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Digital Marketing

The Creative Sprint: How To Think Like a Creative Strategist

November 11, 2022
Evan Lee

Table of Contents

We have teamed up with Motion to create a three-part series that examines the role Creative Strategist play in maximizing a brand's marketing capabilities. This is the second article in a three-part series. The first article, which deconstructs the Creative Strategist role, can be found here.

In 2022, the Creative Strategist emerged as one of the most critical roles in a marketing department. As regulators placed more limits on targeted advertising, organizations responded by pushing the creative to the forefront. And this is where the Creative Strategist comes in.

Creative talent has risen to become one of the most powerful levers in paid social, yet is often left out of the decision-making process. Creative Strategists act as the bridge between media buyers and creative teams, merging creativity and data to produce winning ads.

To better understand the creative strategy process, we need to look at the creative sprint.

The Creative Sprint

Logic and creativity may seem like polar opposites, but a good Creative Strategist knows that the two are closely connected. This idea forms the backbone of the creative sprint, a framework Creative Strategists use to solve problems quickly. 

In a nutshell, the Creative Strategist takes a data-driven approach to test assumptions towards a desired goal. They look at previous results to identify problem areas and use that insight to develop and fine-tune creative solutions.

The creative sprint is broken down into four steps:

  • Ideation
  • Briefing
  • Retrospectives
  • Project management

Let's zoom in on each one.

Ideation

Starting is often the most difficult part of any process and the same is true for creative strategy. 

The ideation stage is where the Creative Strategist unearths the assumptions and ideas that will form the basis of their campaign. But a campaign will only work if you know the issues you are solving, and sometimes the real challenge isn't seeing the solution but identifying the problem.

The ideation process typically involves two things:

  • Analyzing data from existing ads. Many Creative Strategists start here as the insight will give them an idea of what creative themes are resonating with their target audiences.
  • Studying what your competitors are doing. Competitive analysis helps inform you of ad trends in their campaigns, and whether they missed (or stopped using) something.

The Creative Strategist starts by mining the brand's ad account for inspiration and actionable insight. Where others might look at underperforming ads, the Creative Strategist would instead double down on what works. They would be thinking, "What ads are hitting their KPIs?" They might look at creative formats, messaging, ad types, product categories, landing pages, and influencer performance.

Why? Data takes the guesswork out of the process. 

Briefing

Once the Creative Strategist has formed their assumptions, the next step in the creative sprint is to write the brief.

The brief is the blueprint for any marketing campaign. It contains the creative approach, instructions, and specific deliverables. The creative team will use this document to create new assets.

While there are different opinions on what a brief should contain, it should include the following:

  • The hypothesis: The overall direction of the campaign. Using the assumptions formed in the ideation stage, the Creative Strategist lays out the goals that they want to hit.
  • Specifics: The nuts and bolts of the campaign. What's the hook? What features do you want to highlight? It's important to communicate using plain, direct language. The simpler, the better.
  • Outline: What will this round of creatives look like? This can include sketches, mood boards, written copy, or example ads.

A good creative brief is detailed and direct without being overly specific. Micromanagement can be counterproductive and lead to creative stagnation. The brief provides much-needed direction but the creative team will fill in the rest.

Retrospectives


Provide guidance on what to produce next and uncover new opportunities for the creative team with Motion.

Once the ad has been produced, approved, and launched, it's time to assess the campaign's performance. This step is also called the retrospective.

In this stage, the Creative Strategist looks back on what went right and what went wrong. Were their assumptions validated? Or do they need more ads to test their hypothesis? 

The Creative Strategist will also have to make sense of the data shared by the media buyer and, if needed, identify the benchmarks the campaign needs to hit. The media buyer's definition of success may differ from the Creative Strategist's, and it's the Creative Strategist's job to put the numbers into context.

With the information gathered from this step, the Creative Strategist can then examine the best path forward. They may want to test the hypothesis further and produce more ads. Or they can use the insight to iterate more solutions. Either way, the creative sprint doesn’t end with retrospective and circles back to ideation.

Project management

Project management isn't one of the steps in the creative sprint, but it's an essential component nonetheless. Throughout the process, the Creative Strategist also acts as the project manager. They are tasked to empower the team to produce their best work while on a tight timeframe.

Creative Strategists often face three issues when it comes to project management work: creative block, team silos, and inadequate tools.

On occasion, the creative strategy has to help the team overcome a creative block. An overly restrictive brief can sometimes cause stagnation, so maintaining a relaxed stance can go a long way to get the team's juices flowing. It's your job to provide direction but you must allow the team to infuse their voice into their work and flex their creative muscle.

Next, team members become disenfranchised and creativity suffers when teams become siloed. You might have a well-oiled production house, but without that culture of collaboration, you will never make full use of your team’s creative talents. Invite your team members to see the big picture so they can be clear on what the ad needs to achieve.

Finally, Creative Strategists need to possess the right tools to deal with the creative sprint. Since they often wear many hats, they need to be empowered to produce creative work that hits the desired business objectives.

Motion is a creative analytics platform that helps Creative Strategists identify the key drivers of creative performance. 

Reports are often complex, and creative teams usually have a hard time understanding the information. Motion simplifies the process by eliminating information overload with visual reporting for the whole team. This helps with getting the entire team involved in the creative process from designers to paid marketers.

Visit Motionapp.com to learn how to leverage their tooling to improve your campaign performance.

Evan Lee
about the author

Evan Lee is the Head of Creative Strategy at Motion.

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