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Media

Date posted

18 Jul 2023

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The importance of social-first creative

I’ve got 3 seconds to get your attention

Social media is a fast paced, energetic and chaotic battlefield. We need to make sure we take every step to ensure that performance not only survives but thrives. One element that often gets overlooked or deemed not as important is creative. The saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ simply doesn’t apply in the world of social media. First impressions are everything and we only have 3 seconds to make it. 

Cue the magic of creative

In the past, one of the main social media targeting strategies was focused on narrow and specific audience selection. After all, if you were a brand that sold ‘watch batteries’ and you could select an audience of ‘watch enthusiasts’ and present them with a ‘watch battery’ static piece of creative, why wouldn’t you do that? Today, audiences are becoming restricted, limited and removed which is why a lot of brands are now focusing their attention on broader audience selections to help drive brand demand. 

By going broad with your audience selection, the pressure of performance leans slightly more towards your creative assets, to make sure they have that instant impact.

Think back to the world before digital and social media, when we had to reach our audience via TV or print advertising. Our performance was extremely reliant on our creative fighting for attention and being memorable. I don’t know about you, but I still know the phone number to ‘Hastings Direct’ and when the McDonald’s advert comes on I still sing ‘I’m lovin it’ after the jingle; that is the power of creating a memorable and impactful piece of creative. 

The social landscape is incredibly crowded and competitive, innovation and creativity are key elements to help break through the noise and capture your audience’s attention. Utilising a format which is native to the specific platform for which it is intended is key (as shown in our examples below for Huggies). And that’s social-first creative; when assets are considered from the ideation phase of campaign planning, including audience, platform and formats, messaging, call-to-action and more.

Meta Instant Experiences for Huggies’ Drynites


A perfect unison

The power comes when media and creative work in perfect unison; combining traditional tactics of creative expression with digital data insights and strategies. There is no strict recipe to follow, every brand’s creative opportunity is different and follows their own unique set of ingredients and that’s the exciting part. 

Social media gives you the chance to express yourself as a brand and the products you offer in multiple different placements and formats. From full screen vertical stories in Meta, bite-sized video content on TikTok and interactive AR filters across social media. If you want to lead with a social-first creative mindset, then you’re in the right place.

Understanding best practice

It’s time to flip the traditional mindset of storytelling and time to get out of your comfort zone. When creating a new suite of social media assets, one word comes to mind;  ‘adaptation.’ In social media, adapting your assets to make sure they are fully optimised for that placement or platform is essential in maximising your performance. For example, if you have a 4:5 or 16:9 video asset which is suited for in-feed, it is not best practice to use the same asset for stories, it wouldn’t be visually appealing and you wouldn’t be taking advantage of the full screen inventory to showcase your brand.

Keep it reel and bite-sized

According to the GWI social 2023 report there has been a ‘20% increase in the number of Instagram users engaging with the reel feature since 2020’. This could be due to TikTok kickstarting the bite-sized video content trend during the pandemic and showing no signs of slowing down. ‘Since 2020, the number of consumers using TikTok monthly outside China has grown by 32%’. Whilst utilisation of this format is important, brands need to be on the front foot and exploring unique ways to showcase their products within this style to get ahead

Why is it important?

The competitive landscape

Let’s switch and think like the consumer for a moment, the way we are consuming content these days is a bit like Pacman. We are constantly scrolling through the never ending supply of social media content and sometimes it feels like we are on autopilot. Would you be surprised if I told you that on average we see around 4,000-6,000 ads per day? Whilst we aren’t sure on the exact number, there are many articles out there that make this claim. And you only need to keep tabs on what you’re seeing in a day, from TV, social and out of home, to know, it’s a lot.

Now imagine that out of those ads a huge percentage will be very similar brands trying to get your attention. I am a new mother and I noticed very quickly that my social feeds became cluttered with pretty indistinguishable product ads for baby brands. In short, wherever you are, it’s likely your competition is too, which makes your creative the key differentiator

Make your investment work harder 

Taking Meta as an example, to make sure your campaigns are fully optimised,  you need to make sure that you are doing everything within your control to help you win within the auction. 30% of video effectiveness on Meta is from executional elements such as flight durations, time of day, landing page selections etc; the remaining 70% is from creative and copy quality. That is a huge percentage reliant on creative and highlights the true importance of taking a social-first creative approach.

By doing this, your estimated action rate will increase, you will become more competitive in the auction, and will be able to get your ads shown more for less. All social platforms rely on their users staying and engaging in-platform, meaning they will not show an ad that will disrupt and ruin this experience (or if they do, they will make you pay for it to make it worth it).

The power of social-first creative

Whether you’re focused on brand awareness, sales or engagement, creative plays a vital role in achieving your goal. You could have the best media strategy from audiences to budget, but if your creative doesn’t provoke the desired result then it won’t be successful or it won’t be pushed to its full potential – and don’t you want your social media campaign to make an impact?

Having a social-first creative approach to your paid social strategy is crucial to the success of your campaigns. If you are currently thinking about launching with simple statics or TV cut downs, take a step back and think about what your reaction would be if it came across your feed. Is it engaging?  Do you get value from it? Does it provoke a direct response? 

Social media is a powerful tool, but matching your media strategy with creative innovation will ensure your investment works harder.