I spent the last 12 years of my career focusing on building and scaling creative production efforts, as part of a larger performance marketing team. Some of the teams I worked on spent upwards of $50M on user acquisition annually and having a scalable creative experimentation process was a crucial part of the team’s success.
Performance marketing teams that heavily focus on creative experimentation usually consist of three functions:
- Product marketing — Defines the messaging and the target market for each product
- Performance marketing (user acquisition) — Not only buys media, but is methodical and creative in how they find pockets of users that will pay for your product
- Marketing creative — Takes input from both product and performance marketing teams and uses it to make effective ads
I have worked in organizations that have separated all three of the aforementioned functions, as well as organizations that only had two, which absorbed the functions of the third. In my case, the product marketing function was absorbed in part by the performance marketing team, and to a lesser extent, the marketing creative team.
Each function has its own focus and language and if you’re not aware of the differences, it can lead to suboptimal outcomes:
- The UA team can’t tell a creative “why” something worked. They can, however, make a data-informed guess based on which creative yielded the best metrics on which ad network. They do this by looking at early front end metrics such as clicks; but those mean nothing if they don’t convert. At NSP, we evaluate how successful an ad is based on its IPM (installs per thousand ad impressions). We use this instead of clicks because it is an indicator of the effectiveness of the user journey from seeing the ad, to clicking on the ad, to seeing the app in the store, to an install. If you only measure clicks, you are only seeing that the ad itself is compelling.
- Performance marketing is different from traditional brand marketing. Traditional brand and product marketing finds the largest reasonable segment and markets to it. Performance marketing allows for micro-targeting and iterative tests to find high LTV payers. There are trade-offs to skewing too far on either end of this spectrum.
- Creative teams can make something from nothing, but do best with guideposts from product and performance marketing. They can keep the brand and messaging in mind while incorporating the data about what worked and didn’t work in previous campaigns to inform their next steps. They can iterate on what works and also do what they do best by exploring new creative ideas.
Communication is key to success
Setting up effective communication touchpoints between two groups that don’t speak the same language can be tricky. Creative is going to want clear information about why an ad is performing or not performing, and they probably aren’t going to get it. Meanwhile, performance marketing is going to want the creative team to make high-performing ads that cut through the ever-changing clutter.
In order to make sure everyone gets what they need, I recommend having a monthly periodic meeting led by performance marketing. You can, of course, adjust the frequency as needed. In this meeting you will:
- Define metrics
- Analyze results
- Spot commonalities
- Define requests for the next 30–90 days
- Leave space for discussion
Some finer points that I have found useful for these meetings:
- One product is the focus of the meeting, but creative leads for all products attend. At the beginning, the UA team should remind the creative team what metrics are most relevant, what the metric is telling them (no acronyms, please!) and explain at a high level the targeting for campaigns in which this creative was used.
- The performance marketing team highlights the best performing and worst performing creatives with the actual videos or banners available to view, and include insightful commentary on those results, if any.
- Creatives should have time and space to ask questions, discuss how the data can be applied, and bring up other trends they are seeing in the marketplace for wider discussion.
- Creatives can talk through current plans to make sure deliveries align with need (quantity of videos) and feedback (incorporating data into new creatives) from the performance marketing team.
The above format allows space for dialogue and ensures that with all creatives there, any effective ideas will bleed into other product ads. This is time-intensive for the UA team to prepare for, so make sure attendees understand that.
Translating UA data into marketing creative
When creatives are armed via the communication touchpoints outlined above, they’ll have the input needed to develop their next ideas for ads. This works in two ways. The most obvious is that the creative lead can see which ads are performing well for their product, and they can try to find qualitative commonalities among them that are different from the least performing ads. This will lead to iterations of the successful ads and maybe whole new concepts that pull in a successful element, like live-action footage, for example.
A less obvious way is that successful or unsuccessful approaches can be adopted (or avoided) by other products in your portfolio because creatives for all products are in the room seeing what is working and what is not working. This is one of the strongest synergistic benefits of having regular creative leads meetings. One example I’ve experienced is that we were seeing that live-action footage was really working (guerrilla shooting at a large gaming conference), and another product’s creative lead saw this and knew that his product had some great “behind-the-scenes” videos. He used those to create UA videos that performed really well. We would normally think of “behind-the-scenes” videos as retention pieces (for people who are already sold on the game), but he used them to great effect for UA.
Building towards the future
It will always be challenging to ensure effective communication within your performance marketing organization. Teams will need to remember that their language and functions require entirely different skills and capabilities, and they’ll need to constantly work to bridge the gaps. Regular communication touchpoints are key to this, and I hope that the suggestions outlined above will help you lead your organization to greater success.
At N3TWORK, we have taken all our learnings from this and condensed it into the N3TWORK Scale Platform (NSP). We thought — what if you could focus solely on creating a great game, and have an easier time getting quantitative results to be turned into qualitative decisions? NSP solves for that, and if you want to learn more, find out at devnsp.wpengine.com.