Why Creative Advertising Desperately Needs UX Design Input

& How Communications Planners Are Helping Bridge the Gap

We’re well into the digital age, but surprisingly (or not) the advertising industry has been struggling to catch up. While we realize that cross-platform campaigns are more effective and that consumers have more control over what ads they’re exposed to, many advertisers fail to effectively put two and two together.

As ad opportunities and ad-blocking & skipping have risen in parallel, so have consumers’ standards for creative. This means a higher barrier of entry for digital creative work and zero tolerance for subpar ads.

So is the answer to simply make better ads or, dare I say, ads that people care about? Perhaps, but that’s all easier said than done. What we can do though, and what has been done for decades in web and tech design, is consider the consumer’s experience with our creative. Enter: UX Design.

UX Design, or User-Experience Design, is the process of improving a user’s access of and interaction with a product, namely by empathizing with the user and placing their context at the center of the work. While it’s traditionally been applied to technical fields like HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), it is at it’s core an industry-agnostic approach that’s proving more relevant to creative advertising than ever before. In our case, we’re not working with products or websites, but rather creative ads.

Let’s take for example the opportunity for UX Design in creating seamless ad experiences on Snapchat. Users access the app for a wide array of purposes, from passively viewing stories to actively taking and sharing photos. This means creative ads should consider not only the technical specs of these units, but also how users arrive at these units, their intended experience, and how executions might be tailored to better fit their environments and expectations.

Passive vs. Active User Experience of Snapchat.

AdAge was keen enough to cover this impending collision of UX and creative storytelling back in 2014, and a recent IAB study reports that 73% of industry executives believe user experience needs to be improved in digital work.

Given need and demand for UX rigor are at an all-time high, how do we go about supplying it? Well, if we’re concerned with the consumer context in which ads live, in other words how ads appear to users, then look no further than your friendly neighborhood Comms Planner. We published an article back in May covering 9 reasons your brand needs a Comms Planning. The ninth reason — to follow changes in media, understand new platforms, and craft channel-specific creative — is where UX Design comes in, and what we’ll expand on.

“#9. Comms Planning’s role is to follow changes in media and understand new platforms, in order to integrate them into campaigns and help create channel specific executions.”

Just like UX Designers, Comms Planners empathize with users to address two main concerns: how creative work is accessed, and how it’s experienced. To these ends, we utilize two tools: Ecosystems and Tactical Briefs.

Ecosystems help us map the interaction of cross-platform assets and understand how users will navigate through them. Creative improvements that result from this include the sequencing of work, or the exposure of consumers to assets in a manner that eases them into subsequent work (e.g. how might users better digest a long form YouTube video if they’ve been primed with a related Snapchat ad?).

Tactical Briefs provide platform-specific guidelines that require not only having up-to-date channel knowledge, but also empathizing with users. More specifically, knowing that not only do technical specs vary by platform, but so do users’ expected experiences (e.g. users might enjoy full audio on YouTube, yet find it jarring on a Facebook). This matter of varying digestion methods is something we’ve tackled in past articles, from playing with video pacing for mobile to breaking down the true role of banners.

So what‘s the result of using these tools and considering users’ access and experience of creative? Work that people like, or at least don’t hate.

So if you don’t have a Comms Planner on your team yet, you might want to reconsider. There’s no better time than now, and as new digital opportunities and updates continue to roll out at breakneck speed, the need and demand for UX rigor will only grow.


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