Here’s an old marketing story that’s more relevant today than ever:

A woman is driving along a country road and sees this sign:

She thinks, “I want eggs and that sign says ‘fresh’.”  She pulls over and buys eggs. The creative, production and media placement worked together flawlessly—another successful piece of marketing.

But let’s say your data has helped you determine that the same woman would be a great candidate for flying lessons and she sees this sign:


Would she pull over and sign up for flying lessons? Probably not. She will drive right past it and possibly not even notice. The media placement worked like a charm, but the creative and production failed. We see a similar scenario play out every day as we are inundated every moment by lackluster ads that don’t hit the mark.  Studies consistently point out that creative is the biggest factor in determining  the success of an ad. No other part of the content comes close to having as big an impact on sales. With so much emphasis on ROI, it’s time marketers invest more time, energy and resources into the most valuable elements of their content: creative and production.

Let’s move past simply putting out our message in the least imaginative and cheapest way possible. It doesn’t help connect with our audience or produce the results we’re after.  We covered this topic on an episode of Marketing Upheaval.  Too many decision makers try to connect with people using solely numbers rather than human emotion and values. With so much data available, it’s understandable why our entire focus goes to making sure we’re reaching our audience, ” with the right message at the right time.” That’s the phrase we hear over and over. But what’s often missing is the right creative.

Why The Right Creative Matters

The cause of so much ‘invisible content” stems from a fear of taking creative risks and the tendency to hide behind data rather than use it to improve your creative. Great creative is a little scary because it has a strong point of view and stirs emotions. It’s much safer to study audience behavior and place a straightforward bullet point where they will see it and hope for some % of a response.  If it doesn’t yield great results, we can always fall back on the fact that the decision was made based exclusively on the numbers.

Numbers can’t do the work alone.  Data can tell you what people do, surveys can tell you why they say they do it. But only creative thinking can take that information and develop an insightful strategy and powerful creative that will make that data connect to your audience. We use the numbers to make a decision based on people; how they feel, what they believe, and what they really want deep down.

Your Production Needs Love

Strong creative is just “a good idea” until it’s executed properly. Everyone has a camera, every phone or laptop can use editing software and lots of people have Photoshop. There’s an expression “It’s the wizard, not the wand.” Cameras, software, equipment… are just tools just like my guitar and vocal chords. Trust me, you wouldn’t enjoy the quality of my performance nor would you be happy paying for it. In fact, you may want to sue me for the emotional distress.

Find people who have proven they can take an idea and create a piece of communication that draws you in.

More companies are choosing the low cost vendors or bringing production in-house with varying degrees of quality.  People may tout their “production” capabilities because they have the tools, but here’s how to make sure the creative you’re taking a chance on gets presented to your audience in the best way possible.

If you’re bringing production in house or choosing a vendor look at their samples or reels carefully.  For production vendors, when you see work that you like, ask lots of questions. How much did it cost? Who shot it? Who edited it? Who did the sound? Will they be working on my project? If it’s a commercial or a substantial video, ask for a treatment before you begin. This will tell you immediately who has a vision for your project and who doesn’t.

We all know that  every piece of communication isn’t going to show a direct ROI. That display ad may get people to your website. But the powerful videos, innovative events, brilliant PR activations, outreach and commercials people see before that will determine whether they will trust you and become customers.

Of course, there are times for straightforward creative and lower-end production. However, as marketers we must always remember an inescapable truth:

 The quality of your creative and production reflect the quality of what you’re selling.

So make an investment into great creative and production. If you want a strong “ROI,”  then put more “I” into your creative and production. You will get a better “R.”