It is a tale as old as marketing time. The constant argument and divide of Brand v Performance marketing.
Last week, I was on a panel with a global agency network and their teams including BMB/Cheil at their worldwide ImagineNext event. The ethos was around the traditional dichotomy of brand versus performance. In this context – brand marketing being the big creative idea and the films, performance by contrast the hard statistically-led evidence based methodology of buying and optimising to a CPA. Either end of the marketing ‘scale’. Alas, I was brought in as the performance extremity.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and they were a lovely bunch. Some old school creatives, some performance and brand marketers and some hybrid-esque inbetweeners (that I myself like to think I have proudly become despite a creative world’s viewpoint). There was a noticeable narrative of performance being about the numbers and the hard truths, and the creatives about creating the ad experiences rooted in more human insights.
Overall I probably got more out of it than I gave back (sorry) – it was invigorating, fascinating and at times cautionary in equal measure – how the worlds see each other. I think performance and buying/trading teams (Search/Social/Affiliate/Programmatic et al) love and enjoy a good creative a lot more than the creative teams give them due credit for. They KNOW they need a good creative for the advert to work. All the targeting and context in the world only goes so far. When a campaign absolutely tanks, it is a sure-fire bet that the audience (often down to the media buy in fairness) did not respond well to the creative – which is ultimately what people see.
I have a ropey analogy about cooking on this subject. The food is the ad and everything else (targeting/distribution) is utensils and cutlery. You could have the world class cooking range, knives, beautiful plates and cutlery, but if the chicken is off, it will not taste nice. All the targeting and planning in the world is obsolete if the creative is crap. It REALLY matters. Like I said in the book BACK TO BASICS – and have written about elsewhere, people remember the creative and the message, and seldom whether it was served one 9:16 or a 1:1 to an affinity or Remarketing audience!
When working in media agencies and integrated holding companies, I like to think I was one of those who reached across the aisle to creative agencies and was obsessed with alignment between the messaging, the key visuals, the insights and the arbitrary line items on media plans. One helps the other. Always. Isolation is not enough, especially in these coming times of a likely increase in importance of context and a changing definition of online identity. To build the ultimate ‘opt-in’ – trust – you need creative that works and brands building from both the bottom-up and top-down.
My thought is this. Performance is effectiveness. It is outcomes. Your advertising, for all intents and purposes, has one job; to promote your organisation and grow it. It is often a by-product of a marketing or business strategy which wants to attack a market. It is not about just ‘Oh a video is just awareness but Google performs better’. I have written about this before – what it means to define performance marketing, where we have arbitrarily assigned roles to channels, which has had knock-on structural effects on organisations. Digital Agencies. Creative Agencies. Media Agencies. Therein lies the problem. Their own tribal truths on which is the superior sales-driving lever. They are all correct and incorrect.
Going back to the last week’s event, the main takeaways led were that creative agencies can learn more from performance/buying teams in terms of evidential in-market data points, and on the flipside the ‘performance’ or digital buyers need to understand the real human drivers, insights and ideas that shaped the big creative or hero idea. It can then be repurposed and nuanced for different audience messages with a central theme at the heart. Rather than a misaligned messaging fight which leads to miserable execution.
I will be speaking about similar themes at Ad World 2021 in early May – and although I have not even started the presentation prep yet – I know I am going to talk about the need to map performance as a whole to business outcomes and not just arbitrary channels, and the respectful education gap between business owner knowledge and marketing channels is very much there, but is also evolving. If anything, the story is simpler to understand, and goes back to the old adage: market to the right person with the right message/ad at the right time, to achieve the goals and grow your business.
Needless to say, Archmon is a consultancy, and an agnostic marketing consultancy rooted in performance for its clients. But what performance means to client? Well – that depends doesn’t it? But either way, me and my partners will work together to try to deliver it.