Major marketing has long been dominated by Big Ideas. The legendary advertiser David Ogilvy, for example, not only recognized this fact, but based his remarkable career on the irresistibility of the right idea:
“You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”
Ogilvy’s thoughts reflect the standard method of thinking of most marketers over the decades. Today, however, the advertising landscape is quickly changing, and perhaps the time has come for our reliance on Big Ideas to change as well.
Of course, the kind of research and creativity involved in producing truly Big Ideas remains crucial. Thanks to the changing face of digital advertising, this research and creativity should be refocused on flexible concepts that are targeted, adaptable, iterative, and, as a result, optimizable.
Big ideas results in big, general messages
Big Ideas are meant to appeal to a massive customer base—their wide general appeal is, after all, part of what makes them so Big. Advertising campaigns based on big ideas are built to deploy the same story (or slight variations thereof) across multiple media channels and varied swathes of customer types, and to get results regardless.
However, many brands have disparate customer bases; often, these different subsections of customers may be attracted to or engaged by entirely different facets of the company or different kinds of products offered, and they access brand information via different channels or devices. In these cases, relying on the same general story for all target audiences simply will not be as effective as deploying smaller, targeted approaches.
Programmatic targets different audiences in context
With the abundance of data available to advertisers, we are no longer forced to rely on general messaging, and to hope that it appeals to as many customer segments as possible. User data is an essential component of flexible, iterative advertising campaigns along every point of the buyer’s journey.
For years now, companies have been able to deliver targeted messages to different locations (e.g., websites or mobile apps) based on information about the kinds of users who frequent those locations—demographic information, past browsing history, etc. However, both data collection and advertisement deployment are now capable of operating in real time, dramatically increasing accuracy of targeting and efficiency of advertising campaigns.
Not only can advertisers target different customer segments based on demographic information, they can target individual customers based on various data—including past interaction with the brand (or its competitors) across multiple devices and channels. This means that advertisers can deliver, in real time, different messages depending on a particular customer’s position in the buyer’s journey.
Different messaging can be deployed based on specific retargeting data, reaching consumers who have interacted with your brand in a particular way versus broader messaging used for brand awareness and initial outreach with a future customer.
What should the future of advertising look like?
The most memorable advertising campaigns in history are the work of creative, talented marketing teams who spent months dedicated to finding the right Big Idea around which to structure their company story.
Today’s advertisers are able to move beyond the confinement of past technologies and embrace the digital world. Successful advertising will lie at the combination of creativity and extensive, real-time data, at the intersection of art and science.
Instead of spending months coming up with the single right idea, developing coherent stories and messages based on that idea, and determining the best advance strategy for delivering that message to target audiences, we can now spend those months testing, adjusting, and iterating smaller and more flexible concepts. Since testing is done in real time on real consumers, we can increase efficiency and create relatable ad experiences that appeal to varied audiences.
With real-time data, we can defend revisions, deletions, additions; we can give scientific weight to the creative process—improving advertising for brands, creators, and consumers along the way.