At Thesis, our creative offerings span across three verticals: post-production, studio, and user-generated content. In a nutshell, we have a team of video editors and designers to create finalized assets, a production team to create high-end studio and on-site images and video, and we partner with creators to develop platform-ready assets that convert.
But how do these teams collaborate to develop the initial creative strategy? How do we conduct client and competitor research? Where else do we draw our creative inspiration from? How do we decide which types of ad creatives to test first?
How does all of that… turn into a creative strategy?
This article will take you through our 5 Step creative strategy process from initial research to mapping out the actual creatives that we test on our clients to the ongoing process that keeps our creative strategy moving forward.
Before we can understand which creative direction the client should take, we first need to understand the branding guidelines, what’s already been tested, and gather robust knowledge about top/worst performers.
During the sales process, this often begins in the Ads Library where we will gather a high-level understanding of what types of ads are currently being run in the account. We’ll aim to gather a rough estimate of information like:
Once access is given, we’ll also analyze the data directly in the ads accounts. The metrics we’re analyzing are unique to each client, but for the most part, we are looking at which assets drove the most amount of purchases for the cheapest costs. More specifically, we’ll document the following important metrics:
Additionally, we are also going to look at overall breakdown data across the account and across the top performing creative tests. Specifically we’ll look at:
When looking at age and gender, we are trying to get a sense of how accurate the targeting has been to date, aka how closely it is matching up with the clients’ perceived customer avatar. We’ll also cross-analyze how well the people that we are representing in the ads (like UGC) are within the actual demographics that the spend is being concentrated on. Specifically for placements, we’ll be looking at where Facebook has been concentrating the spend, looking for trends across Feed, Stories, and other placements.
If there are big swings in performance for creatives at each part of the funnel, we’ll also analyze top performers in prospecting versus retargeting.
Note: to track hook and hold rates, you’ll need to create a custom metric inside of Ads Manager. Here is how you can create those metrics:
Once our initial deep-dive on the ad account is completed, then we’ll go through our client’s branding guidelines. We’ll work with the client to understand strict “Do’s and Don’t’s” and other types of qualitative information about the brand.
And then it’s on to “external” research.
^ Depending on the team, at Thesis we document these findings in a simple word document or in slide deck form.
Subjectively, my favorite part of the creative strategy research process is when I get to look at things located outside of the ad account. AKA reputation and competitive research!
First, we take a look at how the brand is representing itself organically. We’ll do a deep dive on organic social media channels, sift through the website, and sign-up for the email list. The big things we are looking for:
Once you’ve sifted through the brands’ organic channels, it’s time to start diving into customer testimonials and experiences. In this part of the research process, we like to think like a customer who is about ready to convert, so we’ll conduct Google searches on common keywords and phrases like “*brand name*” and “*brand name review*”. We’ll separate bonafide press hits (earned and paid) from review sites to form a picture of how the public sees the reputation of the brand. We’ll also pull out key phrases around benefits that we can begin testing in ads.
And then it’s on to competitor research.
Unfortunately, we don’t have ad account access to our brands’ competitors. But we can still take a look at the Facebook Ad Library and make draw informed conclusions about which ads have the best performance.
And we do this by looking at how long the ad has been running. The idea is this: the longer the ad has been running in the account, the better the performance it has.
We’ll also take a look at the TikTok Top Ads Library to see which competitor brands are getting the best performance on the platform. Typically, we are looking at conversion-based campaigns and segmenting to the clients’ specific industries.
While looking through both ad libraries we’ll ask ourselves the following questions:
To close out our external research, we’ll also check out keywords associated with our client on Google Trends.
There are two major parts to this step:
Together, we’ll use this to develop a list of features, benefits, and the best testimonials. We’ll use this information to help develop the right messaging and scripts for the content. The actual format of this list is left up to the individual team, but often times is as simple as a Google Sheet to track what has been tested and in what format.
This portion of the creative strategy process also involves asking the client a lot of questions about their brand and their customer to make sure that we’re headed in the right direction. While the actual sales process (before a client is onboarded) is mostly used to make sure the client is the right fit for Thesis’s creative services, this research portion ruthlessly dives in on the customer avatars and how we can create content that speaks to them.
Some of the questions we ask clients to gain more clarity about their customer and value props:
Once we’ve compiled a list of the best testimonials and we have an idea of the best features and benefits to feature in ad content, we’ll then start prioritizing the production methods we will want to use to develop the content. Essentially: will we be hiring creators? Will we need to engage with the studio crew? What can be done with current content using the post production team?
At this point, we’ve completed all of our initial creative and client research. Now it’s time to bring it all together and develop the creative roadmap for the next month.
We deliver new creative assets to our clients weekly. So when beginning to work with a new creative client, we like to iron out the roadmap for the first month, so this nets out to four creative concepts we need to develop tickets for.
At Thesis we work on a creative ticketing system:
If UGC creators or studio production is needed, that is a completely separate process and can take 3-4 weeks to receive finalized assets.
Typically, our creative roadmaps live inside a Google Sheets document so that we can track the creation and performance of each creative batch.
Once we get to this stage and have already completed our competitor research, we tend to have a pretty good idea of what kinds of creative concepts to test first.
If the growth and creative teams need additional ideas, we also have Notion boards of our favorite creative concepts. We simply select the creative concepts and write out the tickets for the post-production team to execute on.
Specifically when scripting out UGC content, we lean into a simple outline that we can plug and play with all the research we had already conducted.
This is what the typical UGC outline looks like:
A sample script could look something like this:
Everything up until this point is essentially how we onboard creative clients and begin formulating their creative strategy. But their creative strategy is by no means “finished”. It still requires ongoing work and check-ins to make sure that we’re always learning from the assets we create and iterating to make improvements going forward.
In a nutshell, our ongoing creative process looks something like this:
2. Once per week, a batch will be delivered.
3. Each batch will go through a QA and approval process. That looks something like this:
a. Asset is completed by a video editor > The asset is QA’d by a Growth Lead > Once approach internally, the asset is sent to the client > If necessary, changes are made > Once the asset is approved and finalized, it is launched into the account > The asset is monitored daily for performance.
4. Analysis is done ~weekly to scale or kill creative tests.
5. Ongoing research to be conducted throughout the month:
a. Internal (to the brand):
i. Looking at recent email blasts
ii. Checking in on social media channels for content opportunities
b. External (to the brand):
i. Competitor research on Ad Libraries
ii. Research on industry and platform trends
6. Which brings us back to our monthly creative meetings!
Creative strategy research is NEVER over. You’re always analyzing and strategizing to GET better.
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