1 IAB Marketing Series Creativity Whitepaper 2014 Tom Wheatley, Head of , Shortlist Media Ltd
2 Landscape The landscape is no longer as clear cut for marketers as it has been seen in previous years. A surge in social media platforms, mobile devices, tablets and other technological advances has meant that campaigns require a far greater level of planning, and the creative element of these is no exception. Creative choices are no longer the dominion of designers alone. In the current climate the aesthetic choices made in creation have numerous technical and functional implications in the success of a campaign or program. Accessibility across browsers and devices, CMS integration and deliverability are just a few of the considerations that should be taken when planning your campaign. Challenges For many reasons continues to become one of the most popular forms of digital marketing, and because of this ensuring that your creative is opened and read is increasingly difficult. In addition, as the variety and breadth of technical devices and browsers increases, the task of design becomes increasingly difficult. Marketers now need to understand the many ways their creative can be viewed and the relative benefit of modifying their creative to render across these. The device or browser an is viewed on can have an enormous effect on the success of a campaign, so understanding how your subscriber base consumes your brand is a necessity for any designer. If your is only optimised for desktop browsers but the majority of your base reads via smartphone then you could be losing clicks, and even worse, subscribers. Before you start There is no one-size-fits-all best practice for design and trying to pull together a vast number of template guidelines will be counterproductive. Before designing your template, run through the requirements of your to ensure it s tailored to your goals. Ask the following questions: Who will be reading it? How templated does it need to be? How often will it be sent? When should your be sent? How much time do you have to manage the process? How much information needs to be on the ? On what device will your be read? What is the click journey? Does the creative work with the destination. By running through these questions you ll begin to understand the complexity that is required for your design. If you are trying to convey one specific piece of information to your audience then creating a complicated template will not only send a confusing message but also generate unnecessary work. On one side of the scale, a restaurant may only need a very simple to convey a one-time offer whereas a fashion retailer may want to showcase a wide range of items from its range. Understanding where your goals fit in between these is crucial to developing your creative.
3 Figure 2 In Figure 1 Emerald Street is designed to offer the reader a selection of fashion and beauty items to look through and click on based on their preferences. In Figure 2, however, Pizza Express has one specific message and call to action. Figure 1 Length of design The length of your content can impact heavily on the time required to produce and broadcast mail outs, so understanding the reading habits of your audience is very important. By looking closely at your reporting you can see what people are clicking on and how much of your creative is being read. If your copy is too long or there are too many sections included you may see a drop-off in clicks, suggesting that you should minimise the amount of clicks or optimise the information within the template. An unnecessarily long will not only cause subscribers to be disengaged with the content but can also have an impact on how it will render in the client. Gmail for example will truncate large s.
4 Best practice After planning the requirements of your creative you can begin to pull together the elements that will make your final design. A successful creative should combine the following criteria based on the predefined goals, compromising where necessary to ensure that the final creative is tailored towards your brand. With all online marketing there should be an emphasis on testing each of these elements. Open rates how to be seen in the inbox Getting your opened is by far the most important aspect of any campaign, you could spend weeks on creating the world s most impressive campaign, however if nobody opens the it will all be for nothing. A wealth of factors can impact the overall open rate and it s important to understand the role each of these plays. Before you start to test the following practices, ensure that you have tackled any deliverability issues that may affect your broadcasts. Once you have reached the inbox you will then need to look at the factors affecting a user s decision to open your . For most people an inbox is a cluttered and quickly filling space where individual messages will receive only a quick glance before a decision is made to open. This is the critical point in an marketing process and requires a careful combination of the following points. prime real estate Figure 3 Sender name Before deciding on your subject line you should look at the sender name as it will appear in the subscriber inbox. Consumers will look at this information almost automatically to verify the quality of the being sent, filtering out possible spam s or those from companies that have a poor reputation. Brand reputation can take on many forms and your strategy should be based on your goals as well as how your brand is already perceived. Examples of sender names: Brand Name Brand URL [Branded Product] by Brand Name From Address This is the technical sender information for your . Unlike the other items in this list the From address can be difficult to change once implemented, therefore it is important to ensure you have planned it effectively.
5 Subject lines Your subject line is by far the most important aspect of your content. Even the strongest brands still need to explain to their audience the value of opening their s. Without a compelling reason to open your any effort in creative will be wasted. The subject line should quickly outline the benefits of opening your to a subscriber. This could be an offer, an article or personalised information relevant to your audience. Personalisation Studies have shown that adding in relevant information to your subject line is a strong call to action for your base. This can be anything from their name or region to information about their online behaviour. Length Although optimum subject lines can vary based on the brands relationship with the user, best practice across all industries suggests a maximum of 50 characters. This not only ensures that your message is conveyed across the majority of browsers and devices, but also ensures the user is able to quickly understand the message you wish to convey. Consistency Establish and follow guidelines for capitalisation, grammar, and other brand-specific stylistic elements. Preview Text Preview text in creative was almost non-existent a few years ago but is now a standard element of any campaign. Although not supported in all inboxes, the preview text is becoming increasingly prominent as an added opportunity to catch your audience s attention and can have a very powerful effect when twinned with the subject line. Once your is opened After planning your goals and desired outcomes you ll be in a much better position to build the creative elements of your design. This should denote the importance of devices in your strategy and the weighting you should attribute to the desktop vs. mobile elements of your design. The prevalence of smartphones in open rate figures has meant that best practise guidelines have evolved over the last few years, with many creative marketers stipulating that mobile design should come first and desktop should follow. It is however important to understand both the limitations of mobile templates and how your base consume your s.
6 Desktop best practices Width and height Because a lot of people don t actually open their s, instead of reading through the use of their clients preview functions, it is advised that a design should not exceed 600px in width. Figure 4 However due to the vastly varied range of screen sizes available these days, many marketers are utilising larger designs to convey messaging. Images sizes You may have created the world s most eye-catching image, however if the size and quality mean that it takes a minute to download then your subscribers are unlikely to see it. This is especially important when people are viewing on mobile devices. Ensure that you have no images larger than 350k in your design and where possible make sure that you use HTML instead of images for text. Background images - Because these are rarely supported in browsers you should avoid the use of background images. Instead design your template to use only HTML images with background colours that compliment them. Another important point when choosing images is their prevalence in comparison with the text within the . Image heavy s are typically seen by clients as being associated with spam senders, historically due to accessibility of the content. Ensure that your design is weighted evenly between both images and text elements.
7 Figure 5 However not all design requires carefully created images. As part of your campaign you may need to broadcast messages that are clear and quickly produced. For example account information, receipts or service updates should be as simple as possible, not only to ensure that deliverability is as high as possible, but also to allow users to view in any device. Figure 6
8 Mobile best practices Mobile design has become increasingly important over the last couple of years. A detailed overview of best practices to help you build your campaign can be found in the IAB On Mobile whitepaper. When building your creative, there are specific points which should be taken into consideration to ensure you are sufficiently cross-device. How responsive? Mobile design complexity can vary a great deal, therefore understanding the work involved in updating your templates as well as the rendering risks which could occur is very important. Easy clicks There is a big difference between pressing a touch screen and clicking a button with a mouse. Therefore buttons seen on mobile devices need to be larger otherwise users will become frustrated with the need to zoom-in in order to open a link. Figure 7 Font sizes/image quality Both images and fonts used on a mobile template should take into consideration the smaller screen size, with fonts made larger and images modified accordingly. Mobile device variance Understanding the device marketplace is an integral part of successfully implementing an creative. The reality of mobile rendering means that there is no simple way to ensure that any design will effectively work perfectly. There are enormous differences on how Apple and Android devices will present your design. Where Apple devices shrink-to-fit with images enabled, Android devices typically don t shrink and images are disabled by default. Although this is set to change across a number of devices, ensuring that your design accounts for those that don t is very important. Unfortunately there is no simple solution to this problem and marketers must make decisions on what works best for them. You may find that a larger percentage of your base uses Apple devices and decide to focus on this or opt for a design which compromises across as much of the spectrum as possible. See the Design rendering and testing section below to understand how to effectively manage inbox rendering.
11 CSS inline CSS is a common design code in modern templates, however few clients will allow you to apply external cascading style sheets. Any CSS used should be added as inline styles. Images sizes With the many clients and devices in use nowadays, giving absolute sizes to your images will mean that your design will force constraints when viewed in different formats - which can cause rendering issues. Instead, use percentages in place of absolute sizes to allow your design to adapt based on the viewer. Know your browser bugs As technology changes so do the number of specific intricacies and differences across not only clients and devices but browsers, computers and operating systems. You may have the perfect creative code, however rendering bugs and code depreciation means that there is an enormous selection of footfalls affecting the marketer. A list of these can be found on various design blogs, some of which can also be found in the glossary at the end of this Whitepaper. This is also why it s important to test your . Using GIFs and video design has seen a very limited evolution over the last decade. Although some clients have begun to implement improvements in both function and rendering, most are confined to strict technical. Video in is something that has long been sought after, however support across clients is still very limited. To counter this, marketers often utilise a combination of GIFs and video players using agile software such as Movable Ink to facilitate the experience. However it is important to note that although software like this will work in some instances, video is only supported in a small number of clients. GIFs are used to allow an improved experience in design with around 60% of clients supporting them. GIFs allow designers to include moving images as part of their campaigns and when used effectively can produce higher click rates and a better user experience. Some clients however such as Outlook don t allow moving GIFs and will limit them to the first frame. This should be incorporated into their use. The complexity of a moving GIF can also impact heavily on image file size so animations should be limited based on frames and quality. Large image sizes will not only impact on load times but also on spam filtering and server hosting. There are a number of companies which specialise in embedded videos with . Two of the most popular are Video and Movable Ink Image integrity testing Although you may have designed your template perfectly, you should check that your images are hosted at a reputable location. Whether you host images on your service provider or through a separate location, clients will check to see if the sending address is blacklisted or input correctly. You can check this through tools such as Return Path.
12 Design rendering and testing Any marketer should have the facilities required to test their design fully before broadcasting. For many this is a case of signing up to each common client and testing to each when broadcasting from your broadcast supplier. There are also a number of tools available which not only do the work for you but also allow you to view your in a far wider selection of devices and clients. Two of the most widely used inbox preview tools are offered by Litmus (http://litmus.com/) and Return Path (http://www.returnpath.com/solution-content/inbox-preview/. Figure 12 Dynamic/functional content As the marketplace changes, so do the requirements of an program. Marketers are learning to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach to marketing and optimising their s to target subsets within it. The benefit of this approach means that companies can learn about the individual requirements of their subscribers and serve them content or offers that they want to hear about. This approach can have an enormous impact on the open and click success of your program, and if done well can turn a series of s into one carefully targeted mail out. This can also result in a lower unsubscribe rate, better deliverability, lower broadcast volumes and better resource usage. Most broadcast software available these days allows for some level of dynamic content resulting in one broadcast having a multitude of variants within its design and content. Learning how to effectively use this tool can pay enormous dividends if planned effectively. Many spam protection services such as Cloudmark will monitor creative for hallmark features to protect users. One element of this is to look at the variance of a mail out. Large bulk mail outs of the same content can suggest a spam sender, dynamic and targeted elements can help to counter this.
13 Pay-off Increased opens Increased clicks Saving resource Future proofing design Glossary/Further Reading Published January 2014 Follow Visit us: Call us: