In the second episode of our podcast, we have our Creative Director, Bart Heird, on as a guest. As you can see from the video version, Arsham and Bart are in costume since this episode was filmed on Halloween! Bart reveals the truth about what a creative department’s role is in an organization, how creative uses measured data, and what creative’s KPI’s are. You also get to hear some pirate jokes and learn about the history of Bart’s costume.



Transcript:

Like great creative is a tide that can rise all ships, not to use the pirate analogy too much.

But why not?

But why?

Because we’re here. We’re here so we’re going to to do it anyway.

No but. Hello and welcome back to another episode of More Than Marketing. I am Arsham Mirshah, your host. This is Bart Heird, Creative Director at WebMechanix.

Arr.

And he’s doing that because we are in our Halloween costumes today. Oh, let me take this hat off, it’s very, very warm. For the podcast listeners-

And I’ll just say today’s the best day for me to say, “Arrrrrsham Mirshah.”

I love, it is good, right?

Right.

I mean that, arr, Arsham Mirshah.

Mirshah.

Even got a pirate’s name.

Arr, I totally do, I love it. So good.

Good deal. So for the listeners, we’re dressed up. Bart is a pirate.

Shocker.

Well, but let me say this though, Creative Director, right? You’re not just, you didn’t go to, like, Party City and get,

No.

Right?

No, this is a costume that I have put together over a few years.

Right.

And that’s why I have to wear it every year.

And it evolves.

Yeah, sort of.

I’d imagine over the years. Right?

Well, no, my wife said we’re done evolving.

Well, I mean.

She’s like, “You’re done.”

Well, for the listeners, like look, you’re wearing this. Like people on YouTube can see this. This is awesome. You got these, like, bone necklace going on. Which is awesome. But, yeah, it’s so authentic. It’s like Johnny Depp gave you his Pirates of the,

No, mine’s nicer than his.

Oh, that’s even better.

It’s cleaner.

That’s wow. That’s even-

I’m not a filthy pirate.

Damn, look at that. Even better.

I actually take showers when I’m ashore.

Thank you. Good, good to know.

I try.

It’s in the handbook.

I try.

Important hygiene. It’s important to us.

Totally.

Yeah, look, Creative Director fitting that you put together your own pirate costume, right? Fitting in that creative and all that, but that’s what I want to talk about today is creative. Because I have a concept of creative, so does the world, so do you.

Yeah.

And, you know, going along with all that. I’m the guy in a Carebear onesie, 20 bucks from Target. You know, ’cause I’m you know, I’m more that analytical. If you were to ask, I’m more of the data, the analytical, the science-

But, again, another good Carrrrebear, its another good one.

Just keep going, man.

It works out.

Hey, one question for you, what is the, what’s a pirate’s favorite letter?

Ah, it’s the sea.

Second favorite letter?

Aye.

Aye. All right, he-

Third favorite letter?

Arr.

No, the letter of mark that you get from the queen. That allows you to do this.

I can’t, I can’t even, like, he asked me and I was like, “It’s got to be R right? “Arr.” He was like, “Nah”. And I’m like, “The sea, okay, fine.”

It’s an old pirate joke, so.

I like it.

You know how much a pirate pays for earrings?

I do ’cause you told me.

Go ahead.

It’s a buck-aneer.

A buccaneer.

A buccaneer. It’s just two dollars is all you need.

This is going to devolve very quickly.

It already has.

All right.

Let’s bring it back.

All right, good.

All right, so, Creative Director let’s talk about what it’s like, okay, in marketing, in digital marketing, whatever, what is creative mean to you? Because I think, I think, that when people think of creative they think of, you know, pretty pictures. Oh, that’s a nice design. It’s very pretty. I can’t help but do the pirate voice now.

It’s all right.

But-

You’re in good company.

Exactly, thank you. But that’s not.

Yeah, so

Yeah.

No, pretty pictures is one of those things paint box, coloring book, I really despise all those ways to describe creative. A creative department’s real job is to use design and to use usability to solve business problems. Right?

Yeah.

So, we’re connecting with the customer in a very visceral way so that they understand that this brand is a part of who they are. And we want to do that in attractive ways. We want to do that in engaging ways.

Yes.

And, more importantly, so I’ve said this for years and sometimes it rubs ad agencies the wrong way. I’m not here to do the client’s bidding. I’m not here to the agency’s bidding. I’m here to do the customer’s bidding.

Right.

And so my.

The customer of what would be our-

of whoever the client is.

Of our client.

Yep, absolutely.

The user of the product.

Absolutely. So when someone opens up a website, our work should be engaging enough that they smile, they are delighted, and they click through.

Yeah.

If we want a conversion, we want to put something in front of them that makes sense to them.

Right.

We want to make-

At that stage in the funnel

Absolutely.

So to speak. Right, yeah.

Yeah. And from a usability stand point, we’ll want to make products that are easy to use. And that have few hurdles. And so that’s really the job of a good, well-honed creative department inside of an agency.

I would completely,

Yep.

Thank you for that.

I completely agree because I hate that idea of like, “Oh, we want graphic designs, we want someone who’s really creative.” Yeah, that works, but really, you know what actually was real interesting to me from you and what your department does? You guys, and gals, come up with the most interesting or, I hate the word, I can’t use the creative word. I don’t want to use that. But you guys solve the business problem. Like you don’t just say-

Right

“What pretty picture can I…?” you know, you say, “Wait, is that the problem or is it something else?” “Let’s actually talk about that before we start trying to devise a solution.”

Yeah, and when you talk about pretty pictures, I mean that is the problems of a designer.

Yeah, sure.

Right, a visual designer’s job is to make things the most attractive.

Yeah, course.

A copywriter’s job is to garner attention from that headline that’s leads to a subhead, that leads to a paragraph. So, when you’re talking about usability, or you’re talking about art direction, all of those things are about carrying people through the experience.

Yeah.

And so there is a place for them. I mean, every designer who says, “That’s an ugly site,” clearly has an opinion because they have a sense of good design. Now, I’ll tell you the most interesting thing that I’ve learned in doing this for so many years.

‘Kay.

Is that, not everyone can tell you good design. Virtually, everybody can tell you bad design.

Bad design.

Right, so,

That’s so good.

So when you’re asking,

That’s true.

Creative department to do something it’s always better to sort of stand back and let them give you a solution.

Right.

Because the solution you think might work, or you think that you want executed, may not be the best solution.

Right.

Right? And that department rather than being a production department and there are plenty of people out there who are production artists and they do execute the work. And thank God for good illustrators. I mean, I’ve, over the years, I’ve had projects that I’ve really needed a style that I could not do personally as an artist.

Right, right.

But I want to hire them, so those people exist and they’re great. But in the context of an agency setting,

Right.

a creative departments not just to generate what exactly the client wants. Or what, even, the marketing department wants.

Yep.

Our job is to discover what the problem is.

Right.

After we’ve uncovered that problem, help you tease out the real heart of the problem. How to solve that with the skill sets that we have.

That’s what, while you were talking, I was thinking, “That’s what I find most interesting about that department,” right? It’s not like we’re just like, “Hey, we need a landing page and it should have a picture of a woman on it.” Or whatever. Right? It’s you guys ask us questions. Us being the marketers. You guys ask us questions that are like, that suss out the actual business problem,

Absolutely.

That we’re looking to solve. Right, so it’s not just like, “Hey, give me some banner ads.” Like well, who’s the audience?

Exactly, I was going to say, to your example, give me a web page or landing page

landing page

With a woman on it, right? What age is that woman?

There you go.

What does she do for a living?

Yeah.

Why are we even talking to her?

So, we’re talking personas.

And does she have kids? Yeah, sorta, personas and archetypes ’cause we

talked about the same.

We use a phrase “archetype” internally, because it’s a little more behaviorally centric than user centric. And so, I say that what I mean is instead of saying, “This is Jane and she’s 29 years old, and she lives at the edge of town.”

That’s like a persona.

That’s a persona, right?

Yeah.

But some of our personas tend to be archetypes. This is a person who really needs healthcare. So rather than drilling down to her, personalization, listen, personalization is imperative. But it’s being thrown around a lot in the market as though you know Jane. And, yes, you may know her name and what she does, but there are behavioral triggers that we want to get Jane, or whoever. Or Jim, or Arsham.

No, that’s,

To react to. So everything that we do is about the psychology of that behavior.

Love it. And that behavior, that’s really good, because you want to know that archetype. You want to know that behavior because it’s likely that that behavior may trigger the need for the product or service

Right.

that we’re, right? So that’s why you want to know that so then you can either target it or otherwise speak to it. So that if that person is in that period of their life or what have you, your copy,

Right.

Your imagery, your layout is all speaking to them.

Well, and another thing, so to back that up, another thing about that is not just behavioral, but it’s relevance. It’s I may have a behavior that you want to trigger but if you don’t hit me at the right time,

Yeah.

With the right message, then you’re not going to get my attention.

True.

So, a lot of that, so really a lot of creative product is absolutely dependent upon the marketing side knowing who to segment, when to hit them with the message, what medium they use most often.

Right.

We know a lot of people are mobile, but not everybody is mobile. I worked on accounts that were older, older people. Who had a little gray in their beard, and not all of them have great vision. So, we have to consider, you know, is a 12-point font?

Yeah, going to work.

Going to be readable? It’s like, no, I need 14 to 16. Really to get them engaged, because otherwise, they’re like, “This is for a younger person. I can’t read this.” So all those things are important.

And considered in the creative department.

Yeah, yeah, they are.

Not just, you know, important in and considered. So it’s not just, “Hey, we put up pretty pictures.” Or design, but it’s, I mean, some of the creative problem solving, I don’t know. ‘Cause everyone claims that, “Oh, I’m a creative problem solver.”

Yeah.

Oh, really, then you’re creative.

Well, I think when people say, “I’m a creative problem solver,” what they’re saying is I have an approach that is not the-

The typical.

The typical approach to solve problems. And you could say I’m a good problem solver. When I’m talking about creative problem solving in this light, what I’m talking about is the ability to use the principles of design. The principles of copywriting. The principles of usability to solve that problem, right? So it’s not just, we have some out of the box thinking. Or we have a different way of approaching it. Or, break out, I always love that one. “We have break out work.”

Break out. That’s one I, oh, break out work, yeah, yeah.

Yeah, break out work. But in reality, you’re always challenged, especially, in a media rich environment. You’re always challenged to find a way to get someone’s attention.

Yes.

And so the best creative work can do that and my personal belief is, it does that when we get to people’s emotions quickly, right?

Yeah. Oh, yeah, that’s-

The television broadcast medium is very good at doing that.

Right.

Digital media is not so great.

Not as great, yeah.

And that’s-

Until you get to video.

Well, yeah, but, I mean I think are ways

Which is common.

to do it in the timing of the message and how the message is written. And the imagery that you use. All those things are important. The problem is, is that, and it’s not a problem, the challenge is that there are lots of brands who are doing mid funnel work and want lower funnel results.

Yeah, yeah.

So lower funnel work has to be very hard hitting. It’s about-

Direct response.

Absolutely. The DRM/CRM is about, I need this right now. So the need is, show me the percentage on your credit card. If it’s low enough, I’ll click.

Right, right, right, right.

On the other hand, if I don’t trust your financial institution or I don’t know who you are, then we have to walk back up the funnel.

Yeah, funnel.

And the work’s got to be different, right?

Nah, completely agree.

And there’s some great examples of that in the market, too. Talking about how to trust an institution. Showing where they are in your life. Showing how they empower you.

Right.

So, all of those things are emotionally triggered. And as you get further down the funnel, those things sort of get shaved away. And you get right to the offer.

Direct to the point, yeah, exactly.

Yeah, the offer. But first you gotta build trust. First you have to build awareness then trust.

Absolutely.

Right, yeah, so that’s,

Classic marketing

classic marketing funnel, yeah. Can you define DRM and CRM? For people who may not know.

Sorry, Direct Response or Consumer Response, but then we used to call it Consumer Response, but it’s not. I think CRM has a different,

Well, yeah,

definition.

customer relationship manager

Customer relationship manager.

Like the system.

Yeah.

Like the Salesforce or HubSpot.

Absolutely.

Or Zoho, whatever, but yeah. So, DRM, Direct, I mean I just call it DR. Direct Response.

Yeah, DR’s fair-

That’s bottom of the funnel.

To call it.

Let me, flip the script a little bit. Let’s actually find in the intersection of you and I, right? So I’m kind of a data guy, science guy. How does data, data science, how does data kind of impact creative?

So, without data, it’s just hypothesis.

Right, I would agree.

And so, this is, I hear “data-driven creative” these days and it makes me laugh. Because prior to the idea of data-driven creative, there was a brief. And that brief was filled out by a strategist and that strategist looked at data to make the assumptions. Just we have more data available now, right?

Nowadays, yeah.

And I think the new use of data in creative is that yes, we’re going to use that data to inform what we do, but we have a much better way to quickly measure what we’ve done.

What we’ve done, yeah.

And pivot so that we can say, change the message, or change the image, or change the placement.

Right.

To know if the customer’s getting the right message.

Like for instance, hey, we’re going to change just the message on this banner ad. Not the actual graphic, for instance.

Sure.

And see what impact that has.

Or even the offer, right? With just the offer.

With a different offer.

Or there’s two offers.

Right, exactly. Also, I think some digging, like for me, so there’s, in my mind there’s two types of data, there’s qualitative and quantitative. Quantitative being numbers, metrics, dimensions, such like that. Qualitative being more voice of the customer, right? So, and user behavior on your website, such as like, heat mapping or user session recording.

How many clicks.

Yeah.

How much time they spend, right?

Well, and those I would say are quantitative.

Quantitative, yeah.

Quantitative. But qualitative really informs creative big time. I know you guys have done customer surveys, voice of the customer, like you’ll actually interview customers to understand where they are. Basically, build an archetype.

Yeah, and that’s, so

That’s huge.

An example of that, that I’ve seen in my past, is we’re doing really well with this page. People are only spending about three minutes and going to the next page. And then, when we interview customers, they go, “I spent three minutes because I was terribly confused.”

Right, right.

“And I just had to click the next,”

Yes.

“Click to see where I was going.” So it made-

Great example.

It made us go back and pull that data from, pull that information from deep within the site, and pulling it forward so that they get to their decision point quicker.

Yeah.

And there’s plenty of times that that happens.

Better you’ll hear, that’s, I had not thought about that. makes sense. “Whoa, we have three minutes on this page. That’s awesome, we’re doing really well.” But like wait-

They’re just confused.

No, actually they’re confused. So, that’s why you have to have-

Or bounce rates too, they’ll sound terrible. Like, oh, people get to this page and they immediately go somewhere else. It’s like, that’s sometimes that can be fine.

Yeah, sometimes it’s a good thing.

If they are-

Taking an action that you want them to take.

Exactly, and they see exactly where they need to go.

Right.

And they go ahead and go there.

I completely agree.

If you spent 30 seconds on a page and you’re terrified that your bounce rate’s too high, see where they’re landing. And see if it’s actually getting you conversions.

Right.

Then, it’s the right place to be.

Right. 99% bounce rate, arr.

Arr. Yeah, that’s bad. Okay, maybe not. That wouldn’t be, I don’t know how good of a story you could do on a 99% bounce rate.

I don’t know, I was just saying. 99 bottles of beer on the wall?

All right. Well, our 16, and on a deadman’s chest, right?

I have no idea.

Yo ho and a bottle of rum?

Yo ho and a bottle of rum.

We have, once again, descended away from our topic.

I know. Well, that’s going to happen. I don’t know how much time is left here. I don’t know where we are. So, maybe we should just wrap it up.

Sure.

Because, you know. But in this topic of creative, I think that, look, I want to say that you’ve opened my eyes up. Last question I have for you. When creative is doing their job, not their job. When creative does a great job, what is the impact?

When it’s effective. When it’s effective.

When it’s effective. What’s the impact?

So, it depends on how you measure it. Right? Everything’s about KPIs.

Yeah, exactly.

Even creative’s about KPIs. If we want to do a site that is well designed and gets the eyes of our peers, suddenly the KPIs, did we win an award for it?

Right, right.

Like, yeah, that’s great.

Right.

If we see conversions up on a specific AB test, for instance, so a split test. We’ve done two tests, and we see this particular image and this particular message does better. Then, we know it’s been effective. It’s always-

Goes down to the KPI.

Yeah, it really does. It’s how you measure it. And I think there is there’s a double edged sword with that. One is that sometimes, the KPI can be out of skew with what the creative actually has the ability to do.

Yeah, they may not have the scope or the range to

Right.

Impact.

“I want you to have killer conversions on this ad. We’ve got a great message, please run it, and do it this way. And we want it like this.”

“Okay, we can do that but your audience sucks so maybe,

Well, yeah.

Your audience targeting is off.”

Absolutely.

So my creative is not getting in front of,

Its not creative’s fault.

Right, it’s not their fault.

But then, there are times when you can see gosh, you know, there is a, for instance, we’ve got a brand that is a health brand. And it appeals to older people. And when I put a young woman on there, the hypothesis is, “Oh, no everybody old wants to be young.” So we’re going to show them how to be young. In reality, they just want to be living their best lives.

Sure.

And the more we know about that, if we know about that customer and we show someone who is older but still living a very healthy life,

but living the best life.

Our work does better. So it’s just understanding what the work should be doing. And having the KPI match against it.

I agree. And I think you know this, I’ve said it. Great creative is a tide that can rise all ships. Not to use the pirate analogy too much.

But why not?

But why not?

Because we’re here.

We’re here. So we’re going to do it anyway. No but seriously, like great creative is that one thing that spans across every channel. And so, when you have crappy creative, doesn’t matter how well your channel’s doing. When you have great creative, it can lift, you know, everything up.

And again, great creative doesn’t have to be

That’s my belief.

high fashion,

Yeah, yeah.

high elegance,

You know, expensive photography. Great creative can be sometimes just making sure that the brand’s colors are there, and it’s clean and simple, and I can understand what they want.

And within the lines of the persona or archetype that we’re trying to target.

Yep, so depending on the brand, the creative should be there to support whatever that message is or whatever that desire is. It’s about business goals and it’s making sure that it’s engaging enough for people to touch and want to

‘Kay

Be a part of.

I’m with you, I agree. And hopefully, this is helpful for the audience out there. So, in summary, look, creative is not just about pretty design and pretty graphics.

Nay.

Nah. It also includes data, right? You have data. You have that informs the design. And really, creative is about problem solving.

Yep.

It’s about understanding what the business problem is and how can we use the experience of, or how can we design an experience for our users. So should they are, you know resonates with them, they are aligned to it. They are aware of our brand. They trust us. And then they take the next action. Much more than just graphic design.

Absolutely.

Much more than pretty pictures.

Well, that’s part of it, too.

It is, it falls under it, sure. But, you know, it’s more than that.

It is.

So that’s the message for today.

And maybe the next thing we’ll do is my theory on the triangular creative.

You know I love triangles, man.

Triangles, all right.

You know I love triangles. Thank you all for listening. Bart Heird. Arsham Mirshah. Please subscribe. Leave us a comment. Engage with us. If you’re listening to this, go to YouTube, and find this episode so you can see our awesome costumes. His awesome costume. My onesie. Yeah, you gotta put it on. There it is.

And now, back to work, you blaggards. We’ve a ship to raise.

We’re outta here.

Aye.

Bye. All right.

I’ve done this before.

Thank God.

Maybe, don’t know. We’ll see.

We’ll see, yeah.

We’ll see, you’re like, “You sound horrible.”

Well that’s, none of that’s going to work. Scrap that film.

Thanks, buddy.

For nothing.

“Great, great job, Bart.”

Throw that,

All right.

throw that away, throw that away. All right. Hello, and welcome back. That was really loud. Let’s try again. Find that in the thing.

Right.

All right.

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