How to Think Like a Creative Strategist
If you’re a performance marketer, chances are you pride yourself on driving results. But in today’s privacy-driven media landscape it’s becoming increasingly difficult to achieve the same advertising outcomes via media strategy alone.
Indeed, research from the Data and Marketing Association indicates that since 2021 – a year that saw the release of iOS14, the collapse of advertiser look-back windows and a major loss of remarketing capabilities particularly in social media channels – media effectiveness of campaigns has declined by an average of 23%!
This decline in performance has shifted the focus of performance marketing, from a primarily audience targeting approach to one that blends audiences with more robust and systematic creative strategy thus giving rise to a rebirth of the role of the Creative Strategist among performance advertisers.
Performance media buyers know now more than ever that to succeed in the privacy first media environment requires everyone to think like a creative strategist.
Here’s what that means and why it’s so important.
A creative strategist is someone who can see the big picture and develop innovative solutions that move the needle. Mind you these are not the traditional “Creatives” or “Art Directors” ensconced at creative agencies and focused on high-concept, award winning creative. These are people laser focused on media performance who understand the intimate relationship between creative quality and media performance.
These folks are not afraid to ask tough questions and to ruthlessly pursue creative performance. They are in a sense a blend of left-brain and right-brain thinking. They understand the creative but hold it to the standards of performance media. And in today’s constantly changing landscape, that’s exactly what businesses need.
And as businesses face increasingly complex challenges, the demand for creative strategists is only going to grow. In fact, according to a study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in strategic planning are expected to grow by 10% over the next decade. So if you’re a performance marketer who’s looking to future-proof your career, now is the time to start thinking like a creative strategist.
If you want to be successful as a creative strategist, there are a few things you need to do:
1. Start thinking like a Creative
The word of creative is “fuzzy” and cannot easily fit inside an excel spreadsheet like a media plan. So the first step in thinking like a strategist is to temporarily suspend judgment and start thinking like a creative. This may take those left brained media minds a bit of getting used to but there are a ton of exercises online that can help you adopt a more creative mindset.
2. Be okay with making mistakes
The only way to learn what works is to first learn what doesn’t. In creative testing often the more we are able to test the more mistakes we will make, but in launching the 4th underperforming ad set on a campaign we’re zeroing in on the particular elements of creative that will in fact drive performance. Being brutally honest about this is a key to getting the best results.
3. Be systematic about testing
Just because it’s “creative” doesn’t me we can’t be systematic. The best testing methodologies are structured like an agile development sprint over a set period of time, generally a week or two. They involve an ongoing loop starting with an ideation phase, a testing phase and an analysis phase. Lather, rinse, repeat.
4. Be adaptable
Often the greatest creative insights are to be found where and when we least expect it. Don’t be afraid to try new things challenge assumptions. Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it always will. Keeping an open mind and a willingness to adapt to changes in the media landscape will help ensure campaign success.
These may seem like simple things, but they’re actually quite difficult for many people—especially those who are used to being in control and having everything figured out ahead of time. As a creative strategist, you need to be comfortable with change and uncertainty; you need to be okay with making mistakes; and you need to be open to new ideas—even if they seem crazy at first glance. It won’t always be easy, but if you can learn to embrace ambiguity and think outside the box, you’ll be well on your way to success as a creative strategist.
So there you have it—a crash course in how to think like a creative strategist. If you’re a performance marketer who’s looking to future-proof your career, now is the time to start thinking like one. It won’t always be easy, but if you can learn to embrace ambiguity and think outside the box, you’ll be well on your way to success as a creative strategist. Thanks for reading!
Grant has spent much of the past two decades building new businesses in advertising and digital media. Today his primary focus and expertise is on the interplay between creative automation, AI, privacy and digital media performance for advertisers.