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Leverage First-Party Data to Make Better Ad Creative

Given today’s brutal digital advertising markets, brands of all sizes and stages must shift their primary focuses to profitability in order to stay afloat. That’s especially true during the high-stakes holiday season. To learn how to navigate the holidays from the best, Black Crow AI partnered with Joe Yakuel, Founder & CEO of WITHIN, for an insight-packed webinar: Boost Performance for the Holidays & Beyond.

WITHIN is the world’s first performance branding company, helping brands like Nike, Budweiser, and Facebook bridge performance marketing and branded content to align on the single goal of maximizing long-term profitability.

We sat down with Joe to discuss how marketing teams can supercharge ROI and profitability during the busiest time of year — for both brands and buyers. We dive into topics like:

1. Optimizing your creative strategy
2. The value of “structured authenticity”
3. How to shift gears from growth to profitability

“There’s a way for every brand to activate structured, authentic content. It’s an evergreen strategy, especially because investment in that sort of creative is a multiplier.”

Leverage First-Party Data to Make Better Creative Decisions

As platforms push consolidation and automation, many levers historically used by brands are being removed, and brands are forced to place a lot of trust in platforms.

However, creative is a major lever that’s still in play these days. To optimize this lever when you’re trying to move quickly and figure out what’s working for your brand, it’s essential to look to early signals.

The thing about creative is that it may be costly and time-intensive, but it’s one of the best investments brands can make.

That raises the question of, “how can brands cut down on time spent to iterate creative?”

Black Crow looks at the output of its predictive traffic quality report to see which creative is resonating for each of its clients.

That data is powerful because once brands can ID strong correlations between creative efforts and conversion, they can start making quicker decisions. That includes honing in and iterating on the most successful creative efforts.

It also allows brands to compare across channels and rate the quality of their traffic.

“Learning how to use early signals to optimize creative is essential when you need that fast feedback to learn what's working.”

How to Design and Deploy Winning, Authentic Ads

Joe notes that brands can often get in their own ways if they’re too slavish to their brand guidelines. Such guidelines are important, but should be weighed against creator guidelines.

This is relevant when creators are making branded content – consumers are savvy; they know when creator content is an ad, so you don’t necessarily have to label it and run it through strict brand guidelines. Doing so ruins what makes creator content so special.

WITHIN has a subsidiary business called Brkfst, which creates content at scale through UGC to drive ROI. It’s an end-to-end solution, from content creation to media buying. It adds on to what you’re already driving by helping you create winning ads.

There are four main components to a winning ad:

  • Volume: Producing lots of ads to get your brand out there.
  • Variety: A wide variety of ads is key so you can hopefully keep discovering ads that convert well. This can be time-consuming, and is part of why brands should contract Brkfst to do the lift.
  • Hook: A simple something that grabs attention in the first 1-2 seconds of the video. This can entail transitions, quick motion, verbal direct callouts, visual direct callouts, or aesthetic hooks. It doesn’t necessarily have to drive a click or product understanding.
  • Authenticity: Your ads should mimic the organic content that exists on social media platforms if you were to search your brand. That’s the stuff that’s driving engagement and representing you, even if you don’t love it or agree with all of it.

Brkfst creates content with what Joe calls “structured authenticity.” That means they supply creators with guidelines to follow, but they’re far looser than brand guidelines, so the creators don’t sound robotic and lose what makes the content special.

Structured Authenticity at Scale

Between TikTok, Instagram reels, and Youtube shorts, there’s plenty of available real estate to use for authentic creative content.

Brands that leverage the spaces and fight for mind share correctly will win out.

It’s about having authenticity at scale. Joe’s found that it’s cost-effective to showcase products in this way, no matter the price range of the product itself.

Whether you’re shipping product to influencers and educating them by yourself or through Brkfst, the structured authenticity + winning ad equation is an evergreen one – especially because investment in creative is a multiplier.

“You might not like it, you might not agree with it, but the discourse about it online is your brand in real life. If you're going to get content made through creators that drive sales, they should mimic that type of authenticity.”

How to Shift Gears from Growth to Profitability

There’s definitely a trend given the current economic climate where brands that used to focus on disruptive channels to drive growth are shifting gears and doubling down on profitability.

Many people are wondering if the recession is coming, or if it’s already here.

Joe points out that if consumers and brands are both acting like it’s here, whether or not it really is here doesn't exactly matter – the brand/customer relationship is reflecting it.

There’s a lot of pressure on all businesses, no matter the size or stage, to understand the profitability and incrementality of their investments. That means that when CFOs are cutting costs, they’re really scrutinizing marketing investments.

Because of this, CPMs have absolutely plummeted, and if you can’t prove the profitability of your marketing scheme, it’s going to get cut out of the budget.

Growth to Profitability Case Study: Draper James

Black Crow and WITHIN’s collab for Draper James is a great example of doing more with less to focus on business outcomes.

The use case was standard, and involved:

  • Building a predictive model for purchases
  • Pushing the scores from the model into Meta, which provided some excellent lift for the business
  • Helping scale top of funnel, which meant adding extra spend for better efficiency there.
  • For bottom of funnel, honing in on users who are likely to purchase to increase return on ad spend while scaling up the spend.

All of these tactics in tandem create a powerful network effect that doubles new customers driven during the period of effort. The top-of-funnel changes attract more eyeballs to the site, and the bottom of funnel communicates with the right people for conversion.

The partnership really enables going after the most incremental segment and improving efficiency while scaling, which is the holy grail brands are looking for.

The account team is also expanding to channels beyond Meta.

Enter Black Crow’s AI Engine: Limitless Model Potential

Black Crow can model any event that a business cares about.

Most brands have an ultimate goal for how they’re trying to direct human behavior. In eCom that’s usually purchasing or subscribing, but some of Black Crow’s customers have secondary models to predict other variables like submitting a lead form or winning an email address.

The WITHIN x Black Crow partnership focuses on supercharging ad performances, so there’s a definite emphasis on leading brands towards ultimate, long-term goals.

“Whatever the ultimate event is that you're trying to optimize your business around, let's predict that thing first.”

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