Expert Voices

July 2023 Omnichannel Forum: Omnichannel Creative Strategy Challenges

8 min read


The Omnichannel Forum is a monthly series that poses a single question to a panel of industry experts. This month’s host is industry analyst Joanna O’Connell.

Gemma Spence. Global Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce
Lauren Bennett. Director, Performance Solutions, Rakuten Advertising
Alex Else. Head of Omnichannel Product Solutions, Group M Nexus
Aaron Goldman. CMO, Mediaocean
Peter Galli. Director of Digital Marketing, HART Consumer Products

The topic of creative is near and dear to my heart. Not because I naturally got there on my own, if I’m honest. As a two-decade-long media-focused person (in an agency, at an ad tech company, as a researcher), I just never had to think all that much about creative. My obsessions were audience targeting, optimization strategies, variable CPMs, and multi-touch attribution.

So I was lucky that as a research analyst at Forrester, I got to research what I ultimately deemed the “creative advertising technology” space – that is, tech that helps brands and agencies (and publishers and tech platforms) design, templatize and automate the creation, testing, and optimization of creative. Learning about traditional creative processes made me appreciate how much room there was for improvement.

So if we’re really serious about being more “omnichannel” — which, to harken back to an earlier post, is really about being wherever consumers are when they need you —then we have to get serious about creative strategies, processes, and execution that matches today’s consumer expectations. Here are some key things I heard in reviewing this month’s answers:

Mindsets and expectations can differ across different environments. As Aaron astutely points out in his thoughts below, we need to consider how consumers use and interact with different formats, channels, and environments. Their expectations in TikTok are not likely to match their expectations for long-form streaming content. A one size fits all creative approach is neither possible in a world of such format variation and ecosystem complexity nor is it likely to do the right job in capturing consumer attention in intended ways.

But don’t abandon your core brand essence. Peter rightly notes that it’s important to create some baseline consistency on top of which to draft from. I believe that brand marketers understand this deeply – being able to communicate the essence of who a brand is, what it stands for, and why it’s worth considering. These are long-term requirements that a brand must invest in, full stop.

Data and infrastructure, as always, are necessary enablers. Gemma’s comments around data integration and infrastructure management are spot on. Back to my earlier commentary on creative ad tech – brands and agencies would truly benefit from considering tech solutions that help create operational efficiency (e.g., centralized governance with localized freedom within guardrails) and improve creative performance.

Look to the myriad ways AI can help. Applications of AI have been at play in creative tools and tech for years. Newer forms of Generative AI -— like ChatGPT and Dall:E —have simply raised the profile dramatically of what AI can do. And in the creative arena, as Lauren notes, “There still needs to be an element of quality control, but the past barriers to entry may be lifted for emerging brands.” And large brands alike. The challenge, a necessary one, will be setting proper standards and creating the right governance models to ensure safe and positive use.

All this said, since this is a series about omnichannel – I’ll just end with this. It all must start and end with strategy – yep, call me Captain Obvious.

Sometimes it’s obvious because it’s right. 

– Joanna O’Connell, Industry Analyst

What are some of the challenges that a marketer may face while creating an omnichannel messaging/creative strategy?

Gemma Spence

Global Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce

Creating an omnichannel creative strategy for driving sales poses challenges for brand marketers as there are so many echo chambers, creative needs, and audiences’ expectations. It is challenging to craft a consistent story and create assets that work across many environments that resonate.

Marketers need to ensure consistent messaging and user experience while adapting content for each channel. They must integrate data sources, personalize content at scale, and navigate the complexity of multiple channels. Resource allocation, ROI measurement, and technological infrastructure management are essential considerations, along with the need for agility to adapt to evolving consumer behaviours and emerging channels.

By addressing these challenges, marketers can develop an effective omnichannel strategy that boosts sales and enhances the customer experience.

Aaron Goldman

CMO, Mediaocean

When it comes to omnichnannel strategy, the biggest challenge with creative is that every channel has different formats.

Social is big on video, search is text-heavy, retail media is product-focused, and so on down the line. It’s very difficult to take one brand message and deliver it consistently across all channels. That said, a bigger – and more important – challenge is that the mindset of the consumer is different on every channel. So the same message that may resonate on social won’t necessarily work on search or retail media. Certainly, the same call-to-action won’t work.

On social, people are consuming and sharing content, so you have to work your way into the feed and make an impression (pun intended).

On search, people are actively looking for something, so if you have the answer, you can quickly convert.

The same goes for retail media when it comes to products.

Once you have the consumer insight nailed for each channel, you can craft a message that will meet them at the moment and use advanced ad tech to create all the different combinations of ad units to meet the specs for each placement.

Peter Galli

Director of Digital Marketing, HART Consumer Products

This has been a great learning area for my team, especially over the past two crazy years.

Even the best messaging and content needs to be adapted for different platforms. The days of taking a 30-second spot and cutting it ten different ways for ten different channels are over. The content that works on YouTube may not work on connected TV, which might be different than Meta, etc.

Understanding what works for your brand for your audience on the specific channels where you activate is critical. Finding a core message that you want to communicate in every channel remains the core focus, and the difference now is that messaging can — and should — look different in each activation channel.

Lauren Bennett

Director, Performance Solutions, Rakuten Advertising

We’ve seen the biggest area of opportunity in utilizing AI and bucketing audiences automatically to deliver the most relevant ads to any given user. The challenges we help solve lie in transitioning a browser, to an engaged user, to a customer, and eventually into a loyalty purchaser. Across the customer journey, we recommend layers of creative elements to continue engaging a user at any stage in the customer lifecycle while also layering in personalization

Also, the additional features coming out during Google Marketing Live may lead to opportunities to streamline the actual creation of creative videos using AI. There still needs to be an element of quality control, but the past barriers to entry may be lifted for emerging brands looking to make a stamp in the ad/video digital landscape. 

What we’ve seen over the years is the gradual inclusion of products within ads, making every aspect of digital marketing ads shoppable – with the outcome of putting the right products in front of the right user at the right time.

Rakuten Advertising offers feed optimization services that have a large impact on layering products with audiences and creative assets to drive increased profitability. 

Alex Else

Head of Omnichannel Product Solutions, Group M Nexus

The challenges faced in the execution of an omnichannel creative strategy are similar to those faced by singular-channel media campaign executions.

Creative challenges are well known. What is the core message? What is the client’s KPI? How will success be measured? Can high-quality creatives be produced within budget and before set deadlines, etc?

In any case, the creative message must be planned across all channels involved. This planning, and its execution, are key to ensuring the message is clear and connected to the rest of the campaign – whether in ensuring the creative look and message align or if delivery is via a complex sequential story.
With a clear KPI and target audience, alongside strong organisational and reporting capabilities, omnichannel offers a wealth of potential benefits to counterbalance challenges.

Omnichannel enables the true delivery of a cohesive messaging strategy to target audiences based on a single creative strategy at scale. Omnichannel can be flexible and fluid in delivering an impactful message, with the built-in ability to monitor and optimise performance to ensure consistency across audiences.
With omnichannel, there is also the opportunity to embrace innovative formats across the channels selected and experiment to understand what works and can be measured to achieve overall effectiveness. It’s an opportunity for clients and marketers alike to embrace the complexity and focus on the benefits that can be achieved.

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