Evolving Creativity in Changing Times

by David Chang, Fancy Pants Group

As a company that built a name for ourselves doing rich media banners over the last decade, we’ve watched the industry change to what it is today.

We’ve witnessed it having a diverse mix of clients that include brands, creative agencies, media agencies, publishers and ad platforms. However, the times have changed and our clients had to shift their mindsets in an ever-changing display world.

Banners used to be focused on a range of rich media formats like expanding ads, homepage takeovers, synced roadblocks, etc. Creativity was about functionality and utilizing interactive capabilities that came along with Flash; however, this type of creative no longer exists. Ads have since evolved with the transition from Flash to HTML5.

We are now in a transitionary phase in advertising. With yesterday’s ad formats gone, we are seeing a lot of over-simplicity within the display space. Too often, we are looking at static image ads with creative that offers nothing for the brand and their audience. Often ad formats, when done poorly, can make ads look like templates that lack imagination. With any change however, comes opportunity and we should embrace it. There is a smarter way to be creative in the new world, and those who better understand it are positioned for success.

While some may think creativity is stifled with templated or component based ads, there’s a way to think creatively and break out of the simple minded approach that we see with some of these ads. Consider, for example, what Squarespace did for the website. They mastered the idea of bringing good design sense and responsive web principles into a “template”. It allowed for a consistent aesthetic, while allowing users to customize elements to make it their own. Most importantly, the user’s content shines through.

Furthermore, the data inherent in digital provides more opportunities to be creative. We can understand user behavior, and provide them value or catch their attention based on external data signals and insights. This encourages us to take into consideration:

  • What are they doing now?
  • Where are they located?
  • What time of day is it, and how does that affect their consumption patterns and behavior?
  • What are their interests and search habits?

The lean startup methodology taught us to build, measure and learn as part of a new way to think about product development. Many of these same principles also apply in the display context. We should not simply launch and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Instead, we should see each campaign as having multiple iterations, learnings, and optimizations to create a continuous cycle – a cycle that helps us understand user behavior, and figure out new and interesting ways to capture their attention in a manner that is useful to them. 

As the display space continues to evolve, brand advertising authenticity and value to the user must move in the same direction. We are getting closer to the day when data, insights, creativity, and content can come together seamlessly, and naturally result in useful and engaging advertising. Additionally, the growing capabilities of AI will further enhance targeting, messaging, and predictive analytics in advertising. Foursquare, as an example, has an amazing technical capability to know whether you are at a restaurant, at work, or at a retail store. With this insight, we get closer to being able to use that information to give the user valuable information and incentives during their path to purchase. 

To make this a reality, it will take time, collaboration, education, and innovation by different forces within the industry. As experts in this space, we need to be the glue that fuses all of this together. We must continue to push, take chances, be creative, and innovate in new ways to bring advertising to the next level.

David Chang, Fancy Pants Group

David Chang, Fancy Pants Group

About the Author: Since joining Fancy Pants Group in 2011, David has helped the company transform from a production shop into a full-service creative digital studio. He is constantly looking for ways to drive innovation and to improve the craftsmanship of Fancy Pants’ digital executions. His attention to detail and his creative approach to technology are distinguishing characteristics of his work in the digital marketing arena. David has worked with a diverse range of clients, including Microsoft, Royal Caribbean and Stride Gum. He previously served as Director of Technology at JWT.