D2C Issues A Creative Wakeup Call -- Can You Hear It?

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 11, 2019

A study published last week finds most advertisers eye D2C brands as the future of marketing. In saying so, they’re focused on the cycle of targeting and personalization that a direct connection with consumers and resulting first-party data enable. 

They’re missing the most important change D2C will usher into advertising. 

D2C will change the creative process. More than most established retail brands, D2C brands rely on connecting with people on all kinds of platforms with messages that inspire immediate action. 

While it’s easy to fall in love with data and media in the pursuit of performance, the ones that grow will make the most of the connection opportunities that data reveals. They will concentrate on the creative impression that a media impression initiates.  



D2C brands arguably have more invested than others in meeting consumers wherever they are. It’s the DNA of a we-make-it-easy-for-you brand. As a result, by design D2C needs to deliver even more channel-aware content than established, retail-driven brands. 

Established brands have survived in the past on a handful of executions per campaign.  But what consumers need and want keeps changing by moment and by channel. D2C brands need advertising built to evolve if they want to move from a convenient flavor-of-the-month to an established lifestyle brand.

That evolution depends on creative. On TV, creative quality establishes the value of a D2C product. Good creative makes viewers think, “This new brand looks like it knows what it is doing” beyond the shiny new business model. In social media, where brands compete with audiences for attention, creative quality determines whether content gets noticed at all, let alone shared. 

Further, creative itself has needed to evolve for some time. Content has always needed highly intelligent messaging and quality production, but now it has to respond to data in a timelier way. We have to radically compress the timeline from strategy to creative to production to deliverable.

That’s particularly true in TV and video, where the production values are highest. And no, we can’t just “hurry up” the existing process. We have to create systems that connect data and strategy to content in more streamlined ways.

That streamlined connection happens when we involve the entire team – account, creative, media, production, and theclients – to produce elastic, well-crafted content for an overarching strategy, not just A/B executions for the product of the moment. Because D2C sees the full weave of audiences and channels, they can and should create valuable core assets for continuous advertising and keep building on them to move with their customers’ lives. 

We can do it when we redefine efficiency as how much quality content we can make on budget and on time, not how cheaply we can produce a founder’s message or a direct response ad that gets played endlessly into the realm of diminishing returns. We can do it by creating messages based on universal truths the customers value so that the pivots we need to make can be shorter and faster. And creators can work those truths across all the canvas they can cover, not just their assigned sections. 

That’s the human version of the creative centralization that Forrester calls for in its 2020 report released last week. Success won’t be determined just by better data and targeting – the finer you target, the more personal and compelling your communication needs to be. To do it, we must restructure the creative process. The demands of D2C brands will pave the way.

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