The Creativity of Creatives

The aim of good mobile site is to provide a continuous reading experience. Mobile sites have unique visual and engagement demands. Thus a premium is put on providing content with a strong visual appeal. It inspires viewers to read more, engage more deeply with the site, and to easily “swipe” back and forth. The bottom line is a mobile site needs to mimic the act of flipping through a magazine.

But if we think back to the time where smartphones weren’t so readily available and before they began to take the place of print magazines, the ads in the magazines and other hard copy publications we consumed were an integral part of the reading experience. Within the industry, they were known as “creatives.”

These creatives were contextual and added value because they exposed products and services that aligned with our interests, naturally, because they were placed in magazines we were interested in reading. The ads were engaging, with clever headlines and sub-copy that provided the necessary messaging and “call-to-action.” The ads were rich and sharp, using color, words and graphics within sophisticated imageries that pushed your eyes where they needed to go. The creation of creatives was an art form in and of itself and the position of art director in magazines was a lucrative position—a lot of money gets paid to the folks who can make ads engaging and compelling.

And readers consumed creatives with as much fervor as they consumed the rest of the content in the publication. It would be great for the publishing business if that type of enthusiasm can be “re-created” for mobile ads.

But it appears the attention paid to creative design doesn’t seem to be what it once was. It could be because the mass migration to digital happened too fast. You had the pressures publishers originally faced of just “getting up on mobile” followed by the pressure of monetizing quickly. Many of the original mobile sites just weren’t designed for mobile viewing. They were too heavy on low-quality graphics that were merely stacked to fit on small screens.

Despite the fact we’ve been improving the mobile experience for several years now, the average current browsing experience will reveal that:

• Some aren’t really part of the reading experience
• They can be loud and intrusive instead of contributing another element to be consumed
• They are no longer part of the reading experience

Perhaps a return to the old art director’s focus on the design creativity of mobile ads would ease the acceptance and willingness to consume them. Interestingly, there are cases of large players making some waves in this regard. China’s Alibaba has introduced a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform that has the capability to crank out approximately 8,000 different banner designs per second. It is using machine learning so the platform understands the components of design and to establish design element center. It operates under the premise that “any designs that can be handled with fixed patterns can probably be handled by AI too — and AI will do it better and faster than humans do.”

Another emerging trend is the personalization in browsing and user experience. Netflix is incorporating personalized artwork or imagery they use to portray title recommendations. The thinking is “if the artwork representing a title captures something compelling to you, then it acts as a gateway into that title and gives you some visual “evidence” for why the title might be good for you.”

While it doesn’t necessarily have to do with ads yet, it is easy to imagine this application being extremely powerful when it come it comes to mobile advertising when it’s combined with the “smoothness” already in place for mobile users. It is easy to believe it is only a matter of time before algorithms will be able to handle creating scintillating personalized ads that attracts and holds a reader’s interest, just like in the old days.

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