How Social Data Is Upending the ‘Build It Once, Run It Everywhere’ Model

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Traditional media formats don’t leave much room for iteration–but within the powerful data-capturing systems that power leading social platforms, brands face tremendous opportunity to iterate, test, and learn to drive high-performing creative.

Of course, much of this data exists within so-called “walled gardens” that is within controlled or restricted environments, which can make it difficult to share and apply learnings across other platforms. Fortunately for advertisers, technologies can be used to make the data actionable, fueling more effective campaigns moving forward.

At SMWLA, Adaptly Co-Founder and CEO Nikhil Sethi addressed best practices for deriving actionable campaign data from the walled gardens of platforms like Facebook to improve creative performance. He was joined by Atin Kulkarni, who is Head of Global Media Strategy at PepsiCo.

Here are some of the key takeaways from their session.

The challenge & opportunity of social data

Sethi noted that, compared to social media, traditional media is inefficient and inflexible. The digital revolution has brought about countless tools and platforms that advertisers can leverage to power and optimize their campaigns in social media–yet “with flexibility comes massive confusion and massive complexity,” he said.

Within social media, amid all of this promise, is a world that’s comprised of many walled gardens, each with their own custom canvases and data types. The “build it once, run it everywhere” approach to advertising is over.

Creative matters more than ever

As the number of formats and data sources proliferate, advertisers are left with a massive web to untangle, especially when it comes to their creative output. And while brands are no longer focusing the majority of their efforts on premium TV spots that are distributed linearly  on a single platform, there is still a great need to develop relevant advertising that makes an impact.

According to Sethi, 75% of an ad’s impact–measured by brand and ad recall–is determined by creative quality.

Of course, creative formats can change by the minute. As new platforms emerge, advertisers are constantly shifting gears when it comes to the way their brand stories are packaged and delivered. The rise of short-form video is one example of this: as Vine, Snapchat, and later Instagram video began to dominate consumer behavior, advertisers were forced to adapt their storytelling to shorter and snappier formats.

It’s difficult to predict what’s next: Sethi referenced the social platform Snow, now popular in South Korea and Japan, which has garnered 100 million unique visitors just in the past year.

Relevance is key to ‘thumb-stopping’ content

Kulkarni, a senior marketer at Pepsi-owned Frito-Lay, used the word “thumb-stopping” to summarize what makes for effective content in mobile social channels. He says that his team defines success in this realm as the harmonious intersection of powerful creative and audience0relevant themes that cause people to stop and take note of the ad.

When used right, social data can inform more relevant advertising that can reach people more effectively than traditional demographic data. To illustrate this point, Kulkarni cited an A/B test his team conducted for Stacy’s Pita Chips within Facebook. The team developed custom creative to reach two demographically similar, but psychologically contrasting audiences: young parents and single professionals. When the creative elements lined up to these two targets with personalized, relevant messaging, the brand saw a 3.4X lift.

Make learning core to the process

Frito-Lay has established a formal creative learning program that is now one year in, said Kulkarni. As part of the brand’s focus on creative optimization in social, Pepsi partners with Facebook, as well as media and creative agencies, to assess campaign performance and optimize creative based on proven best practices. While the team initially focused on static ads, they have since extended to evaluating video content–an increasingly critical format within Facebook in particular.

For example, key learnings from a recent test for the Frito-Lay snack brand Ruffles yielded the following best practices that can be used for the brand’s social content moving forward:

  • Prominent branding and packaging
  • Colorful, ‘thumb-stopping’ imagery
  • Short, crisp coy
  • Overall theme aligns with campaign theme (e.g. “summer grilling”)

Final thoughts

Faced with a more complex creative canvas, brands like Frito-Lay are being forced to rethink their approach to creative development and optimization. Adaptly’s Sethi advised advertisers to start with some guiding principles to help make decisions in this regard, for example:

  • Establish a creative learning process: How will you test ads? How often? What are the key KPIs? And how will learnings be shared across all stakeholders?
  • Use similar rigor as you have with TV, but with a different toolset: Take advantage of technologies designed to make sense of the social inputs gleaned from walled gardens.
  • Finally, institutionalize creative learning. Build it into the process of how creative is developed, and how media performance is assessed.

Changes in the mobile-social space are rapid, so advertisers must rely on API partners and strong creative teams to stay ahead of the curve. Data shouldn’t be seen as a way to limit or box in creative ideation, rather it should be used to inform an overall framework within which creative minds can operate to develop high-performing content that meets brand and business objectives.

The original article can be found on Social Media Week.