The creative concept: Why nailing it ensures campaign success down the line

August 10, 2022

Thandiwe Sithole

Be it for a large corporate banking client, a fancy coffee machine label, a meatpacking company, or a small internal brand campaign, generating awareness usually starts with the launch of a new digital campaign strategy. One vital component of this is coming up with a creative concept, which requires a thorough understanding of digital advertising concepts. Agencies have many fancy terms for this & too often get into a frenzy over the need to “go viral” or “do what Nike/Magnum did”. So, what really is a creative concept, how does one go about it, and can its success be measured?

To clarify, creative concepts are based on two things:

1. A digital strategy, spearheaded by skilled strategists, normally with some creative input during their research or discovery phase. This is crucial given that consumer targeting, personas, brand tone, and messaging can be clearly outlined for the creative team who are to follow.

2. A thorough brief is shared with all. This would come primarily from the client, but also key take-outs and direction from the strategists. Then comes the fun bit. The part that every creative in an agency wants to be part of; brainstorming, silly banter, memes, and pre-COVID of course, a lot of board scribbling, Krispy Kreme, and drinks.

Okay, so what exactly is a creative concept? It’s an encompassing idea/theme that centers around one main idea...granted one could argue that often the small ideas that are most common and relatable to all of us work the best. In advertising, we refer to this as “the human truth”. For instance, you want to study software engineering. But what is that ‘thing’ that makes this online school better? We all need insurance. But what is that ‘thing’ that sets this plan apart? At some point, most of us will make a car again, what is that ‘thing’ that will make one buy this new model over the other? The creative concept exists to capture the strategic objective in an engaging, memorable, or informative way.

Note: A creative campaign ought to be more focused on the broad possibilities and digital marketing concepts, and less attention paid to finer details like the ideal font size on a banner. The ultimate goal is to sell the idea, convince the client/audience a direction has value, and then tighten and polish as one makes progress.

How does this actually play out?

A campaign may have a few different phases to it, but it comprises a creative rationale (that is, the reasoning of the core campaign idea), key visuals, varying supporting copy lines to assist in providing context and/or information, and then the actual rollout of content pieces. In the digital world, these are usually content pieces for several social media channels, websites, and applications (static images, GIFs, illustrations, videos, or animated content media). This will virtually always be a combination of paid media ads and organic content.

Who is involved in a creative concept?

In the early stages, anyone and everyone are encouraged to contribute. By preference, this includes a combination of senior and junior creatives. Why? Because experience and raw energy are both important. Next, set aside sufficient studio time as multiple reverts are normal. However, a deadline is important because while more time means more routes to explore, a looming deadline can on occasion spark insanely wonderful results. Lastly, when ideas are refined enough to share with a wider internal team, being able to share and discuss this with others is vital to the process. Constructively poking holes in something can strengthen its position. Do other team members understand the purpose of the campaign? Do they actually even believe it? Is the idea strong enough to live two weeks?

What is the purpose of a creative concept?

The answer is in 2 parts;

1. gaining brand awareness or exposure

2. generating leads or sales.

Digital is more immediate, it usually does much better in the area of leads or sales. Every single time I pause a Facebook ad it can be tracked, let alone the actual click-throughs to a website or app. It is therefore advised that campaigns play on both brand awareness and lead generation – resulting in a strong, tactical multi-channel approach.

How do we then measure success?

There are usually multiple factors at play. Was the campaign distinctive or memorable? Did it align with the overall brand tone and voice? Did it create a positive response from customers? And yes, did sales increase or did we actually gain leads? Not every campaign is going to be in the same ballpark of success metrics as the next one. Every market is different, and every brand is different too.

Although most of us won’t work with or for a brand like Nike, this does not mean a creative concept for say an ed(tech) company cannot at least be eye-catching, effective in its messaging, and attract new customers.

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