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Creative Week: The Right Approach to Building Out Your Marketing Creative Investments

Published: February 20, 2018

Author: Aaron Bart

How do you design creative that drives high engagement on a tight budget? How can you manage your design team efficiently without blunting creativity? This week, experts from the 3Q Creative and Social teams will be answering these questions and more by sharing tips and tactics they’ve learned over years of running high-impact campaigns with highly engaging creative.
The approach a brand takes for planning, budgeting, and structuring teams around its creative development, or the development of creative design assets used in its marketing and advertising programs, has a huge impact on its advertising ROI and can make or break the success of the brand’s overall marketing efforts.
Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to both observe and test many different approaches, and in this post, I’m going to list what I’ve found to lead to the most success:

Start with clear objectives

Planning your creative development needs to start with concrete and measurable objectives:

“What does our creative need to accomplish strategically?”

Nailing this down will offer the right starting point for streamlined planning and creative development. The goal of any ad creative is twofold:

  • Measurable performance: to deliver a measurable return on paid (or earned) media investment
  • Build brand preference: to promote your brand, or tell your brand’s story

Depending on where your brand is within your competitive landscape or what your priorities are for your media strategy/investment, your investment in creative may differ.
If you are a relatively unknown brand and are investing a high proportion of media budget in brand awareness, then the focus of your creative investment will need to be on branding, and on creative development for brand awareness campaigns (e.g. social media, brand search, etc.)
If performance is a higher priority, then developing creative for specific prospecting or retargeting campaigns will be the focus of your creative dollars.

Stretch those budgets

Low budgets don’t have to mean poor performance, but you do have to be strategic. With minimum budget, I’d recommend focusing your efforts on the following:

  • Ad units for highest-volume campaigns
  • Ad units for campaigns that drive highest revenue or CVR
  • Landing page design for highest-volume traffic
  • Media placements that allow for simplest creative to run

From there, you can get the most out of your creative through testing and iteration. You’ll want to plan creative specifically for testing. Make sure you design ad units and creative that’s easily scalable and iterated on.
Also develop a testing plan that measures aspects of creative such as headline, hero image, background, photography style. As an example, you can test ad units with lifestyle vs product imagery.

Know your platforms and ad formats

Your creative will work hardest and be most effective when it is developed with specific platform and format executions in mind – get to know each and every platform and format (Canvas and Carousels on Facebook, Pinterest), and customize the content based on the audience’s expectations of each platform.

We’ll cover this more in tomorrow’s post: Creative Tips for Social Platforms. However at a high level, here’s a few quick tips for cross-platform efficiency:

  • VIDEO: Take advantage of video placements. Most social platforms now offer video ad formats, and these tend to outperform non-video, across the board. When developing video content for social ad placements, develop a single concept that will be extended across various lengths for different platforms/placements. This will allow for the best use of your creative budget against the video content you plan to produce.
  • RESEARCH: Get to know each social platform; see examples of what has worked with other similar businesses in your vertical. Learn the layout, format, and what other elements exist on the platform so that you know what surrounding content and noise your ads will be competing against for a user’s attention. Get ideas from other creative teams or individuals. Learn what new features the platform is offering, and think through how best to utilize those features to attain your campaign’s objectives.

Know your audiences

The best way to make your creative work as hard is it can is to tailor it to specific audiences. And the only way to understand who your audiences are, what resonates with them, and what motivates them is through data and analytics. Leverage each social media platform’s audience targeting capabilities to create clear and relevant audience segments. If possible, leverage 3rd-party audience data through a data management platform (DMP). And make sure you are testing every hypothesis around how you are tailoring each of your ad’s creative elements to align with that audience data. Audience data can be used very effectively to inform your initial ad design, and what assumptions you make about how our creative will perform in front of specific audience segments. But ultimately you need to test your creative in market, in a controlled A/B environment, in order to validate those assumptions. That is where real performance and ROI is to be found.


Managing your team’s creative strategy can seem like a daunting task, especially on a small budget. But by following the tips outlined above, your team can set a stronger foundation for developing efficient and effective creative that will help you reach your marketing objectives. We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to the 3Q Creative team to learn more about how you can use performance-driven creative to better engage with your target audience today.

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