Who says mobile ads can’t be gorgeous? Certainly not Doug Manson, who heads up the Opera House team in the U.S. As senior creative director, Manson is tasked with turning client visions into mobile ad realities – and making sure that the campaigns are as visually interesting as they are functional. Here, he shares his take on how a combination of art, science, innovation and most importantly – client interaction – powers the best mobile creative.
“No one wants to see a pixelated JPEG”
Ninety-eight percent of clients want real creativity.
They may have different levels of involvement – for example, some clients have their ad units already set up, while others are more interested in letting us run with a concept – but everyone cares.
On the brand side, they’re usually very detailed and particular – down to knowing things like how many seconds they’d like a particular element to be animated, or whether a frame has enough smoke or flicker. Without those little details, they feel like their ad units don’t shine.
Now, there is that two percent that will just say: “Here, take this JPEG and make it work …” But for the most part, everyone wants to be in that upper echelon and have their ad units look stunning. No one wants to see a pixelated JPEG.
“Bad creative can drive some really good conversions”
Back to that two percent though. The funny thing is that their JPEG may be awful, but bad creative can drive some really good conversions – especially when it’s targeted effectively.
Creativity is subjective, but there are some baselines for what makes a video or rich media ad unit look polished. Sometimes you get a creative unit from a client that they just want to put out – and you know you can do a much better job – but they just go with it. Then they get a double-digit app install rate, or a see a huge lift in brand awareness, and you’re blown away.
At first it seems like no rhyme or reason. But then you realize it was the audience segmentation, or targeting – because honest to God, it couldn’t be that unpolished ad – and it makes more sense. That’s the thing with mobile. The technology behind the ad units is just as much a part of a campaign’s success as the creative.
“When we started out, just getting one sprite on screen without lag was amazing”
Mobile ad technology is advancing so fast, but sometimes I think makes us short-sighted.
Take something as simple as a looping sprite – or an animation like a Ferris wheel spinning, or a bird flying. Today, having 10 or 15 different things happening onscreen without a loss of quality or processing power is the norm. But when we started out, just getting one sprite onscreen without lag was amazing!
We take things like being able to create ad units that respond when a user taps, tilts, rotates or shakes for granted. Clients push us, and we push ourselves – but as we continue to innovate, I do think it’s helpful to look at how far we’ve come as an industry in just the past two years.
“Sometimes you’ve just gotta hack around it”
That said, waiting for technology to catch up to the collective creative vision is the toughest thing. Sometimes you’ve just gotta hack around it – and make a compromise to achieve what you’ve dreamt up.
We will come up with highly-engaging executions and use after effects to create robust custom animation and sprite assets. The real trick then becomes how to take all that and fit it into the mobile world. A place where we are bound by processing power, file weight and bandwidth across both Android and iOS.
But the thing is, you never just go back to the client and say: “No, we can’t do that.” You spend two days going back and forth with the engineers, and figure out how to make it work.
“Advertising is really what’s driving creativity in design”
I’m a designer at heart. From print and magazines, to brand design and fleshing out what a physical product should look and feel like – it’s what’s lead me to here. Now I’m designing entire mobile worlds that flash by in six seconds. And I think advertising is really what’s driving creativity in design overall.
Think about virtual reality and Oculus Rift. Right now, you’ve got people at agencies dreaming up ways to fit some kind of brand message into that world. Now hopefully, it won’t look like a “traditional” ad – but it’s that investment from the brands that inspires the creativity from the agencies.
That investment then leads to amazing concepts that push the notion of creativity on mobile, on desktop – and even in a virtual world – to a place we haven’t seen before. That’s why doing this kind of work is so much fun. We’re at the forefront of evolution in creativity and design.
Doug Manson is Senior Creative Director at AdColony, a division of Opera Mediaworks