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Creative ads that convert: Why whacky works

Sep 13, 2022

Is it possible to create native ads that reach down-funnel audiences?

Luke Watkin, the Head of Native at MVF, certainly thinks so.

He says that native advertising can drive down-funnel performance more than one might think. If it’s creative enough, it will impact all stages of the marketing funnel. While ads are the very first touchpoint, everything you do with your ads can affect the metrics further down.

“Every element of creative – from the background to the style, to the colour, to the type of model we use, to the feeling we generate – all have some kind of impact on down-funnel metrics,” Watkin tells the Native Advertising Institute.

This begs the question: How do you create truly creative native advertising that converts?

According to Watkin, here’s what’s key:

  • Experimentation matters – get whacky
  • Emotions matter – harness psychology
  • Diversity matters – reflect your audience

Time to get funky

Effective native advertising should get customers into a buying mindset. And one way to do that is to present things in a slightly different way in order to get people thinking, ‘ok, this is cool. What is it?’.

“We realised a long time ago that the old style kind of typical stock image, the brand-safe kind of advertising, is no longer getting through to people,” Watkin explains. “We need to push the envelope a little bit in terms of the style and the innovation of our creatives.”

This means being more experimental and moving away from the bland, boring creative that used to work.

“These days, we need to see ourselves as the shop window for our clients,” he says. “We need to grab the attention of customers, pull in those not yet in a buying mindset and one way to do that is being a bit whacky.”

What exactly would a “whacky” ad look like? Watkin pointed to this article's main photo, in which he donned a high-visibility vest and safety glasses for an ad for a vehicle tracking system. But in general, "whacky" could mean experimenting with textures, motion or user-generated content. Anything to “make ads stand out from the crowd” even if that results in a slight deviation from the traditional definition of native advertising.

“It might seem counterintuitive that as native advertisers we sometimes do better making our ads look ‘less native’. But at MVF we understand that we are competing for the attention of our customers with millions of other advertisers and media sources, and we need to empower our creative team to take a brave and bold approach,” he says.

The psychological secrets behind effective native

Another way to make truly creative ads is to harness the power of psychology.

“We need to think of our audience less as a number of clicks and more as a group of individuals who have different needs and who respond differently to different tactics,” Watkin says.

For example, priming, a cognitive technique of eliciting responses through exposure to specific stimuli without conscious guidance or intention, is very effective. MVF has used colour in its native ads, such as yellow backgrounds to generate a sense of warmth or green for a sense of peace, tranquillity and ecology. Or blue for trust:

Using the psychology of colour, MVF has been able to increase both click-through-rates and conversion rates in its native ad campaigns.

These little hidden hints, says Watkin, get people thinking about what might be coming later, even if it’s only at a subconscious level.

“We often surprise ourselves with what works well, and ultimately it's a continuous cycle of test-and-learn that allows us to thrive,” he says.

Story by Janine Ford

Janine is a copywriter at Brand Movers with a background in law and history. Originally from New Zealand, she has worked as a historian investigating Maori land claims and as a solicitor in public law. Janine now enjoys writing thought-leadership articles for businesses.

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