Ihor Svietlichnyi
CMO expla 

Joined expla company as a Junior Marketing Manager and advanced to the position of CMO within 4 years. Launched two of the company's largest units.


From zero to hero: how a well-done creative generates profit

Hi, I’m Ihor Svietlichnyi. I’ve been working as Chief Marketing Officer at expla for three years. Every month, I come across hundreds of creatives. And I have a good understanding of how to create something that makes sales.

In this blog post, we’ll figure out how to make a really good and profitable creative from zero. 

Types of marketers and their functions

Previously, I talked about who a marketer is. They perform different types of tasks required for different types of businesses. But usually it involves getting new users interested in the product.

In a product company, you work with large budgets and a specific product. In an agency, you work with several clients. And sometimes you have a shallow understanding of the specifics of their business. Often it is a local FMCG, retail, logistics, etc. Performance is the most data-driven niche in online marketing, where a specialist has to understand not only the specifics of working with ad networks, but also the business of each client (their LTV, CAC, rates and prices, geography of purchases, and much more).

An online marketer works with sales funnels, advertising campaigns, analyzes ROI, and creates content for landing pages. All of this is usually done in collaboration with a designer, copywriter, and other team members.

Online marketer is a profession that offers different earning opportunities. For example, a Junior can start with $800, while a Head or Lead can start with $3-5K. The highest salary offers are usually in performance and product companies.

The most important hard skills for a marketer are Excel, experience with CRM, CMS, and the ability to quickly and competently search in Google. Among soft skills, it’s worth developing curiosity and creativity. It’s soft skills that account for 50% of your success.

Since a marketer deeply understands the specifics of the business and can see it 360°, it is possible to grow from this position, even to the CEO.

I recommend reading more about the path of an online marketer and the nuances of work here.

What is a creative

Creatives in performance marketing are a combination of creativity and analytics. With the right creatives, we can pull a person out of a Facebook/Instagram/TikTok news feed and motivate them to become a consumer of a product or service. What is needed in creatives is a personalized approach, where each user receives what they are most likely to be interested in.

Here are a few options for what creatives can look like in the VPN niche:

In our company, we have both marketers and designers working on creatives. Sometimes marketers can save time for designers and create something on their own – for example, in Canva or Figma. Making creatives in performance marketing looks like a factory of developing approaches. First, you generate 5-7 ideas for selling a product/service, then turn these ideas into different ads (10-20 variations per idea), and you have 50-140 ads ready for testing.

In the classic approach, the process begins with a brainstorming session. We also used such a method, but in practice, it works better when a marketer has some analytics in front of them and offers hypotheses. Then, together with the designer, they create a creative, and at the test stage, they understand what worked and what didn’t. If our target audience is a specific age category, we need to understand that the creative should work exactly on them.

What do I like about my occupation? You can’t become a guru and know what’s best for everyone. That’s why you have to experiment. In most cases, you can never guess what the audience is going to like, and you just organize a factory of creatives. This opens up a lot of room for creativity, collaboration between marketers and designers, combined with a data-driven approach.

You make fifty visuals, and only two of them are really golden ones. And your task is to scale these two. You see that they get a much better response (CTR, CPC, CPA). And sometimes it’s not something obvious at all. This can be compared to a photo shoot – you take a hundred pictures, and get only five golden ones in the end.

No one knows what is going to work – we just make a pipeline of creatives and analyze what the target audience likes. Sometimes the creatives that we didn’t expect to be successful are the ones that win.

Who makes creatives and what are the teams’ KPIs

I spend two hours a day on Facebook. Every fifth post I see on Facebook is an ad. On average, I see about 40-50 advertising posts a day on Facebook only. And then there’s Gmail, TikTok, Google Search, and dozens of different sites that have ad monetization. The average American sees 4000-10000 ads every day. You need to create something outstanding to get noticed.

For example, a VPN service has different advertising approaches for different audiences. Some people need a VPN to browse websites blocked in their country (for example, LinkedIn is banned in Turkey), others need it to use public WiFi more securely, and there are those who use it to browse any website anonymously. These are all different audiences to work with. The marketer’s task is to feel which approach will resonate with the target audience. We add text to the visuals – different variants, and test them as well.

Modern advertising networks analyze creatives automatically – by the number of pixels and image bitrate. Sometimes companies try to just copy their competitors, but make the image more saturated, reduce or increase the number of pixels. This approach may work at the start, but ad networks still encourage advertisers to create new and unique ads.

All modern advertising networks have an anti-plagiarism system. If the network finds out that the creative is a copy, it will pessimize the publication so that it gets less traffic. This is important to consider and you should get inspired wisely.

Once this has been done, analytics kicks in and shows what makes it through and what doesn’t.

We upload the creatives to the ad network, provide a test budget of $10 for each ad, and test the ads. Later, we see from the statistics which approach the target audience liked better and continue to develop it with larger budgets.

There is a profession called a creative marketing manager. This is an additional link between a designer and a marketer. He has access to analytics and, taking into account the numbers, sets the terms of reference for the designer. Five working days = two hundred and fifty creatives per week. And constant tests, tests, and tests.

Four approaches that encourage users to interact with creatives

Here are the practical algorithms that can be used to create an attractive creative:

In the advertising world, there is also a Q5, or “fifth quarter.” Q5 starts right after Christmas and lasts until mid-January. This period offers marketers the opportunity to take advantage of post-holiday shopping habits. Many consumers continue to shop during this period, and Q5 gives smaller brands a chance to stand out. The advertising auction becomes more affordable as big brands have already spent their budgets. Messages should focus on personal development and lifestyle upgrades, with incentives and discounts. During this period, health & fitness, gaming, and finance businesses sell more actively.

What role does artificial intelligence play in making creatives

I’ll share our experience only. This is a new technology, and we are cautiously testing AI concepts. For example, if we need an image of a man in a sports uniform, we can generate it using AI. But currently, this is about 10% of our creatives. We see that almost none of our major competitors use AI.

Does AI have a future? It is not known. Obviously, it’s a trend now. But so far, we still create most of the visuals with our hands, like the old believers 😁.

We use AI in automation. Google ads, TikTok (90% of creatives here – videos), etc. Sometimes you have to make just five clicks to use these tools. Other times, it’s just the daily hard work of a designer and marketer. Plus simple templates, like Canva.

Post Scriptum

You can’t do anything without creatives. In modern business, we test thousands of creatives a month and see which ones make it and which ones don’t. Of course, we take a look at competitors’ visuals and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. We take into account the requirements for advertising in each advertising network. We also take into account the fact that modern platforms have anti-plagiarism tools, and we try to borrow from competitors wisely.

Of course, making a good creative is often a matter of chance. You never know what your target audience is going to like. However, there are certain techniques that work, such as personalization, tying in with symbolic dates or holidays, calls to action, and public opinion. It will also work if you try to combine all these elements in one creative.

In the world of digital marketing, analytics and data-driven solutions play a major role, but creatives remain crucial as well. We are a company with a technological and systematic approach to processes. Everything I’ve said above is practical experience that works in our company and helps us create profitable creatives. I hope it will be useful to you as well.

I would like to recommend two books to marketers:

  • Cashvertising by Drew E. Whitman — describes more than 100 secrets of advertising psychology and provides insights on how to create effective advertising campaigns to increase sales of any product or service.
  • The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman — valuable tips and strategies on copywriting for successful creation of advertising texts and promotion of products/services.

Let’s get inspired and get to work!

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