What Is Performance Creative, and How It Works

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Over the past 30 years or so, ad agencies have followed a hierarchical structure with distinct compartments for each role. At the heart of this structure are the creative teams, responsible for generating the 'big idea' and crafting compelling narratives, and media teams who determine the best targeting, channels, and timings for the campaign.

While this separation may seem logical on the surface, it can often lead to discord and inefficiency. For instance, a creative team might devise a brand campaign that largely resonates with a certain demographic segment and is best suited as a TV commercial without considering that the target audience is shifting younger and has a propensity for digesting digital media. Conversely, a media team might plan a predominantly social campaign without fully understanding the creative intent behind the message and visual, leading to poor placement or timing decisions.

So how do we solve this, enter performance creative.

Understanding Performance Creative

Performance Creative is a data-driven approach to marketing tasks that involves tracking performance to shape the development of creatives. Unlike traditional creative advertising, which primarily focuses on being clever, cool, or fun, aka the ‘Big Idea’, Performance Creative is hyper-focused on driving a desired outcome or behavior from the user through deliberate creative informed by data.

The 'performance' aspect comes from the ability to track and measure the success of these creatives based on predefined goals. This allows marketers to continually refine and optimize their creative strategy, ensuring they deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time – the holy grail! In short, Performance Creative is not just about creating visually appealing content; it's about producing creative that performs, and performs better and better each time the media team puts it out to the world.

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The Impact of Compartmentalization

The compartmentalization of creative and media roles can cause the brand message to lose its impact and relevance, which in turn reduces the campaign’s overall performance.

The key components of Performance Creative include a clear understanding of the target audience, a measurable goal, a strong value proposition, and a relentless focus on testing and iteration. Every visual, copy, and design element is shaped not just by intuition but also by tangible data. This data-centric approach ensures that campaigns are continually optimized and improved for better performance. This is why it's so important for creative and media teams to work closely together, so that feedback loops can be created where performance data can be quickly leveraged to update and test creative – over and over again. In many cases this creative will be tested within one channel where the data can again be used to inform the next iteration of the creative until it's optimized and maximizing the budget.

The lack of collaboration and communication between these two vital disciplines can lead to a disconnect between the creative concept and its execution. The result? Campaigns that not only underperform but also fail to resonate with the intended audience. 



Bridging the Gap

To maximize ROAS, it's essential to consider both creative and media together in the planning and execution phase of campaigns. Research suggests that integrated teams, where creatives and media experts collaborate from the outset, tend to produce more effective campaigns.

Performance Creative works best when cross-functional workshops facilitate learning among disciplines, enabling individuals to enhance their specific roles. This collaborative approach is reinforced through shared briefings and regular communication to ensure alignment of objectives, visuals, messaging, and media strategies, all contributing to the achievement of some pretty awesome campaign performance. And let’s not forget that we are human, so cultivating an environment where obligations and objectives are commonly shared will also help foster a culture of shared responsibility for the success of campaigns, which is always a good thing.


The Process for Executing Performance Creative

The process of executing performance-optimized creative involves several critical steps:

  • Market Research and Target Identification: The first step is to understand the market landscape and identify the target audience. This involves researching industry trends, competitor strategies, and audience behaviors, needs, and preferences. The aim is to uncover insights that will inform the creative and media strategy in tandem.
  • Setting Goals and KPIs: Based on the research findings, and of course conversations between the agency and the client, clear goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are set for the campaign. These could involve increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, generating leads, or boosting sales – but as we all know, it will more than likely include all the above. The KPIs provide a benchmark against which the campaign's success will be measured.
  • Developing Creative Assets: Next, the creative team develops assets for the campaign. In some cases a new brand campaign is being created and launched, but that’s a blog post for another day. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume we’re leveraging the existing brand campaign. New creative assets could include web banners, programmatic ads, videos, and more. The creative assets need to be in line with the brand's look-and-feel and adhere to all guidelines. Liberties are only taken when considering channel placement, audience targeting and geographical location. This is done in order to create a personalized experience without changing the brand's story or narrative. 
  • A/B Testing: Before launching the full campaign, a pilot is launched and A/B testing is conducted to identify the most effective creative and messaging. Different versions of the creative are shown to a small segment of the target audience, and their responses are analyzed to determine which version drives the best results. This data is also used to rework the creative and test it again.
  • Campaign Launch and Monitoring: The optimized creative is then launched as part of the full campaign. Throughout the campaign run, its performance is closely monitored against the set KPIs and this information is shared with the creative teams so they can iterate on the creative purposefully. This is where the magic happens, in the constant feedback loop between media and creative. This is what makes Performance Creative work
  • Analyzing Campaign Performance: After the campaign concludes, a thorough analysis of its performance is carried out. This helps to understand what worked, what didn't, and why, providing valuable insights for future campaigns.

    Side note: In some industries, such as healthcare or finance, there might be additional challenges in creating performance creative due to strict regulations around advertising. In these cases, compliance with industry standards must be factored into the creative development process.


In conclusion, breaking down the barriers between creative and media teams can significantly improve campaign performance and ROAS. By fostering collaboration and mutual understanding, ad agencies can not only enhance the effectiveness of their campaigns but also deliver compelling brand narratives that truly resonate with their audiences. Working with separate agencies — one for creative and another for media— and maintaining weekly communication with shared campaign metrics through detailed dashboards, does not replace the need for precise execution of performance creative. The time is now to unite these teams and maximize your returns – let the fun begin!

If you’re looking for a partner that will listen and maximize your budget and performance, let's have a chat. Plus, stay tuned for an exciting performance creative announcement and collaboration with our media agency partner Marketing Doctor coming soon!



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