Deep Focus Executive Creative Director Ken Kraemer: Lessons learned in the creative newsroom

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

One advantage of producing a high volume of creative work at our agency Deep Focus is that you quickly learn how to make every piece of work published better and creatively richer than the last. And armed with the knowledge of what works and doesn’t work for some of the world’s top brands, best practices soon surface with exceptional clarity.

Here are three of my favorite lessons:

1. Microcontent is a new kind of creative.

People have likened microcontent (the punchy, square visuals with snappy headlines or short videos that we see in social feeds) to pretty much every other kind of advertising out there, most commonly out of home and print ads. Apart from a few executional similarities like tight headlines, being a “quick get” and the need for arresting visuals, it is actually like no other advertising form.

Microcontent is fundamentally different because its objective is to be shared, not just viewed. This means it competes for attention with baby photos and @GeorgeTakei’s constant flow of memes. For this reason, the microcontent we produce shouldn’t be advertising at all.

Instead, this sort of content needs to express a point of view and editorial agenda. One square at a time. Never a shill, the best performing microcontent (i.e. the most engaging and shared) communicates a value or idea the brand has in common with its audience. It’s about connecting those dots, not just a message.

2. Real-time is only one way to relevance.

Real-time marketing has been inaccurately dubbed. Many marketers, agencies and trade publications have focused on responsive or reactive publishing, where a brand moves quickly to connect itself – with microcontent, typically – to an important event in popular culture, news or even history. This can definitely make a brand relevant. But it can also make them look desperate (just see most brands’ content from the Oscars last year).

The good news is that there are many other ways for a brand to be relevant to people. Broad, reactive content connected with pop culture events can get mass awareness. But content that is focused over time on an editorial agenda that speaks to what’s important to both the brand and its target audience can drive real business.

3. Published is better than perfect.

We named our microcontent operation The Moment Studio for a reason. While real-time isn’t always the only way to be relevant, the timing of the release of a piece is almost always critical. So that means it needs to be finished (and approved) quickly.

Much to the chagrin of creatives everywhere (it has been the single biggest philosophical shift I’ve had to make since the advent of our studio), the constant refinement and perfecting of every pixel won’t always be possible. In fact, it might not even be worth it.

That’s not to say that every piece we make isn’t exceptionally high quality; but it does mean that at times it’s better to sacrifice a late creative impulse for the sake of getting the piece into newsfeeds – and thus performance.

We’ve embarked on a new era of creative: one that brands already benefit from and will continue to. The interesting thing is that as platforms change, come and go, the best practices being created tend to persist. Even more interesting — following these lessons can help drive very high engagement and business results, all while creating some really beautiful work.

Interested in more lessons learned? We’ll be showing and telling our insights in a live run of our Moment Studio creative newsroom at Advertising Week (#AWX) on Wednesday. In partnership with Twitter, we’ll even publish and promote the content we make in real time on behalf of one lucky brand.

 Register now for the Deep Focus and Twitter panel, “Live in the Moment.”