New research explores how creatives and strategists can bridge the gap with researchers for better advertising - here’s what you need to know.

“The biggest barriers to the effective use of insights revolve around language, trust and system issues”, according to the paper.

The findings are detailed in the ARF’s report, How to Get Better Creative from Better Insights, conducted in partnership with Advertiser Perceptions and the 4A’s.

It is based on a US survey of 217 advertiser, agency, and research members and 82 creatives and strategic planners, followed by an additional 16 in-depth interviews with creatives and strategic planners.

Common terms

Ultimately, the problem is a lack of them, with plenty of the sample using the terms “data” and “insight” interchangeably. “The word ‘insight’ is very misused and misunderstood”, says one strategic planner quoted in the report. “There are lots of observations dressed up as insights.”

It also drills down into the techniques of ad creation. For instance, copy testing is viewed differently depending on whether it’s a diagnostic, developmental, or decision-making tool. Researchers are far more likely to value testing (75%) than creatives (44%). However, there is also an issue on the client-side, with many seeing the technique as a report card.

For strategists and creatives, meanwhile, the favoured research methods were ethnography (50%) and social listening (49%).

“To combat this opacity, we recommend aligning internally and developing standards around key research terms that inform the creative process”, the report recommends.

Trust and the ownership of data

A significant finding from both the qual and quant research was an abiding belief that “research, data and insights are often used as a stick, breeding fear and mistrust among creatives.”

But the authors suggest that this to do with transparency, and hints at a reason for the creatives’ preference for measurement techniques such as A/B testing (in which 46% of both creatives and researchers valued the technique) over the black box of copy-testing.

However, there is also a disconnect on the subject of ownership. “Creatives and strategic planners tend to think the creative agency should be responsible, while researchers and others tend to think the marketer/advertiser or market research firm should manage it.”

Ultimately, the report suggests that shared ownership of both data and the insights derived is an important aim, especially with regards to accountability. It also advocates scrum-based work, in which teams made up of various skillsets and organisations involved in the process work together in extremely regular communication.

Researchers need to change too. “Researchers must be mindful of how to transform their numbers into a useful and usable narrative” for creatives and planners.

Misaligned systems, processes, and goals

Lack of trust has created systemic differences. As one researcher puts it, “qualitative insights are not flowing from the organizations to the creative agencies”, adding how even within organisations data is not accessible or shared. This then affects the agency in turn.

But there is also a rift in the stage at which research should enter the process. “While researchers, non-researchers, creatives and strategic planners all agree that research and data are most important in the optimization step of the creative campaign, creatives find research and data less important in the validation and exploration process.”

Effectively, bridging these gaps are going to require common workflows with the role of data established early on in the process. Additionally, high-performing teams are aligned on goals and common evaluation metrics: aiming for the same goals can help to bridge divides, and the same metrics by which to measure them.

Progress requires record keeping and auditing, however, because knowing if there are gaps in the data (and teams’ access to it) is vital. Lessons need to be learned and documented - “one possible owner could be the scrum team, which can help the organization stay accountable for continuous learning and knowledge sharing,” the report suggests.

Sourced from the ARF