The Online Advertising Industry Needs a Reset

Natascha Chamuleau
Jun 4 · 4 min read

In business, it’s not very fashionable to talk about going backward. Move fast and break things. Go bigger, go quicker — forward, forward, forward.

The advertising industry once known for thinking differently, seems to have fallen into this same trap. We have access to more data than ever before. We know what someone did and what they will do next. Having worked in the advertising industry for years at several of the large players, I’ve seen firsthand data’s massive role in influencing ad buying decisions.

We have tunnel vision when it comes to getting those sales in and we’ve turned people into numbers. We have the same numbers and the same spreadsheets and we know how to reach the most people in the most efficient ways. Forward, forward, forward.

But at WeTransfer, we’ve found the most interesting, most creative brands are prepared to slow down. To pause. Even, to take two steps backward and ask what it is they are really trying to say.

We recently worked with adidas Originals on a campaign for its new Nite Jogger shoe. Adidas wanted its campaign to resonate with creators who find their inspiration after hours. They knew that for ten years, WeTransfer has built campaigns which make the most of our full-screen, interactive backgrounds, or wallpapers.

They trusted us to dream up the best way to showcase their product and celebrate what it stands for. They took, in effect, two steps back. The result was three stunning adverts on

  • Beatbox — An interactive mixing board that can be used to mix a beat as soon as a user enters The color pallet, in striking black with purple hues, signals the creative energy of late-night work sessions for those who hustle best after dark, with the line: “whenever inspiration strikes, be ready to run with it.”
  • Flashlight — A spotlight that follows the cursor over a blacked out screen to reveal the Nite Jogger’s reflective surfaces. Calling for the late night hustlers, the moonlighters and the daybreakers.
  • Day to Night — A dragging slide that brings the backdrop of the screen from black to white, highlighting the shoe versatility in daylight and low light. The shoe doesn’t stop when the sun goes down.

The results were a huge hit with the brand, with our creative community, and with our in-house teams who went above and beyond to make something special. This is exactly what our in-house Studio does so well. It raises the bar of what advertising could and should be and we are not afraid to give feedback to brands when they don’t meet our high creative standards.

This hasn’t been easy. We’ve lost proposals because we don’t have the data of other platforms and turn down brands that don’t align with our values or design aesthetic. But in the long run, this created engaged WeTransfer users who appreciate the high caliber curation of the ads we show them. It also worked well for those brands who were confident enough to let us help them tell their story.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the luxury to talk with many brands about their mission, their vision and the things that make them special during our creative kick-off sessions.

Listening to their stories has given me two insights:

  1. Most people are proud of their company. They see what makes it special and sets them apart.
  2. Most companies do a lousy job in bringing their mission and unique offerings to life. They neglect to integrate their internal strategy into their external communication and miss out on showing off why people should choose them.

Which is where we come in. We could run generic ads like anyone else, set up advanced dashboards and retargeting, but we choose not to. We want our global audience to understand and connect with the often unexpected story behind the brand, rather than their features and functions.

We are helping brands to think beyond what online advertising has become and bring the emotion, the mission and the heart of their brand back into their visual communication.

People are more than numbers. Let’s hit the reset button and remember that.


WeTransfer makes tools to move ideas across the creative spectrum: editorial platform WePresent, mobile app ‘Collect’, slide-making tool Paste®, sketching app Paper®, and with 50 million monthly users and over a billion files sent each month.

Natascha Chamuleau

Written by

VP Sales & Brand Partnership at WeTransfer


WeTransfer makes tools to move ideas across the creative spectrum: editorial platform WePresent, mobile app ‘Collect’, slide-making tool Paste®, sketching app Paper®, and with 50 million monthly users and over a billion files sent each month.

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