eXpert Insights: The Biggest Problem in Marketing is the Singular Focus On Creatives – Part 1

50% of small businesses fail within 5 years.  

It’s 2018, X Agency is 1 year in and every new client brought us closer to not being just another statistic. And every client lost? We step closer to the edge of relative obscurity. 

I’m in the midst of a client pitch and ask, “What are your biggest issues and what solutions have you tried?”

Her response, “I’m not entirely sure. We’re stagnant year over year and we’ve tried every creative possible.”

My response, “Creatives don’t matter.”  Everyone on the call fell silent in disbelief.  I let it sink in for a minute, or three before I proceeded to explain why……

OK, I don’t mean “creatives don’t matter” in the literal sense. What I mean is that brands put too much focus on creatives when there are other strategic levers to pull. If you own a home, you can paint it a hundred times but if your foundation is broken the house will crumble – the same goes for creatives.

Here are three reasons why the singular focus on creatives has wasted millions of dollars in the accounts I’ve personally managed:


Reason #1 | The Improvements Won’t Move the Needle

If you’re looking for 10% growth year over year, sure, focus on creatives. If you’re looking for 100% growth, you need to look elsewhere. 

Most creative tests are done in small pockets and rarely done for an entire account. I’ve seen hundreds of well-designed nifty reports detailing which creatives won and the “amazing” results they drove. I rarely see improvements above 50% and even when I do,  it’s a 50% improvement in a fraction of the entire marketing budget.  This means that your “improvements” are a drop in the bucket. They’re not the ones that will get you noticed by company leadership and most certainly not the ones that will get you a promotion.

Reason #2 | Tunnel Vision & Losing Sight of What Matters

According to Merriam-Webster, Tunnel vision is, “the constriction of the visual field resulting in loss of peripheral vision”.

In digital marketing, it’s focusing too much on “creative tests” and forgetting everything else. We don’t notice that we’re bidding too high. We don’t notice that our campaign settings are incorrect. We don’t notice that we’re missing key campaigns.

We don’t realize that our account foundation is totally wrong.

Most accounts we take over are missing key campaigns, primary keywords, proper bidding & more. When you’re bidding on the wrong keywords, missing remarketing campaigns, targeting the wrong demographics – your creative improvements don’t matter. 

Reason #3 | Expensive Decisions Based on Bad Data

A true A/B test will test changes in one variable, run at the same time with split traffic, and needs to be statistically significant. Unfortunately, the majority of A/B tests I’ve seen in digital marketing aren’t run this way.

We’ll test changes in the image, text, and everything in between, and when we do that, there are too many variables to actually pinpoint what gave us the results. We’ll chalk it up to the “creative” being better when in reality, it could have been over 10 different things we changed.

We’ll also run tests at different times without using the platform’s built-in A/B testing setting. Google has a draft/experiment setting that allows us to randomly split the traffic into two different campaigns. Facebook has its own A/B testing setting. With that said, I’ve seen many tests that are run at different times or in different campaigns using different creatives. We’ll take those results, compare them and use those results but that’s entirely wrong. Lastly, we don’t run them to statistical significance. We set an arbitrary date without understanding that the data we get might not be enough to surpass the margin for error. For a full read on how to run a true statistical analysis and a free template to calculate significance see this medium article.

What Was the Result of the Client Pitch?

After the initial shock and a healthy dose of hesitation, they did sign on to become our client and continue to work with us to this day. Why? Because we focused on foundation instead of creatives. Using this strategy, we increased revenue by 400% with only a 14% increase in spend. Needless to say, they were extremely happy and X Agency is no longer standing on the cliff of obscurity.


Good creatives are absolutely important, but the focus on creatives is not. Too much focus on creatives leads to tunnel vision, non-impactful results and it’s usually based on bad data. Focusing on your foundation and fundamentals will have a deeper impact. What do I mean by “proper account foundation and fundamentals”? Stay tuned for Part 2.

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eXpert Insights: The Biggest Problem in Marketing is the Singular Focus On Creatives – Part 1
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