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20 February 2024

How hard do ideas really work for brands? 

CreativeX’s founder and CEO Anastasia Leng on how data can help creative assets work harder for brands

Brands are ‘sitting on a content landfill,’ according to Anastasia Leng, founder and CEO of CreativeX. This landfill represents a ‘graveyard of unused and unloved ads that's building up.’

Leng, whose company helps brands supercharge their creative effectiveness through data, was speaking at Most Contagious New York on 24 January about how much harder brands’ creative assets could work for them.

To begin with, Leng referred to the famous statement often attributed to retail magnate John Wanamaker, that ‘half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.’ This, said Leng, was a vision of the past.

‘This quote really pisses me off, because it is used by CFOs to question the efficacy of our jobs, to cut our budgets. It's used by pundits to say that the advertising and marketing industry, a $650 billion industry, is dying,’ she lamented.

Leng, who’s on a self-professed ‘one-woman mission’ to end this perception, presented creative data as a way to track attribution, helping brands not only identify the effective half of our advertising but also understand exactly what it is about it that’s working.

To find out just how powerful creative data could be, CreativeX first went to its customers and asked them about the big, unanswered questions impacting their marketing. 

What stood out, said Leng, was brands’ uncertainty about whether most of their great creative ideas were actually being seen. ‘Over the last five or 10 years, we've been on this content treadmill of sorts, we've produced more content than ever before. But all of this rapid content proliferation has made a lot of people ask, “Is this content actually being used? And are we maximising its full potential?”’

In a bid to come up with some answers, Leng and her team then took 1000 core assets (or ‘hero’ ideas and characters) and looked at 450,000 ads from over 50 markets. Using AI and machine learning, CreativeX is able to analyse many pieces of content together and identify patterns, rather than just look inside single ads.

‘When you start to stitch things [together] that way, for the first time, you can actually look at the entire lifecycle that your ads go through,’ explained Leng.  

The results were so telling that Leng and her team initially thought they were wrong. But after running the numbers three times and showing them to the (unsurprised) CMOs of some of the largest organisations in the world, the team accepted the results. Only 52% of the 1000 core assets had made it to market in any way, shape or form.

Leng said that this discrepancy could be down to the so-called ‘local-global dilemma,’ the phenomenon that local teams are reluctant to use global content whilst global teams tend to consider local inputs off-brand. Another factor contributing to this wastage is the growing role of generative AI in content production. As Leng pointed out, with the cost and speed of content creation improving, we might need to refine our decision-making to find the great content we want to use and reuse.

To help brands make the most of their creativity, the CreativeX team is looking at using asset-matching technology that builds a connective tissue between ideas. ‘We take a core master asset, and rather than matching it exactly, we look at any permutation of that idea — whether it’s been localised, translated, the colours changed etc. — so we can tie things back to that original creative idea and really understand, how hard are these ideas working for us?,’ said Leng.

That data is then applied in a few different ways, from measuring how much content is actually activated to uncovering global and local investment opportunities. It’s also used to build better connections between creative and media teams, as data sheds light on areas where ideas and assets can fall through the cracks.

Highlighting the value of stretching out an idea further, Leng closed her talk with another reference — this time one she approves of. Quoting Leo Burnett, she said: ‘I have learned that any old fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a genius to keep his hands off a good one.’

‘As people, we love novelty and as marketers we tend to value freshness and newness more than our consumers do,’ she warned. ‘Great creative ideas are very rare, and we should maximise them.’

If you're interested in learning more about how your creative assets are being activated, get in touch with CreativeX.

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