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12 February 2024 / Opinion

Failing Forward: Delivering creative that wins in the real world


We all know that coming up with great creative concepts is just the beginning. Whilst it's essential to ensure that our campaigns look good, it’s equally important that our audience notice them and we achieve results.

First and foremost, the importance of creative in driving growth for businesses should not be understated, and marketing teams should be mindful of this and the longer-term business impact of creative choices. As highlighted by Hanna Wade, Client Partner at Jaywing:

"Beyond the size and impact of a brand itself, research shows that creative stands as the single most influential factor in driving business growth and profitability. Alongside strategic planning, at Jaywing we also pay equal attention to meticulously designing and testing our creative outputs, laying the strategic groundwork to ensure they have a significant impact. Notably, only 9% of digital ads capture more than 1 second of attention, highlighting the importance of smart digital creative in a world where consumer attention is fleeting. Research also shows that more ad attention correlates with stronger brand lift which in turn strengthens the value financial analysts place on the brand overall, so creative choices make a real difference in ££ terms.”

In reality, it's not just about making something look sexy or award-winning. Creative quality should be measured by results; tangibly - selling products, generating more leads and/or making a real impact on the audience in a very limited timeframe.

With this in mind, is it time we as marketers acknowledge that perhaps we’re not the best judges what constitutes winning creative? Instead of spending hours evaluating all aspects of creative design and copy in the boardroom, marketers must think about the reality of how consumers interact with our content in their everyday lives and use modern agile research techniques to replicate those interactions. With marketing budgets squeezed, brands should seize the opportunity to adopt modern, lean and agile research tactics to iterate and optimise creative (i.e. embrace ‘failing forward’) within, not after, the creative development.

"Failing forward" is a concept that accepts it’s impossible to achieve effectiveness in a single iteration, and to work smartly, iterating work through rounds of data-driven insight. Instead of being discouraged or deterred by ideas that don’t quite make the cut, failing forward is about embracing failure as a natural part of progression. Agile creative testing provides invaluable learning opportunities and encourages experimentation offering insight into what works and what doesn’t, allowing us to refine our ideas.

So, let's get practical. If evaluating creative ideas can’t be based solely on personal opinions or gut feelings, we must embrace data-driven approaches to understand how our creative will perform in the real world. Tools such as emotional testing, A/B or preference testing, and attention tracking can provide valuable insights into how people engage with our creative, allowing us to make informed decisions rather than relying on subjective judgments. At Jaywing, our neuroscience platform tests for effectiveness doing just that. David Rubery, Head of UX at Jaywing says:

"Our AI tool, built on a vast database of real eye tracking studies, employs machine learning to swiftly identify patterns in creative content. Within seconds, it predicts where users are likely to focus, just like our natural inclination to gravitate towards faces. Recognising, not only the obvious elements, but also mirroring the innate human tendency, our AI replicates the nuanced behaviour observed in eye tracking studies.

Combining this type of machine learning with the international research panels we use, which give us timely feedback from real people, enables us to sense check that our creative will have the impact that our clients are looking for"

And this approach drives results. Notably for one of Jaywing’s clients, Castrol, using our neuroscience platform led to a 42% conversion rate for competition engagements in their Premier League Sponsorship competition. When compared to a typical competition engagement rate, which is around 5-10%, this was a huge success.

Crucially, it's not about restricting the creative process; it's about using data to guide and enhance our ideas. An iterative approach fosters innovation, minimises risks, and leads to a stronger final output, ultimately increasing the likelihood of achieving the impact our clients are looking for. Neither should this be viewed as an idea or design being right or being wrong (in one instance 72% of users preferred the alternative to Jaywing’s design recommendations leading to further round of creative amends prior to implementation!). Rather, by leveraging tools that provide real-time feedback and insights, we can make informed decisions that both align with our audience's preferences and behaviours alongside aligning with our marketing objectives, with data driving the process

Being able to rapidly test and evaluate creative ideas as part of the creative process, rather than retrospectively is a game-changer in the marketing world. This process of continual improvement is about moving away from subjective opinions and embracing data-driven approaches to ensure that our creative concepts not only look good but also drive real results.