As COMPETE’s lead Creative Strategist, I spend most of my time writing, reviewing, and analyzing hundreds of Digital ads. Our firm churns out dozens of ads every week, and we have learned through thousands of hours of iterating what works and what doesn’t. In this newsletter, I want to break down our hard earned best practices for you and your team. Before I get into it, a note on our team: Our creative department has leveled up significantly since we first launched COMPETE 3 years ago, including recently bringing on Adam Perry as our new Creative Director! Adam is a highly skilled designer, children’s book author and illustrator, and has worked on countless digital campaigns throughout his 16 year career.
Meet the The COMPETE Creative Team!
ADS FOR THE ONLINE WORLD
It’s tricky to balance what folks want and what actually performs best. In a perfect world, every ad would be a full manifesto of the client’s beliefs, story, and platform. Unfortunately, the way people use the internet doesn’t give advertisers enough time for everything. Instead, we have to communicate as much of the critical message as possible—be it boosting name ID, establishing contrast, a GotV effort, or any other campaign objective—within the first 3-5 seconds. The reality is that most people stop watching after that point. I can’t emphasize enough how powerful those first seconds can be with the right targeting and saturation.
There are three primary layers to your creative communications that need to all work together to create a cohesive, compelling, and vote-getting strategy: Video, Natives/Banners, and Landing Page. Done right, this trio of assets can overcome the 3-5 second attention span of the average Digital consumer and create a platform to speak to voters, supporters, and donors that is unparalleled.
Your video is a critical component of your Digital communication strategy, and the first 3-5 seconds of that are the part that will be seen by the majority of your audience. We utilize some techniques to hook the audience in, in hopes that they will stick around for the full story:
- Strong graphic design: it’s important to get more than your logo out there. We utilize bold lettering and animated designs to catch the eye of the viewer. Check out this video we made for Calbright College as an example.
- Unlike traditional TV ads, we have to assume the audience will have the video on mute until they choose to engage. This makes large captions even more critical. The primary purpose of our Digital campaigns is saturation. We want your audience to absorb the key objective of your message an optimal number of times—that has to happen in those first few seconds, sound on or not. In this ad we made to fight back against radical militia members, you know exactly what we’re talking about—regardless of sound settings.
- Our approach to Digital videos is to see them as almost two separate entities. Your first 3-5 seconds get your primary objective out in the most compelling way possible, and the remaining video is a more traditional format. Here’s a video we made for Alyia Gaskins that shows what we mean.
As we craft scripts, we take all of these things into consideration. It’s hard to fight the urge to make your video an artistic manifestation of your core beliefs, but the Digital world demands otherwise.
In tandem to your video assets, we typically run static native and gif banner ads across social media and the wider web.
We encourage campaigns to closely consider again the path to victory: is it name ID? Polling-tested platform messages? Contrast? Your banner and native assets are the space to communicate core campaign messages in highly clickable ways. Admittedly, we used to cram in as much text and activity as possible into these pieces but the reality is, it just doesn’t work. Instead, we recommend:
- Create short, pithy, to-the-point messages that center around the campaign’s core objective. This was one of our best performing ads recently for Clean Virginia.
- Repurpose the themes used in video assets (and even specific images) to create cohesive banners, like this piece we made for a solar advocacy campaign.
- Create native and banner images that are directly connected to the landing page you are sending people to. This builds a layer of messaging trustworthiness that helps drive people down the funnel. This banner uses the exact same visual structure as the landing page we drove traffic to.
- We take the approach of using the same creative for multiple platforms. By taking the native slides we create for social media carousels and converting that into multiple banner sizes, we can make your creative budget stretch across all platforms.
While we put a lot of emphasis on videos for persuasion programs, native and banners ads cannot be cast aside. There is great inventory available on the wider web, and banner ads increase your overall presence online.
We think of landing pages as the back of a mail piece. Running a digital campaign without a strong landing page is like sending a piece of mail with no back side. Your audience is interested, they want more, and now it’s time to expand upon your ad message. On the flip side (pun intended), pointing your audience to a bland, difficult to navigate page can do more harm than good. Above the fold assets need to encourage the most critical action (donate, sign up, petition links, or top-line message) and visually encourage the viewer to continue scrolling. Your landing page is the Digital stump space, where we:
- Remind and reinforce what’s at stake and why the audience’s participation is critical
- Encourage engagement via social links, email sign ups, and donations
- Highlight key components of the objective and dive into further detail
- Provide evidence and sources backing up our claims and objectives
Every Digital campaign has unique needs and objectives, but the best practices remain the same. If you would like to chat more about our approach to Digital creative and how we can optimize your budget and message, please get in touch!
P.S. For more samples of these best practices applied, check out our highlight reels —>