How Founders and Marketers Decide What Their Ads Look Like

14 Ad Creative Decision-Making Processes
Brett Friedman

I’ve spoken to well over a thousand marketers covering just about all industries, verticals, and business models. One thing I noticed: they all have different systems to decide what they’re going to make their ads look like. 

While this has been my experience, I wondered if there was a way to solidify this belief. So I asked HARO (Help a Reporter Out), a service that lets you ask a community of nearly a million bloggers and journalists any question you want. I asked for Founders and Marketers to answer, “What’s your advertising creative design process?”

From this basic (albeit sample-biased) survey, my beliefs have been (relatively) confirmed:

Everybody makes their ads differently.

There are plenty of implications here, but I'll focus on just one big one:

There's no standard model of effective, repeatable marketing

Successful businesses rely on consistency. Consistent product, consistent experience, consistent growth. Stable environments are successful environments. The basic company has 5 functional parts:

  • Production
  • Accounting & Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Research & Development
  • Marketing & Sales

Each one of these is governed by a well-organized, rule-based system of repeatable steps. Production involves manufacturing or programming within well-defined specifications. Accounting & finance involves budget tracking and allocation systems. Human resources has interview processes, behavior regulations, and payroll controls. Even research & development, the function that intentionally deviates from the norm, has specific steps taken to innovate from what already exists.

But what about marketing & sales?

The objective is clear: to attract buyers. But these functions are uniquely reliant on people outside your organization. With so little certainty as to how these mysterious people behave, it's much harder to nail down a process that works time and again.

People change, so your attempts to woo them must change too. But there are ways to add consistency into marketing & sales. Our surveyed friends each had a system of their own and as listed earlier, a few things stood out:

  • Customer Research
  • Competitor Research
  • Testing

Find out who you're selling to, find out what they want, find out how others sell to them, test your assumptions. That's the current 'process.' Cobbled together from 15 contributors (who I assume are representative of the market). But their strategies are best used when combined.

Combined, the process goes something like this:

  1. Ask a question
  2. Do customer, competitor research
  3. Hypothesize an experiment
  4. Test
  5. Analyze results
  6. Draw conclusions
  7. Scale results
  8. Ask a new question

That's the only process that works in any field ever. It's what brought us all the greatest achievements of humanity, from agriculture to the skyscraper.

It's the scientific method.

To be fair, the question might always be 'how do I make creative that works?' But that's fine as long as you do your research and predict something more specific and testable like: 'Blue logos will get more purchases than red logos' or 'smiling models will get more clicks than neutral models' or 'emotional copy will get more leads than logical copy'.

The specifics are less important than the method. Every ad you run should be a test, a wealth of data points, and a step closer to your ultimate goal of making consistent revenue for your company.

Now I said there were 13 answers to my question, but the article is titled "14 Ad Creative Decision-Making Processes". That's because of this last process. The process outlined above.

Test and learn and test and learn and test and learn and repeat.

Marketing and sales have always been all over the place. Many people have made their livings outperforming others, and to a large extent, it's because they've implemented better systems than their peers. But I think we'll soon see an aggregation of methods into a single, consistent, effective marketing procedure based heavily on the scientific method. I look forward to that day.

As for the now, below you can find all 13 responses printed with only a few minor grammatical edits.

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