Marketers are under more pressure than ever to justify every cent they spend and demonstrate very clearly the positive impact that this spend has on their brand’s return on investment. The inability to do this is leaving teams with increased budget cuts and hard decisions to make about advert production. As with all things these days, tech is an enabler; and the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and a data-driven approach to production promises marketers the ability to create adverts that deliver value.

Not only is AI now being applied to measuring ads and campaigns, it is also being used to show which elements of content are working and which can be changed for greater impact. This is the new world of on-the-fly market research. It used to take months to measure the effectiveness of an ad or marketing campaign, but creative intelligence tools can now analyse millions of ads and, within days, specify changes that dramatically improve performance.

Being able to analyse moving images frame by frame improves marketing. It can detect what emotions are evoked in viewers, see which elements appeal, show the point at which viewers lose interest or indicate what prompts them to respond to a call to action. It can do this in granular detail, such as revealing whether text is useful or distracting, whether an ad is too long or too short, and which models or images are preferred.

This data can be sliced and diced in many ways. The magic happens when it is linked with performance data such as click-through rates, purchases or other responses, and app installations. It is then easy to make changes to existing content that will improve the performance of the campaign. For example, if the audience didn’t watch a specific clip to the end, the special offer should be moved upfront for a greater response rate.

Changes are often as simple as featuring more or less of a certain element. Unexpected insights – something as simple as the need to make a change to a colour – can dramatically lead to an improvement in the performance of a video. The truth is that whereas colour choices are often based on what the client likes, data assessment tools will pinpoint the colour the audience prefers and do so in real time. This is where competitive advantage is born.

Most productions leave a wealth of material on the cutting room floor that can easily be re-purposed, not only for greater effect but also for different platforms; what works on Instagram isn’t guaranteed to have the same impact on TikTok. Data-driven creative production shows the differences that can enhance the content from one platform to another, which is crucial intelligence in the multi-platform world our target markets inhabit.

This new approach to production is what we call augmented creativity: the combination of human creativity with technology, using AI and data to augment – not replace – the capabilities of the creative team. This isn’t just about measuring and adapting existing campaigns. Using insights gleaned from previous campaigns can be as effective when building a new one. This use of AI cannot replace the creativity or intuition that is so essential in creating work that lives in people’s lives, but is a perfect combination of tech and creativity.

Our creative teams tell us that data assessment tools unleash their creativity, enabling them to notice every little nuance and act on each one, easily and inexpensively, to improve performance.

While the details that are picked up may be minuscule and the content changes may be quick and simple, the performance gains are enormous and substantial. 

Colleagues in Brazil used AI and data assessment on a campaign for a beer brand. They learnt that visuals of locally sourced ingredients drove a 31% increase in click-through rates, using the country’s name drove a 27% increase and a close-up of the bottle yielded an 8% increase. This is nothing short of marketing gold, a level of creative intelligence that marketers could only dream about before AI was put to use in this way. 

We’re also able to glean general information that can be applied by all our clients. For instance, during the early phase of Covid-19, we learnt that when models looked away from the camera there was a 267% increase in app installations –  but this changed during lockdown, when the top-performing gaze was straight at the camera. In 2019 indoor visuals correlated with a 459% increase in purchase rate; in 2020 outdoor visuals correlated with a 237% increase. These are details consistent with living through a pandemic, and they materially improve marketing performance.

The real benefit of AI data-driven assessment tools is that they can be used by anybody – it doesn’t take a data analyst to understand them. And they promise continued improvement because as the science develops, we’re able to prove benchmarks and create best practices for clients and their specific brands.

By embracing data-driven creative production, marketers and creatives are not putting themselves out of a job. To the contrary; computers are never going to surpass human creativity but will augment and support it so that every step in the production value chain is enhanced for the best possible results for every client across every campaign, giving them the power to meet the brief better, both externally and internally.

  • Machanik is the head of production at VMLY&R South Africa. VMLY&R is partnering with Vidmob, the global leader in video analytics, to bring this technology to the SA market.


The big take-out:

Augmented creativity is the combination of human creativity with technology, using AI and data to augment – not replace – the capabilities of a creative team.

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