How to develop and optimize creative to grow your brand

develop and optimize creative header

Table of Contents


Table of contents

"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half."


A quick Google search will tell you that they are the sage words of Lord Leverhulme, and in fact, the estimate is now thought to be a lot higher than 50%.

But why, in the era of technology and big data are there still so many question marks around marketing effectiveness? For brands with limited budgets, when it comes to any marketing activity – whether it’s a boosted post on Instagram or a whole packaging refresh – understanding that every dollar invested is pulling your brand in the right direction is crucial.

Ensuring your marketing spend is working as hard as you are is vital to any brand’s success.

In this guide, we’ll show you the steps to take which will guarantee you don’t waste another marketing dollar on your campaigns. We’ll walk you through the milestones of planning, ideating, creating, launching and optimizing an effective campaign which meets your marketing goals, and delivers the hard commercial results you’re looking for.

Step 1: The Creative Brief

A creative brief serves as a blueprint for any in-house creative team or agency. It outlines objectives for a campaign and helps guide creative direction aligned to the brand’s overall strategy. The key to a creative brief is that it should be exactly that – brief. It should be linked to the overall business objective of the brand, tell a story and be single-minded in its narrative.

Here, we’ll take you through the points to cover to nail your next brief.

Frame the context:

Creative briefs begin with a challenge or an opportunity the brand is facing so the first thing you need to do is identify what you are solving for. Here are a few examples of the issues a creative brief might tackle:

  • I have a new product coming out; what is the best way to talk to my customers about it?
  • My brand has been declining in relevance for the past few years and people don’t care about it, so how can I refresh my brand’s identity to make it more popular and relevant to the category?
  • My brand is disrupting a category made up of established household names. How do I drive awareness of my brand and tap into an unmet need in the category?

So first, think about the single key challenge your brand faces. How will the creative execution be the solution? How will it be the thing which builds your brand in the exact way you want?

planning meeting

What is your overall business objective?

Clarity around the intended and specific commercial impact of your campaign helps inform: the creative development; the messaging; the channel and media strategy; and it will help you hold your team or agency accountable every step of the way. 

It’s also useful to briefly summarize the competitive landscape and the category dynamics at play to help frame the context for the brief.

laptop planning

What is your brand's proposition?

Summarize what your product or service does, why it exists, its mission and vision. This will help set the stage for the entire process, and will inform the creative development later on.

It should be possible to sum up a brand’s proposition in one simple phrase. Nike’s proposition for example is that it exists to ‘inspire and enable every athlete.’ Your brand proposition is your guiding star and your creative asset must somehow be a representation of it and link back to that. The creative asset doesn’t necessarily have to represent all of it – Nike’s ads for example will almost always inspire rather than enable - but they represent that part of the brand and they do it really clearly.


Who are you communicating to?

To create a campaign that really hits home, you need to define who you are targeting and really get under their skin. This will help sculpt the messaging, format and channels for your campaign, and it will help you cut through the noise.

You can slice and dice your target audience in a number of ways, depending on your campaign’s focus:

  • Demographic: This is most typically done on the basis of age and / or gender segmentation. For example, you might decide that your target audience is going to be women who are between the ages of 30 and 55.
  • Location: You might decide for example that you are targeting people who live in London or New York. Or you might decide to layer a regional segmentation on top of a demographic segmentation, so that your target audience is women aged between 18 and 30 who live in urban areas of the US or UK.
  • Psychographic: This ignores demographics and geography and looks at a mindset instead. If you are selling an energy drink, for example, then a target audience might be people who want to live life to the fullest.
  • Life Stage: You might decide to define your target audience by their household composition – for example families with two kids or more.
who are you communicating to

What does your brand want to make people feel and think?

How do you want your communication to make people feel and what do you want your communication to make people think? This links back to the issue or opportunity identified at the start, and takes into account the needs and wants of your target audience. It might be you’ve identified an unmet need in the category that you want to capitalise on, or you want to communicate the emotional benefits of your new product by making people feel a connection with your brand.

At ProQuo AI, we have proven that there are 16 things which make up the relationships people have with brands. And it’s these strong relationships which drive sales alongside long-term loyalty and engagement with your brand. We call them the 16 Drivers of Relationships. When deciding on the shifts in feelings and thoughts you want to achieve with your communication, understanding where your brand stands and where you want it to go by selecting a few drivers to improve on can be a really straight-forward solution.

To learn more about ProQuo AI’s 16 Relationship Drivers click here, or see our Driver Dictionary below.

proquo ai Driver Dictionary

What is the human truth?

Try and find something that is true of the specific group you are targeting. What is common to the group, but not always obvious? The best pieces of creative are the ones which tap in very directly to what people need and want.

As a Brand Owner, think about what is going on in your consumers’ world. Consider major shifts they are experiencing in their everyday lives which could bring rise to new needs. Explore what cultural phenomenon they are interested in and whether you can capture some of this zeitgeist in your campaign.

A human truth which rings true now more than ever is a younger generation valuing honesty much more than they ever have before. That’s one of the reasons the American rapper Cardi B is so successful at the moment; because she is so unfiltered, and today – that holds serious weight.

When considering the human truth behind your campaign, make sure it brings rise to a tension. A change which has happened recently which has shifted your consumers’ feelings and changed their needs in one direction or another.

cardi b

Frame the task

Once you have identified the people that you are going after and how you want them to feel and think, you have to decide what is the specific job that this ad needs to do. That might be, for example, to get young women who are eco-conscious to feel your brand is more transparent and has more integrity, by communicating in an honest, human way that you sustainably source all ingredients.

Your campaign’s task can be summed up using this simple framework:



For example, the task which set up Red Bull’s creative team to conceive the campaign idea ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ might have looked like this:

GET:  Young men who feel weighed down by the pace of modern living
TO:  Feel free and energised to live their lives the way they want to
BY:  Creating a product that makes them feel physically supercharged and a brand personality that lifts them up

red bull gives you wings

What is your key message to communicate?

This is your main communication idea for the campaign. The money-maker. The bit that inspires the creative team to find a solution. It is the distilling of your campaign’s task into one single message.

Here are some things to think through:

  • Is it about the product or how it is used? E.g. Bounty is a quicker picker-upper
  • Is it to do with consequences of using the brand? E.g. Red Bull gives you energy; Red Bull gives you wings
  • Is it turning an established belief on its head? E.g. Dove stands for realistic beauty
red bull

What are your reasons to believe?

These are the facts or ideas which support in the communication of the Single-Minded Proposition. In short, they are the statements, or proof-points, which give your audience reasons to believe your bold communication idea. Are you backed by science? Are you delivering something to the category nobody else is? Have you developed world-class technology to aid your brand’s performance?

Reasons to believe can stretch across wide ranges, include strong claims language, like superiority #1 claims or even top parity claims, like “Nothing is Stronger”. Alternatively, reasons to believe can reveal technology or ingredient stories which allow people to have faith in your product based off its delivery.

reasons to believe

How will you say it?

Remaining consistent and true to your brand’s personality is key for any communication to come across authentically. This can sometimes pose a creative challenge, though.

Take for example a brand known for its emotional connection and the challenge of needing to communicate a clear, functional, benefit-led message. Many times, functional benefits are expressed rationally rather than emotionally – they help emphasize the brand’s role in a consumers life, or they express how well the product performs its core purpose.

A brand like Fever-Tree is a great example, though, of how an emotional brand can deliver a rational message. Their campaign clearly communicates their product’s performance, while using supporting imagery to drive its  attraction. Their claims language around “3/4 of your drink is the mixer, mix with the best” blends a clear performance message alongside one of popularity and aspiration.


Where are you going to communicate your idea?

Now that you know and understand your audience, and what you want to communicate to them, you need to think about what is the most effective way to get your message across. This is about understanding where your target audience lives and breathes, and identifying how you can tap into their everyday lives.

communicate your idea

There are three elements to this.

  • First, look through the lens of your target audience and see what media they are consuming naturally. Think about where they like to be as that is where they will be warmest to your brand.
  • Secondly, decide how effective this media would be for your particular brand; does it reflect your own brand values and proposition? TikTok is evidently the platform you’d advertise on if you’re targeting a younger audience, but it would have to complement your own mission and identity as a brand, too. Make sure the medium you choose is saying the right things about you.
  • Lastly, leverage the media channel to influence the creative idea. In the old world of marketing, the campaign creative would always come first and then the same campaign idea would simply be translated across different media channels. But now, because of the volume of brands out there today and the increase in advertising avoidance, marketers must find new ways to engage. It is channel first, and the messaging and creative to fit that channel second. In today’s world having the same message everywhere, independent of the media channel, becomes wallpaper so, now more than ever, must brands use the medium of the channel to drive the creative idea. The media channel has never been more important to the overall campaign strategy.

How will you know if it’s worked?

How will success be defined for this campaign? Setting KPIs from the start allows you to monitor closely what’s working and what isn’t, and provides metrics to evaluate the performance of your campaign against.

Here are a few thought starters:

  • Your overall business objective: Whether that’s driving penetration or gaining market share from competitors, your campaign should ladder up to delivering commercial results.
  • Your brand: How did you want to make people feel? Are you driving relevance – or whatever Driver you set out to improve - amongst your target audience?
  • Consumer behaviour: Is it website visits, frequency of purchase or more units sold?
how will you know if it's worked

Ready for Creative Lift-Off

So, you now have in your hands – preferably on no more than two pages – a killer creative brief to propel an agency or in-house team to bring your piece of communication to life. Passing the baton to the creatives is a thrilling, but daunting, milestone on the path to pushing your campaign live. But by providing a single-minded and tight creative brief, you’re already well on your way to developing a campaign which is guaranteed to grow your brand.

ready for creative lift off

Step 2: Optimizing your creative before it goes live

You’ve now kicked off the creative development process. The creative team will devise and share initial ideas and creative concepts in response to the creative brief.

Throughout the process, you need to keep coming back to your initial brief: what was your campaign’s goal and the overall objectives you set? What was the single-minded proposition and how is it being communicated, creatively? To ensure whatever you’re developing is aligned to your overall strategy, and actually delivering upon the results you set out to achieve, you need to optimize and iterate the creative assets along the journey from ideation through to production.

Placing your initial concept idea in front of real people within your target market before putting big bucks into production or media investment allows you to check that the creative you’re planning on building will actually do the job that it needs to do. And at the earliest of stages, it will indicate to you that you’re heading in the right direction.

creative campaign concept

Stages of Optimization:

Ideally, you should gauge the performance of your creative – and the impact it has on your brand - at least twice as you build and iterate your assets:

  • At the start of the process when you’re in the concept phase. Your idea may still only exist on a piece of paper or as an animatic, but you should make sure the idea is pulling your brand in the right direction, and hitting the objectives you set out to achieve in your creative brief before investing money to produce it. It’s often very difficult, and costly, to change assets once they’ve been produced. So ensuring on paper – or in another pre-produced form – it is meeting your campaign goals will save a lot of time and money up front.
  • Just before your campaign goes live. Make sure your creative is still aligned with your original concept and hasn’t gone wildly off track during the production process. Sometimes an idea can feel good on paper, but doesn’t emote the same sentiment when it is finished. Before you put tons of media spend behind your campaign, make sure that in its finished form it is still hitting the mark.
uber eats

One of the ways to get a read on the effectiveness of your creative asset before it goes live is through A/B testing on digital platforms. This approach gives you an initial feel for the type of engagement each creative is likely to receive and allows you to switch certain assets on or off based on metrics such as clicks, likes or shares.

But these metrics give you a very one-dimensional view of your campaign and the impact it’s having on your brand. And, it assumes you will dedicate part of your tight campaign media spend toward ‘testing and learning’. Clicks and shares don’t necessarily indicate whether you’re on track to reach your campaign objectives. Especially when what you really want to know is far less superficial. Knowing whether your creative is driving your brand’s Relevance amongst your target audience, or knowing whether they feel your brand is more Aspirational as a result of seeing the asset is far more important. Most importantly, though, clicks and shares don’t correlate perse with immediate increases in sales.

measure effectiveness of campaigns

ProQuo AI’s Creative Lab is completely revolutionising the approach to optimization pre-launch, giving brands the ability to look at any asset before it goes live and understand the impact it’s going to have on their brand before they make that critical investment in the media.

In a matter of hours, not days, you get a read on whether your assets will effectively hit your objectives set out in the planning phase and give you detailed guidance as to how and where they can be optimised before you start spending media budget. You can find out more here.

maximize creative

Step 3: Monitoring & optimizing your creative, live. 

So by now, you’ve built a rock solid plan for your campaign, you’ve iterated and optimized the asset, you’ve planned your channel mix and media budget, you’ve pressed ‘go’ and you’ve launched your campaign for the world to see.

You may think you’ve reached the end of the journey, but in fact, now is where the fun begins. Monitoring campaign performance in real-time is game-changing; it enables brand managers to keep their finger on the pulse of the instant impact of their campaign against the key performance indicators they set in the planning phase – and to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Real-time campaign monitoring allows you to take action and maximise your marketing spend right up to the end of the campaign. You can see instantly whether your campaign is strategically changing the way people feel about your brand, and with a platform like ProQuo AI, more importantly you can understand why. By unpicking what’s working for your brand and what isn’t, and specifically, why a campaign is pulling your brand in one direction or another, you can take the learnings and bake them into future plans. You’ll know what you need to replicate, and where you need to focus to grow your brand.

compare assets

Live Campaign Optimization

Live campaigns can easily take an unexpected turn, even if you’ve done your homework in the planning and production stage. External events and trends can all instantly impact the effectiveness of a campaign, or your competitors may launch a campaign themselves that dilutes your impact or messaging. So, a live view of how your campaign is performing is essential to delivering your goals.

You don’t have to stop at simply monitoring your campaign in real time – depending on your media channels, you may be able to optimize it in real time too. Even when your campaign has gone live, you can still do a huge amount to improve the outcome of your campaign, so you need to be ready to respond on the fly as things change.

  • Monitoring your campaign performance in real-time means you’re able to optimise your spend instantaneously
  • You can diagnose, stop, change direction, maximise, switch and immediately fix whatever is not working.
  • That gives you a huge advantage in an unpredictable and uncontrollable marketplace.
live campaign optimization

Here are just a few ways of optimizing campaigns in real-time:

  • Switching spend between different digital channels. If your Instagram ads are shifting the dial on how your target audience feels about your brand more than your TikTok ones, you can instantly shift more of your spend into Instagram to maximise your outcomes.
  • Turning one asset off in favour of another. If your influencer programme is not driving your Aspiration as set out in your objective, you can reduce or stop your planned spend in that area and refocus budget on a channel that will better drive your aspiration.
  • Changing the targeting / audience segmentation. If you’re getting better traction from a younger audience, for example, you may be able to shift your focus more towards them during the campaign.
  • Tweaking copy. A small change in wording to make your message clearer or the addition of a killer strap line can make all the difference in quick to flight digital media.
  • Adjusting landing pages. It only takes a few minutes to adjust a landing page to include more compelling copy, images, or even layout and positioning.

Optimizing is an art and seeing an immediate response to the changes you are making can be incredibly empowering and rewarding.

optimize campaigns in real time

Bringing it all together

By laying down your smart and strategic thinking in a creative brief, then optimizing and sharpening the creative assets along the development process, you’re able to ensure the communication you launch into market is the best it can possibly be. And through constant monitoring once it’s live, you can course-correct the direction your campaign is taking by fine-tuning assets or adjusting your media spend, in real-time.

When Lord Leverhulme said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half”, for the time he was right. But in today’s world, forward-looking technologies allow you to ensure that the money you’re spending on media have a guaranteed return on your marketing investment. There’s no need for guesswork any longer. And there’s certainly no budget to waste.

For today's brands, it’s imperative we make every penny count.

bringing it all together

Grow Your Brand with ProQuo AI

At ProQuo AI, we’re pioneering a new category: AI-Brand Management.

Our  creative testing platform, CreativeLab allows brand owners to optimize any creative asset – whether it’s a concept on paper to a fully-finished TV ad – before it goes live, guaranteeing that those marketing dollars go even further.

grow your brand

Learn more about our creative testing platform.

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