provides a cost-efficient means of researching a close-to-finished version of the final ad, and the research itself can be complete in 24 hours. This step can provide an invaluable optimisation steer prior to media going live, small (or big) improvements in key metrics such as branding and persuasion can have a multiplier effect on the impact the ad will have on air for the advertiser brand.

Of course for some it’s a different reality, a brand may already have a number of ad live or ready to air, a cost efficient  means to ensure the campaign delivers is to test all the ads in a short fast turnaround solution such as Kantar’s Link Now.  This will tell you overnight the strengths of your ads so you can choose the most effective ones accordingly.


Elizabeth Grant, Operations Director and Jay McCalla, Head of Design, Inskin Media

How do creative professionals combine best practice rules with developing creative that stands out, gets cut-through and provides meaningful difference for the brand?

Creative best practice rules are not made to be broken! Over the years we have been able to clearly see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to digital creative.

One of the main focuses for creative professionals should be on the “made to fit” principle. This means taking into account where these ads are being viewed while concepting the design. Understanding which devices and mediums the campaign will run on, means you can tailor messages to the user creating a successful narrative across all platforms.

Beyond that, we should be sticking to the foundations of a successful creative; avoiding clutter, displaying clear brand messaging and ensuring everything is in view (responsiveness is a basic and often missed fundamental when building). There are times when buyers believe that including heavy animation and multiple functionalities will result in a more successful and engaging creative, however a simple execution often allows for the message to be displayed clearly and effectively, without overloading the user with information.

There are a few questions that should always be answered; Who are we reaching? What do we want to tell them? What do we want them to do?

As creative professionals, it is our job to educate people within the industry on best practices that will ensure an engaging and memorable campaign. We need to take our learnings and apply them to all creative, whether it’s a smaller standard banner or a high impact ad unit; the space we have available should always be utilised strategically.


Heath Irving, Head of Programmatic and Partnerships, Unruly ANZ

There is a lot of focus on attention to advertising in the industry, do you have any insights to share on how to optimise consumer attention to digital advertising?

The digital environment is a place where we can do almost anything – talk to friends, shop to our hearts content, read about any topic imaginable, and of course watch plenty of cat videos.

In this saturated space, brands not only need to create ads that stand out against the content users are looking at, but also against their competitors. This has led many brands to rightly ask how they can maximise their advertising impact online. One response has been the rise of viewability metrics that seek to validate whether an ad can be seen and capture a consumer’s attention.

When we consider digital advertising in the wake of viewability, the battle for attention becomes even clearer. Lumen, an attention technology company, has been running the world’s largest continuous eye-tracking study since 2016 with 500 households across AU, all equipped with cameras passively monitoring what people look at when they go online, and what they ignore. The importance of visual attention on branding metrics has been proven in several studies, but thanks to their passive-panel data, Lumen has been able to prove a direct relationship between visual engagement and conversions.

Their data shows that viewability does not guarantee attention. According to Lumen only 18% of viewable digital ads get looked at, and only 5% of all viewable ads get more than one second of attention. It’s extremely important to keep this in mind when selecting what format to run your video ads in.

By interrupting content reading and natural gaze patterns, In-Article ads are well placed to generate attention. The sequential format of In-Stream also yields strong attention levels as the ads are delivered in a sequence with content, rather than simultaneously, and so do not have to compete for attention, but there’s a fine line between interrupting and annoying. It would be very easy to generate attention by investing in formats that are non-user friendly which is something we’re very conscious of, and one of the reasons Unruly is working with the Coalition for Better Advertising.

Advertisers should invest in formats that maximise attention potential but must be aware that creative execution determines overall impact and can be optimised using data to drive significant uplifts in engagement.