Creative License is Dead. Long Live the Customer

With all the talk about Advertising moving towards a more measurable and quantifiable future one thing that is almost always overlooked is the impact this has on creative design. The design skills and process necessary to execute great ad creative are changing. So too will be the role designers play in the ultimate success of ad campaigns. Don’t kill the messenger, but creative license is dead.

Why am I not shedding a tear? For a while now those of us that do optimization have understood that designers are often the greatest impediment to conversion rates. However, for the most part we’ve been powerless as creative has always taken a seat at the head of the table while optimization only sets it. After all what could me more important; selling your product to consumers or making sure that their experience conforms to a style guide?

But Jon, surely you know this is a creative industry? Well actually not anymore. It’s now for many of us (and eventually will be for everyone) an industry of math and science. Success in these disciplines also requires a certain amount of creativity, just a different kind. Coming up with a great test plan is a very creative process.

Ah, the test plan. The new breed of designer will need to not just come up with two or three comps for an experience. They will need to come up with fifty. In fact, rarely will they be designing complete experiences anymore. They will be designing elements with multiple variations of each. They will need to ensure that each of these elements is interchangeable. Imagine a puzzle where any combination will provide a pleasing design. And who will judge these designs? Ultimately it is the customer that will decide what design they like best.

What we’re doing at OTTO and what will be spreading like wildfire over the next year is baking-in this testing approach to every digital experience. This provides real data and market intelligence on levels never know before. How much a difference to conversion rate does the gold background have versus the green? How many more clicks do we get on our ad if we use the word “hip” versus “cool” in our copy? How does “hip” do with the gold background versus the green? Taking it one step further how does the “hip and green” perform for women versus men. Of course RISD isn’t teaching classes in this kind of design…yet. But we are training designers on it and showing the value of it everyday to our clients.

Marketing 2.0 is all about empowering your customers and the market to drive business results. When market segments are providing measurable data telling you what design they like best, that’s creative feedback you implement. In the end ROI is what looks good.

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