Ad Creative That Works For Social Media

The first ads run on television were of a silky-voiced announcer reading ad copy from a script, standing behind a microphone. Why? Because that's the way they did advertising on radio before television came along. Eventually someone realized, "Hey wait, we can use sight and motion to sell the product" -- and then the ads on television started showing the product. Then someone realized "Hey wait, television is a great medium for telling stories," so television ads started to become entertaining (re: funny, sexy, informational...).

Well, we are now in an era where we have moved to a medium beyond television, and advertisers (for the most part) are still running creative that is effectively the equivalent of a silky-voiced spokesman reading a script standing behind a microphone, as far as most consumers are concerned. But don't worry, moving from a broadcast to a social era of advertising can be as simple in hindsight as moving from radio to television.

Yes, digital/social media will allow sight, sound and motion, but it is social media's unique qualities that tell us how to make ad creative work in this medium. What social media allows that goes beyond traditional media are interaction, customization and socialization. So if interaction, customization and socialization are the new attributes of the medium in which ad creative must live, then great ad creative will take advantage of these factors. How, you say? I'm glad you asked.



Interaction: This is an easy one, so we won't spend much time explaining. All digital media allows for interaction; if your ad creative doesn't (beyond clicking through to a micro site!), then it's not taking full advantage of the medium. You can receive the same ad impressions with the possibility of interaction for those that express interest (playing a game or answering a question, for example).

Customization: In a world where content is created by people who refuse to be interrupted with messages from marketers, successful advertising is that which is shared willingly between people. What people are willing to share with a peer must cross a VERY high threshold if they are passing along a message for a brand. They are more than willing to share something they can customize and make their own, if it helps them to express themselves further. Brands have the ability; they just need to understand how to create assets that can maintain their brand message while allowing people to imprint their own mark. Otherwise, it's not going to spread through social media.

Socialization: After customization comes the highest achievement for social media marketing -- creating a social interaction. Not only can someone customize and share an adverting asset with a friend, but get a response back, induced by the advertising asset. Think of what this means! Advertising can start conversations, not always between the brand and a consumer, but between two consumers (better known as people). People want to have a reason to talk to each other; sometimes it's just a matter of knowing what to talk about. The average Facebook user is connected to over 100 people, with little or no communication with most of those people on any given day. But if your advertising creative induces two people to start a dialogue, if your advertising has meaning and relevance in social media, users will love you for it. You better believe people will remember your brand if it's done right.

So it turns out that the new rules for creating advertising that will work in social media aren't too tough to figure out. The real challenge is making great advertising based on the new rules, or more accurately, making great advertising that takes advantage of all of the new attributes of social media. That is the true art of social media creative. The big question remains, who will be the leading artist when it comes to creating advertising meant for social media.

Let me know what you think. Drop me a line on Twitter at,where the conversation will continue.

5 comments about "Ad Creative That Works For Social Media".
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  1. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., May 5, 2009 at 5:26 p.m.

    Advertising in the new paradigm of web 2.0 and even 3.0 MUST be integrated as closely as possible with content. Why do you think Facebook is more closely integrating fan pages with profile look and feel? Or businesses and brands Twittering? It's because their "advertising" is very closely resembling the content it is piggybacking. Content must resemble advertising, advertising must resemble content. The old paradigm of attract and distract is going the way of the dodo...the dodo is dead, long live the dodo!

  2. Tim Mccormick from McCormick Fields, May 6, 2009 at 12:26 a.m.

    Joe, you really set the pins up with this article.

  3. Hannah Kleyn from ExactTarget, May 6, 2009 at 12:42 a.m.

    About creating ads meant for the new rules with social media, take a look at what we're doing at ChaCha. ( ) Basically, people ask any question via mobile/SMS, we send them an answer to their question with an "ad" (message) from a sponsor -- just through text messages.

    You're right, the socialization factor is key -- we're finding that the most effective ads embrace the succinct, conversational nature of the medium. With advertisers, we basically work to create conversations, writing "ads" that ask probing questions in return, or evoke some mysterious, elusive, or riddle-esque offer or thought that results in various response code interactions. The entertainment value is definitely there -- people use ChaCha literally like a smart friend in their phone, and sometimes even forward text offers on to friends. Very exciting times for fostering business/consumer relationships!

  4. Al Haberstroh from MontAd, May 6, 2009 at 10 a.m.

    Michael, you are not alone. I always get the feeling that people who are quick to pronounce traditional media dead have not really spent any time in the marketing trenches. The fact is that , used correctly, traditional media is and will continue to be very effective. Engagement is not unique to web 2.0 or 3.0. Good marketers have always known how to engage their intended audience, both with good creative and effective media selection. That said, Joe's article makes some excellent points about how to produce effective ads and campaigns for social media. Since study after study proves the value of multi-platform engagement, the real key is to creatively integrate both traditional and new media to product more effective marketing programs.

  5. Paul Ashby, May 7, 2009 at 7:30 a.m.

    Once “The Ad Man” gatecrashes the party and corporate marketers are inevitably a long way down the adoption curve – the kudos rapidly evaporates.
    This explains why the assumed valuations of social media companies are often built on greater financial chicanery that Bernie Madoff’s tax return.
    In to-day’s market whatever supposed “next big thing” our digital culture favors in any moment faces an ever more accelerated journey to oblivion!

    Because ad agencies still don’t understand it – we will not take delivery of your commercial messages – we never have and never will!

    However we can create programs where your advertisement becomes a valuable source of information – with surprising ROI results - & there’s more.

    Read "Television Killed Advertising" it will show you how advertising has failed us and more...much more.

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