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On this episode, Richard chats with Aileen McKenna, Director of Creative Strategy & Performance at CTC, about the creative aspect of our growth methodology: How to use your topline financial goals to operationalize your creative production, and how to come up with good creative ideas — quickly.

⁠Show Notes:
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[00:00:00] Richard Gaffin: Hey folks. Welcome to the e-Commerce Playbook podcast. I'm your host, Richard Gaffin, Director of Digital Product Strategy here at Common Thread Collective, and I'm joined today for part three of our five-part series by CTC, Director of Creative Strategy and Performance, Aileen McKenna – live, as I understand it, from New York.

Aileen, how are you doing?

[00:00:18] Aileen McKenna: I am doing great. I love the flare with which you added “and performance.”

[00:00:23] Richard Gaffin: That's 

[00:00:23] Aileen McKenna: feels. 

[00:00:24] Richard Gaffin: It's very important. Yeah, exactly. That's what we're talking. Of course. 

[00:00:27] Aileen McKenna: In New York with my cat behind me, sorry. In advance to anyone if there's like a weird sound or something. That could be the cat.

[00:00:34] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, no, I was gonna say, yeah, we have, we have your cat as a special guest. What's her name? Pandora.

[00:00:38] Aileen McKenna: Pandora. Yes.

[00:00:40] Richard Gaffin: Pandora. 

[00:00:40] Aileen McKenna: Yeah. I adopted her during the pandemic and I thought I was very smart and funny.

[00:00:46] Richard Gaffin: Gotcha. Hey, it is smart and funny. So. Like I sort of teed up at the beginning. We've in the, are in the middle of a five-part journey through CTCs profit system. And this is the, what we put in place for all of our clients to develop predictable, profitable growth.

And obviously that requires a lot of things. So we've, we've started in the first two parts with. The planning element. So as a recap, in part one, we talked about setting business objectives, having a core idea of what you're trying to do with your business and how you wanna accomplish that. Then part two, I talked with Luke, who's our director of strategy last week about how to build a model, how to forecast, and then how to begin constructing a plan that has daily expectations for spend, for revenue, for MER, for all of these different metrics.

And then of course. We sort of, this is this third part functions as kind of a transition point between planning into execution. So we're still talking about planning today, but it is a planning, a type of planning that is very directly connected to the actual work that you need to do to make this happen.

So part three we're calling calendars and concepts. And the idea is what we're gonna talk today about is how you, Aileen. Oversee building a creative system to accomplish the financial goals that we laid out in the first two parts of this series. So by way of sort of drawing a connection, I guess, as we spoke about with Luke, we've created this daily expectation around revenue.

[00:02:16] Aileen McKenna: Yes. 

[00:02:17] Richard Gaffin: In order to accomplish that, need to spend money on Facebook and you have very specific ideas or very specific targets on a daily basis of what you need to spend on Facebook. Particularly if you are running cost campaigns, which we do, that's our bid strategy, you have to have a specific volume of creative in order to hit those spend targets.

[00:02:39] Aileen McKenna: yes. 

[00:02:39] Richard Gaffin: So to get to that volume of creative, you need to have a system to make it happen, and you have to be very. Clear about your definition. So let's kick it off, Aileen. We'll get to those definitions eventually, but why don't you start us from the beginning with how we think about creative strategy in general, and then we'll sort of move into the actual planning portion.

[00:03:01] Aileen McKenna: Yeah, absolutely.

 I think that at the end of the day, the real point of creative, um, is that it has to bring your growth strategy to life. And it has to be like that perfect pair for media. I think at the, these things are so interconnected, the way they work together like that, it doesn't, you can make the most beautiful creative in the world, and if you don't have the right media plan set to the right targets, it doesn't matter that you made this beautiful creative, because who's gonna see it? And how is it gonna help drive the business forward? Right? But

at the same time, media needs creative to work as well. Like your media plan. You can't run a blank square. I mean, I guess you can,

but it seems like a bad idea.

And so I. That that connection between these three things is so essential to any one of them succeeding that they really like The success of this is totally dependent on the success of all three pieces

of that, like really good growth planning of that, really good media planning and of that really good creative planning.

And then as you go into execution, you kind of move out of that planning where you're thinking about your growth targets. And you get into your creative development, your media launch, et cetera.

So like I really, I believe in my heart of hearts that like good creative brings strategy to life and it makes your media matter.

But great creative works.

Like it doesn't just do those two things, but it also converts based on whatever your goals are for conversion in that place.

So I think in some ways I think about creative starting almost a step back when you then And going really deep into the brand. What is, who are they?

What is their personality? What are the target customers? The brand benefits and brand attributes that matter about this brand to the consumer? How do those things connect to your different target audiences that you're gonna be reaching in platform? And so like we really are starting and you're seeing right here. If you're watching, you're seeing a blank version of our ultimate brief. And this is something that we worked, we're just launching and we're gonna work to fill it with all of our clients going forward. But I think it's a really good thought exercise for anybody who's trying to put together a really, really knockout creative plan and performance creative to execute on that plan. And it's really about Grounding you in your brand truths and your inspiration, but making sure that that all of these things connect back. When you get to the execution phase and you get to the point of planning an ad, are you expressing the right brand benefits that speak to the right part of your audience so that that ad has a chance of really connecting as opposed to kind of just shooting in the dark and being like, well, I hope I hit the target. This is about Building the target so that you know where to aim. So we kind of start here with digging into the brand, thinking about their personality, the benefits and attributes of the brand or their products, the audiences we're trying to talk to. And then those things convert into offers and angles that are necessary for building out an ad that connects with the consumer.

So we start with sort of setting the foundation.

[00:06:24] Richard Gaffin: Gotcha. I, let's talk a little bit then about some of the elements of this brief. So on the left side, for those of you who are listening, we have a set of, I would say, like bigger picture. Um. It's a bigger picture sections, right? So brand personality, target customer brand benefit, brand attributes. And then on the right side of this we have, well, there's key competitors and mentor brands, which are also fairly big pictures, but then offers and angles, which are maybe more specific to what the actual ads will look like eventually.

So maybe talk us through the difference between just thinking about brand benefit and attributes and then what it takes to convert that into an offer and angle.

[00:07:04] Aileen McKenna: Yeah. Exact. Yeah, sure. So your brand benefits and your brand attributes, like you said, right? This is really, really quite high level.

So this is thinking about okay, what are the things that you, what are the problems that you solve, right? And then how do you solve them? How do you position that solution? And then From that really high level, then you come into your offers and angles, right? And the, the, the gap, you know, or the difference there is like now it's about really deep specificity. So if your brand benefit is that you are easy to use, right? You have developed a product that's really easy to use and that it simplifies a part of somebody's life, then you can think about something like Your angle and how do you communicate that ease of use. In your ad, whether it's in the video, um, that tells a story, whether it's in a headline that appears on a display ad or a static image ad in, in meta whether it's in your ad copy. So for something like ease of use, for example okay, this is really easy to use. Cool. So functionally, what does that mean? Well, that means it could save you time. Or it could you know, give you back, right? Give you more time. So less time futsing with this and more time enjoying the benefits.

And so you can think then from that big idea of okay, this is easy to use and go drill down into what exactly does that mean to the end consumer.

At the end of the day,

this is easy to use, it saves you time and your busy morning, for example, right? And then from there you can think about How does that then circle back to your target customer?

What do you wanna save time for your target customer? Do you want to save time for them to, um, just 'cause they wanna get outta the house faster in the morning or do you want them to save time on setup so they can savor the experience? So that's kind of how you go from this like esoteric, And I wouldn't say ease of use is esoteric, but it's a bit unclear,

right? What

is, okay, cool. It's easy to use. So, so what?

[00:09:18] Richard Gaffin: Mm-Hmm.

[00:09:19] Aileen McKenna: then that's where you go in the angle. You're like, this is what, this is why. So that I

think is 

[00:09:25] Richard Gaffin: seems sort of like, the benefit and attributes is maybe you're compiling in some ways it's sort of like a brainstorm of all of the different things that could be, could be powerful messages about a specific product. Any, any number of these things could work. But then the offer and the angle is about maybe crystallizing that a little bit more and turning it into what you know, the actual creative is gonna be.

So. Let's we'll maybe get into that a little bit further down the line, but

[00:09:52] Aileen McKenna: But

right now we jump into marketing calendars if that's

[00:09:57] Richard Gaffin: Oh, sure. Okay. We, we can jump back into it, but yeah, let's talk about, talk about marketing calendars then.

[00:10:02] Aileen McKenna: Marketing calendar. So I think this is actually quite kind of the next level. So you have your ultimate brief where you've done all of this really deep thought work where you've condensed the story of your brand, the story of your product, the story of your audience into this sort of one document that is your central truth that you're gonna keep tracking back to as you go forward. In some ways, you would think, okay, let's just go make some ads. Cool. But what I think is important and that we shouldn't forget, is if you look here, we have the four peaks, which is quite a big section here in the brief. And this is something that is pretty heavily influenced by the growth strategy that you have developed, right?

You know, the idea behind the four peak section is to have a place that centers you around. Okay? What are the big moments in my marketing calendar across every year? That I have to make sure I am prepared for. These are my biggest opportunities to make the kind of money that I need, not just to thrive, but to really grow and to exceed. And we think about that at CTC, I'm sure long time listeners, I've heard four peaks a million times. bUt we think about that as something that these peak moments, you kind of need four of them throughout the year. This is How you really help your business, particularly if you're a, you know, smaller company, you're just getting going, you know? But this applies even to larger companies. You need to have solid cash flow flow throughout the year. You need to make sure that your marketing is not just like selling products here and there, but selling products in a way that really builds upon itself over the course of a year and over the course

of time. And those four peak moments are really important to map out. A lot of brands have some really easy, like peak one and peak two are very easy to think of, right? Like it's like Black Friday, cyber Monday, giant peak.

Got it. And then maybe back to school, another giant peak. Got it. Okay. Well that's two moments in Q. Three and Q four, what are you gonna do in Q one and Q two to help build toward those moments for success? And so this is where you ideate around those other moments that you want to hit, whether that's making a social media moment yours. If you're, you know, a brand that has a national, you sell coffee and there's National Coffee Day, and you wanna make that a big sale moment for

your brand. Or it's something more endemic to your brand. We work with a brand called 47, and that brand has a big sale on April 7th, which is four seven on the calendar.

That's a big, big moment for them every year, and this is how they kind of create a peak at a moment that maybe otherwise wouldn't necessarily have one.

[00:12:55] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, jump to the marketing 

[00:12:57] Aileen McKenna: yeah. So this connects here. Yeah. Go ahead. 

[00:13:01] Richard Gaffin: no, I was gonna say that there's a couple of, and maybe this is what you're about to jump into, but like a couple of interesting points to pull out of this. One, the, I think a lot of creative philosophy, especially during, let's say, my time as a creative strategist, a lot of the creative philosophy that you read revolves around the idea of evergreen, creative, like what are the things that will just like always work? For everybody that will speak to your target audience at all times throughout the year. When actually, like if we think about brand benefits and brand what was the attributes, right?

If you think about the, the benefits and attributes of a product that you're selling oftentimes, and we've made this point before a few times, but like the number one benefit is . The timing, the number one thing that's attractive about the product is that it happens to be like the, the example we always use is if you're selling shorts, you can talk, you know, you can talk your mouth off about whatever they wick away moisture or they're, you know, the perfect length or they're super comfortable.

But really the advantage of shorts is that it's hot outside and that you need shorts. And that's kind of like part of what the marketing calendar helps anticipate is those. Taking ho, catching hold of the sort of like waves of demand that kind of ebb and flow throughout the year. And so part of what's so genius about this marketing calendar is it allows you to get ahead of all of those things across all of the different categories, right?

So this would be product launches, but then like you were just discussing sales like four, seven day, whatever, like any, any th. Thing that is timing specific gets anticipated. And if you really think about it all creative is sort of timing specific, which is why the calendar's so 

[00:14:37] Aileen McKenna: Yeah, we talk a lot about, you know, and this is like an industry phrase, right? The right,

the right ad at the right time and

on the right platform, right?

And that's exactly what this is designed to help you get to is that you need to get the right ad, the right creative, the right offer, but you need to get in front of the right person

in the right place at the right time. And so. Shorts are a great example, right? There's something that have real seasonality. There are,

[00:15:06] Richard Gaffin: Mm-Hmm?

[00:15:07] Aileen McKenna: you know, we all knew that one dude even here in the northeast, where that one dude who was like, it is 20 degrees outside and he's coming to

school in shorts like

[00:15:19] Richard Gaffin: The shorts guy. 

[00:15:20] Aileen McKenna: that. Yeah, shorts guy is, is, but there's not that many shorts guys.

We all knew the one guy. So yeah, you have to think about seasonality. You have to think about, you know, things. But like for example, with shorts oh, Are a lot of people, like in the northeast, there's two, there's a spring break and there's a February break, and in February that week it's freezing cold here.

The weather's been miserable. Everybody's tired of it. A lot of people try to escape to somewhere warm on that

break. Right? Is this a good, is that a good time to anticipate the demand that you could create by getting in front of people and saying, Hey, prepping for February break, prepping for your winter getaway? We've got the shorts you need. Right. So you think about your calendar moments in relationship to cultural moments and relationship to product drops, like you said, what's coming out on your calendar in relationship to Weather to seasonality, all those kinds of things and planning them out. You kind of have your big macro view of the year and then you kind of drill down in month by month.

And what we use is literally, this is our, one of our marketing calendars that we've put together.

And you can see here for every single day of the month, you have a line and days that something important launches, you have a note, you have a line item, says the holiday gift guide is going to launch here. 

Or you know, we have a drop that's gonna launch at this different location. Right? And we use that is that we put those moments into the calendar and we use that as a baseline for understanding like, okay, this month, what do we need to plan creative for? That is moment specific. That is very timing specific. 

And then where you see sort of the rest of the space is okay, well that's where we're gonna have these things still, you know, sales still running or our evergreen is always going to be on, right? Your evergreen is like this baseline underneath. 

But planning for these moments where you can capture attention based on Seasonality based on product launches, based on these big happenings tent poles, sometimes you would call them, right? Gives you the ability to then look at all of your planning, right? And say, okay, if this is a tent pole moment that we know is happening on the marketing calendar, what goes along with this? And what creative do we need to go along with this?

So we know right here we have this is, this fuels in our, in the CTC world, in the growth map, the marketing calendar tab fuels the Facebook tracker where the team will get, they'll have a pulled literally into the Facebook tracker and then back into. Back into this sheet, right?

You can see the different ads that are launching on these different days to pair with these moments. So these things are like intimately connected because we have to be able to say, okay, at this important moment, what are we meeting that moment with on Facebook? What are we meeting?

What are you meeting that moment with an email? What are you meeting that moment with across your sort of digital ecosystem? And the planning starts from that moment. and goes then into like your literal actionable in the weeds creative development, I think.

[00:18:42] Richard Gaffin: That's cool. No, I think it's yeah, it's important to, to call out for those who are watching. anD I guess I'll explain for those who are listening on, on the right side of, on the left side of this screen, there's a marketing calendar, right where you see the dates laid out. Of the particular month that we're in.

And then the specific maybe campaigns that are happening or events within the calendar are listed in that on the left side. Right. And then on the right side, there's another column called Facebook Concepts Starting. And the Facebook tracker part of our growth map then feeds into this column. And so there's a clear understanding of exactly which Facebook campaigns are being spent against.

In relationship to the particular marketing calendar moment, which gets us closer to our discussion then of, of how like the media buying and the spend strategy begin to connect with actual creative development.

[00:19:34] Aileen McKenna: correct. I think that's where we come back to the concept we're going from, like the plan. We now we know who the brand is, we know right what the product is, how we wanna think about Connecting that to different target audiences from the ultimate brief. We've got our marketing calendar in front of us that gives us that like very, you know, down to the day-to-day guide for what is important and happening that our growth forecast is going to

rely on us. Making and meeting that moment, making it happen. And then, okay, well now it's time to action. And we have to develop the ads that are going to

meet those moments. And so we think about our ad development from the perspective of developing concepts, right? It is a creative idea that sits at the intersection of offer, audience and angle. So the what? Is the offer, the who is the audience, and the angle is the why. And together you have a concept and we take those concepts and we convert them into ads. We believe that each concept can have a minimum of sort of three different creative expressions and can turn into three different ads.

Right. And the ad like to, to give people a sense of what we mean by ad, we mean literally the thing that someone is gonna see in their phone or on their computer when they're in platform. That is an ad. In the background, people who are really, you know, who are operators of these systems, know that, for example, meta would like you to upload multiple sizes so that it can optimize toward the best delivery vehicle, whether that's stories or reels, which requires this extreme vertical aspect ratio or feed, which requires like a portrait or a square. So you might be all uploading multiple. Sizes, but those are just size variants. What we think about as an ad is what the consumer is going to see.

And so we try to develop for each concept at least three different creative expressions that give us the opportunity to, um, find the audience because, hey, maybe one idea doesn't resonate as well. But maybe another

does or another visualization, maybe a static is gonna work better than a video. So we might have a video and two different statics as different ads that come out of the same concept.

[00:22:15] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. One, one thing that I wanna point out here that I think is really important, um, as somebody who, again, like I mentioned before, I've toiled in the minds of creative strategy, myself and . I think that this system, as we've sort of had set up, and again, so for our audio audience, people who are listening, on the left, we have a Venn diagram.

This is one circle says offer once his audience, once his angle and the kind of meeting in the middle of the Venn diagram is concept, right? So concept is a definition of those three things coming together. Then ads, there's sort of, we have three ads that kind of come out of that. Venn diagram and then with each one of those ads, there's a one by one and a nine by 16.

Okay? So what I think this does this is the only real corrective to, I think, a huge problem with creative on in, especially in e-commerce, which is the throw everything at the wall and see to what's, see what sticks. Approach, which doesn't work. And having done it a million times myself in a, you know, a bout of trial and error, it's it absolutely doesn't work to do that.

But because of time constraints, oftentimes that's what you end up doing. It's Hey, let's just try anything and see what works. And I think that definitely plays into, there's a certain, moneyball data-driven type of thinking where it's like, Hey, we'll just test whatever. We won't have, have any assumptions about what creative will and won't work.

But what te really ends up happening is that you just end up making a bunch of iterations of the same thing with different colored backgrounds. And you call that, you know, your creative strategy, right? And then the opposite, the, a lot of times that get, everybody sort of understands that's bad, so they push against it by

Then going the other direction and becoming very philosophical. Hey, this is what our brand's about, this is what our messaging should be. Let's write these really long creative briefs as if we're briefing out, you know, somebody's going to create a feature film about our product or something like that.

And you spend a lot of time on the conceptual side, but you don't spend any of the time actually turning that into a bunch of direct response ads, right? So what this does is it, it adds this very necessary middle Which between the sort of philosophical side and the actual executional side, where you're actually taking a specific ideas and you've created a framework for how to develop them quickly.

[00:24:42] Aileen McKenna: Yep.

[00:24:42] Richard Gaffin: And because maybe a way to think about it is I don't know. A capsule, wardrobe maybe or something. It's you know, you have this shirt looks good, , right? Yeah. You have these sets of shirts, they look pretty good. You have this set of pants, they look pretty good. You can mix, mix and match 'em, and out each outfit that comes out of it's gonna look good.

anD that's kind of like what, what this, what this does for you. It allows you to think, to develop concepts, but in a almost mechanical way where. You don't have to come up with something brand new and super creative every single time. But you're also not just cranking things out. Right? There's the, creates a middle ground that, that creates a process around ideation, I guess, which I think is, is really genius.

[00:25:22] Aileen McKenna: And I think it's an important process around because if you ideate in this way, in this kind of organization, it can also help you, um, do meaningful testing

because I think a lot of brands get very, um, in this world, you kind of referenced it before of okay, what if the button's purple? What if the button's red? And like those things can matter. Like I, I am a creative person through and through. I care a lot about those decisions.

I think that they can be very important. But ideating on, and then, you know, developing and testing on button colors, that's what you do when you have a winner and you wanna see

if you can make it win a little bit more.

[00:26:07] Richard Gaffin: Yeah.

[00:26:07] Aileen McKenna: not what you do when you are looking at your account and going. We have all of this spend planned because we have these big moments coming up and we have got to figure out how to succeed now and then take something away from it that's gonna help us succeed again later.

That's where you kind of need a really sort of structured thought approach to the development that you can use to learn.

And I think this is I, I really like your description of this as that middle ground between Hey, we have to have something in place that helps us develop a lot, because especially in D two C, not everything is gonna work. Not everything's gonna beat the control, and so you have to be able to keep trying and trying,

and that requires volume, particularly if you have specific spend goals and you're running ads in a cost controlled manner to sort of protect the business.


[00:26:58] Richard Gaffin: right.

[00:26:58] Aileen McKenna: But at the same time, like the big ideas are really great, but you have to learn how to translate them quickly. You have to learn how to create, you know, to take them and make them into something real and to bring

organization to that like real work, but still have some speed. You don't wanna sacrifice, focus and Strategy and coherence for speed, but you also don't wanna like completely abandon speed for incredible strategy, and this

creates that middle ground of saying, right, if you pair this with the ultimate brief. Right. Well, We have some offers defined already in the ultimate brief. Those are ones that we know based on your contribution margin, your AOV, your LTV that are great places to focus. We have your core, you know who your co core audience is, you know what they care about, what their lives are like, right? So you can pick an audience there. You have, you know, An idea around angles, about what parts of the brand are most relevant for us to express to that consumer to get

their attention. And you can bring those pieces together and then you can develop a whole bunch of creative ideas that reflect that and express that, and then get

them live, get them testing and learn things in meaningful ways on the

backend of that, right?

[00:28:24] Richard Gaffin: Yeah.

[00:28:25] Aileen McKenna: So.

[00:28:25] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, let's, let's talk about, maybe a little bit about I think it'd be interesting to go through like some specific examples of what an off angle audience would look like. I think that'd be a helpful illustration. Okay, 

[00:28:37] Aileen McKenna: Look at that. 

[00:28:38] Richard Gaffin: walk us, walk us through this. How, how does a concept become an 

[00:28:41] Aileen McKenna: Yeah. So how does the concept become an ad? great question. Um, I think about, you know, the mechanics of this, you really have three pieces, right? You have that offer, audience and angle. So the offer can be very simple and straightforward. It might be a sale. That's your offer. Your offer is 50% off. Your offer is, you know, buy three, get one free. Or your offer can literally just be a product, a new product you're launching or a product that you know, like this product has insane, you know. Contribution margin, and this is where we need to focus because if we can get this one on, you know, going like cooking with gas, then the rest can fall behind and we can figure those out as we go.

So, for example, we have here on the screen we have you know, for those who are listening and not watching along we have an example from a for solo stove, which is you know, this is an ideation process that we kind of did on our end individually, right? So the offer is the bonfire 2.0 bundle, right?

So it's a specific solo set of solo stove products that we know that creates awesome contribution margin. Great. So that's what we're gonna focus on for the offer. The audience comes into play here. So we're thinking about an audience for this creative. It as women and men who are 25 to 35 they are interested in the outdoors, they're interested in fitness, but they're also interested in like part having parties and entertaining their friends. So how do you then take this product with that audience and position it to give that. A sort of relevant and spin that connects to that audience. Well, we have an angle here that, that we generate, which is around gathering your friends around the fire. So we highlight the good times and the memories that are created by bringing your friends together in one place around a fire. That speaks to the audience and interest in entertaining and in parties. And I think most people who are interested in entertaining their friends and in parties are interested in that time to connect with their friends. So we talk about that, like creating good times, creating memories.

anD you can see on the right hand side of the screen, we have a sample image that we might use in an ad.

And you can see in that picture that we have sort of like young adults in this picture, in their mid twenties, um, who are together. Surrounding a solo stove making, uh, s'mores and kind of smiling and laughing with each other. And you pair that with copy about the good times and the memories that you can make with your friends. And that the bonfire 2.0 bundle is at the heart of those moments. And that

is how you go from this three sets of ideas to a full ad. And I like to think of it as Your offer is, is you know, as we know is the what, so that's gonna be pretty clear and pretty cut and dry, right? You want it to be simple.

It's this product, this bundle, this sale. The audience is also pretty clear. You want to make sure that you're focusing on audiences that are core to your brand, that are places where you know you can win. So you're gonna know, you know, okay, well we know this is the audience that's driving the most volume on our Facebook ads as it is. So let's start there. And so you're gonna pick your audience in a sort of data backed, informed way. It might also come from the, you know, product development. We develop this product for this specific audience, et cetera. The angle is where you get to be creative and where you get to have more fun and you start to bring the benefits of this product to life in a way that specifically is relevant to the audience that you're looking for.

[00:32:28] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, I think one, one thing that's so useful about this system is that you can take any one of these items and you can kind of swap them out and mix and match like that, that thing we talked about with the capsule wardrobe a little bit. So, for instance the final ad creative here is four young people, young, 20 somethings sitting on the beach.

Roasting marshmallows. I'm not that old, right? And sitting around their solo stuff. Okay. So that's the end result of this offer. Audience angle combination. So what you could potentially do with this is right now we have audience listed as women and men 25 to 35 interested in outdoors fitness parties and entertaining. You could . Even get a little bit more granular with that and say, because the final result is people who have taken the solo stove to the beach, you could say, okay, people who like to entertain in their backyard now becomes the audience.

And then you match that with the angle, which is still gather your friends around the fire, but now you have a different creative, right? So you've swap that out. The audience is different. The angle is the same, the offer is the same. You could also change the demographic to maybe older people like who are retired.

60 and up. Right. Then obviously the creative becomes a lot different and maybe the angle changes a little bit. It's still gathering your friends around the fire for someone who's older means something pretty different than going and, you know, playing Nerf football on the beach with your friends or whatever.

Right. So like that changes as well. Or then obviously where like you could change the angle. leT's say here's one where audience and angle match a lot, right? You could change the audience to parents and the angle to the solo stove is safer, right? Because the outside doesn't get hot, right? I think that's the case.

So now you have this idea of okay, the solo stove is safer. Keep your kids from throwing themselves into the fire or whatever, whatever that like messaging happens to be. 

[00:34:09] Aileen McKenna: Yeah. 

[00:34:10] Richard Gaffin: And then you can change around like what are the different types of parents that you could target? What, what, what are the different ages of those parents' kids that you could target?

And then all of a sudden, like even in this conversation, we now have, you know, 10 ideas that we could execute on. And they're all good ideas in the sense that they all come from a. Restricted sort of set of brand attributes and brand

[00:34:33] Aileen McKenna: Yep.

[00:34:34] Richard Gaffin: benefits or product benefits. So they're all gonna be like, they're not all, they're not gonna miss the mark entirely from a creative perspective.

They may not work, but they're, it's still different than, you know, whatever we put aliens around the stove or something like that. Or like trying to get quote unquote too creative with it.

[00:34:51] Aileen McKenna: Yeah. And I think what it helps you do as well is like I've seen this before. You know, I've worked in, in past lives with some large brands with large, very large budgets who, you know, in addition to running TV or running these giant digital campaigns and who like throughout the course of the campaign are just like, oh, we have to change.

We, we don't wanna do reviews anymore. We wanna do five stars, no reviews. And then we don't wanna do reviews or five stars at all. We just wanna talk about product attributes. Throughout the course of the campaign, you've gone through so many disparate ideas and creative expressions. You get to the end of the campaign and nobody remembers anything because every, you changed the message so much and you changed the expression so much every time that you lost the core information, that it was really important to get to your audience and that you really needed them to retain. 

And I think this is a way of helping you keep those core tenets together, but also find different ways in to give yourself a variety of creative, to meet the moment, to meet your media plan to help you get to those growth goals.

[00:36:13] Richard Gaffin: Right. So speaking of meeting the media plan, I think this is kind of where the magic really happens and why the ability to, to develop a number of good ideas quickly becomes so important. So let's talk a little bit then about how this connects to the financial side of this whole equation.

[00:36:27] Aileen McKenna: absolutely.

This is the concept blog for those of you who are listening and not watching. On the screen, we have a sample of the concept log that the teams here at CTC use to plan their creative content. But what is, I think the most important and the most magical about this is that the creative team does not work alone in this spreadsheet. They partner with the growth team and with the media teams in order to kind of connect to the creativity absolutely directly to the what the moment of where the rubber hits the road, right? What's the media plan? The media plan's been developed to suit the growth goals and the growth targets that you need to hit. So what do we need to do creatively? To make sure that the media plan is properly fueled with creative.

And so this is where we bring all of that information together, right? We brainstorm out the offers, the angles, the audiences that we're looking to reach. We have this actual spreadsheet itself is giant.

It doesn't fit on a slide. But as you continue going to the right, you get into the space where the media team themselves are doing some of their planning and deciding, okay, we With four concept one in the month of December, we are going to spend X per day. We are going to expect that with the cost controls, that method that we're employing, that it's going to get through Y percent of what we're planning to spend, which means we're actually, the actual spend is going to be Z, and then we total up all the Zs for all the different concepts and we go Is that enough? Does that get us to the planned spend? We need to have to get to our conversion goals and our growth goals. And so this is really that moment where the media team, the creative team, the growth team can look at each other and go, yeah, we got it. We have enough concepts to match the way that we expect spend will play out in our accounts. And. It will get us to the goals that we have for this campaign, for this moment. 

[00:38:42] Richard Gaffin: Mm-Hmm.

[00:38:43] Aileen McKenna: but you know, you can also say, Nope, we don't got, it looks like, you know, if we look at all this together, looks like we're a little short, we maybe need two more ideas this month. Maybe we need

three more concepts to get us to a stronger place.

And so this is that moment where all of these pieces converge and everybody can come together to ensure that we have what we need. To hit all of our targets to spend efficiently and effectively in the platform. And to bring, you know, what I also like about this is that it creates this moment where everybody can bring their I.

Their unique knowledge to the table, right? The media team is gonna know a lot about what is working right now, what has been working, what they think, oh Hey, can I get more of this? A kind of ad?

Or, oh, this product is popping off. Let's see if we can lean into it. Or, you know. We had a client that was selling a particular Hey, this particular type of shoe is their bestseller.

It has been driving all of our volume. It is killing it and it's still killing it, but it's starting to dip a little. Can we infuse fresh creative in right? So the media team can bring that to the table. The growth team brings to the table, Hey, this is, you know, where I think we need to focus from. The perspective of driving up average order value or hey, like this is, we gotta double down on this product that has the best contribution margin 'cause we haven't unlocked it yet. Let's double down there. And then the creative team can really bring together that like audience angle connection to those offers to expand that out and give us as many ideas as possible to take to production.

[00:40:28] Richard Gaffin: Right. Yeah. I think that the beauty of it is that it's, it makes it very clear like you're saying, like how much creative needs to be produced. So let's say for instance, the media buyers come to you and say, next month we need to spend, I don't know. It's $20,000 for, for just sake of argument. And in order to spend $20,000 at the CPA or at the cost cap that we've set, right?

So we know there's going to be a average CPA we want to hit. In order to hit that and to get through $20,000 of spend, we're going to need 90 ads. And we know because we've set up this system where offer angle concept or offer angle . Uh, audience equals concept and a concept is three ads we know. Okay, so three ads go to a concept if they need 90 ads, therefore we need 30 concepts.

I think that maths right? 

[00:41:19] Aileen McKenna: Yep. 

[00:41:19] Richard Gaffin: And so that's 30 of what we just talked to or we just talked about previously with the, with the solar stove and the people on the beach or whatever. Okay, we need to do . We just swap through, okay, let's do one with, grandchildren, one with parents, one with grandparents, one with young people at the beach, whatever.

And you start ideating and you understand that you need to hit 30 of these ideas in order to produce the volume that's needed. And so there's a very clear, um, very clear marching orders, I guess, for the creative team about what exactly is required of them. And then a very clear method for actually producing a number of ideas that are needed to hit that goal.

[00:41:57] Aileen McKenna: Yep, exactly. It brings order to a process that I think can be chaotic. And I think,

[00:42:05] Richard Gaffin: Yeah.

[00:42:05] Aileen McKenna: I think there's this idea. When folks look at creative a lot that they're like, oh, I don't know what they do over there. It's so, it's chaotic, it's it's wild. It's all over the place and sometimes it is. Yeah. I mean, I won't deny that, but

I think in other ways the best creative that you're going to be creating is like solving a puzzle. It's like bringing different pieces together and finding the creative expression within. That is going to get everything to fit.

[00:42:39] Richard Gaffin: right.

[00:42:40] Aileen McKenna: And that's, you know, that's one of the things I really love about how we do things at CTC and and, and all of the data and information that we have access to. Our ability to really understand your financial goals and your like business like basics really helps us guide our work. Because you can do anything in creative to some extent, right? but just doing anything isn't necessarily helpful. 

So having all of this information about what your real goals are, what performance actually is every day, all of those pieces can come together and they can really guide creative and, and you know, I know some creatives sometimes find that boxing you in a little bit, but to me, I just think it's the most fascinating puzzle. 

I think when you have all of those pieces, you have a shot at making really good, creative, creative that really works in a way that it is just so much harder to get to if you are in a hundred percent complete blue sky world with absolutely not a constraint in sight.

[00:43:50] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, totally. I think think talking from a creative's perspective, like I've said this before on the pod, but the best creative work is done within restriction restrictions create the best or restriction breeds creativity, I think would be sort of the way that it's usually phrased and. I think there's, it is also important that the restriction or the boundary be the right boundary, and I think oftentimes the boundary can become time, we're just strapped for time, so you have to like kind of crap something out.

But when the b, when the restrictions that are put around the creative process are. Again, like I'm saying, like the right ones, like the things that are actually true of the brand, the things that are important for the marketing calendar, whatever. Then all of a sudden the creativity that your creative people can output begins to make a lot more sense and their work starts to become better.

Yeah, I think you're like creatives tend to. Dislike restriction, which is just part of what it means to be a creative and also thrive under it. And then I think that's like the weirdest paradox about the creative mentality, but or the creative personality. But that's just the case. And so getting to this point has been all about trying to figure out what the right boundaries were to put around creative.

And I think this is this is kind of the culmination of that in a lot of ways. So, just to kinda like trace a line then, because I think you did this pretty well just now, but to summarize. Part one, we talked about setting a business objective, right? So you make a decision about I need my company to produce X margin over a certain amount of time, is generally how we think about it, right?

Then you take that business objective and then like my conversation last week with Luke, you think about, okay, okay, so I need this amount of profitability over this amount of time in order to hit those goals. This is what I need to be spending on a monthly and daily basis. Now you understand what you need to be spending on a daily basis in order to accomplish that business objective.

Then because we have a clear sense of, of how our creative ideation works or what each unit of creative is, you can say very clearly, we need to spend this much, therefore we need to produce this much creative. And so there's this direct line. From beginning to end, from like your designer hitting send on the, the Photoshop file or whatever, all the way back to you sitting in the boardroom deciding, I think we need to, you know, I wanna be X profitable over X amount of time.

And those things are intimately connected with each other because there's a, there's a direct points of connection between each part. 

[00:46:11] Aileen McKenna: Yep.

[00:46:12] Richard Gaffin: so yeah, I guess , in conclusion it's pretty great, but 

[00:46:17] Aileen McKenna: inclusion, it's awesome.

[00:46:19] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Yeah. Anything else you want to hit on with the 

[00:46:21] Aileen McKenna: No, I think this is Probably one of the more like coherent systems that I've had the opportunity to be a part of and

And is so You know, often creatives work in this world where like you don't know what happened to your art. You don't know if it did anything or if it succeeded. And I think like that through line.

The awesome thing about that through line is that through line then keeps going and you

get to then find out is it performing? And not just is it performing, but is it, are we driving the right outcomes for the whole business? And then you get to keep, it's like, it's like a through line that becomes like a giant circle that kind of connects everything. And I think it's just so exciting to work this way.

I'm stoked on it. 

[00:47:09] Richard Gaffin: totally. Cool. Yeah. So speaking of the line continuing next week we'll be talking about building a channel specific media plan. So this is developing a little bit more the concepts we talked about both today and last week. Which is to say, thinking about, okay, how, what's the, what's the day in the life of the media buyer look like in terms of breaking out how spends supposed to go in Google, on Facebook, whatever.

And then. Part five. So in a couple of weeks we will sort of walk through a day in the life of everybody at CTC and the actual execution of the plan and how everything comes together uh, to actually pro produce that predictable, profitable growth. But in the meantime, alien, thank you so much for joining us.

It always appreciate it when you do 

[00:47:50] Aileen McKenna: Happy to. 

[00:47:51] Richard Gaffin: thanks for walking this through us and thanks for coming up with this stuff. I mean, it's it's great. We appreciate it.

[00:47:56] Aileen McKenna: I am so happy to be here. I'm happy to be a part of the team. And I can't wait to can't wait to see how Black Friday and Cyber Monday turn out.

[00:48:04] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Right. Cool. All right folks. Thanks so much for listening and we'll see you again next week to talk about building a channel specific media plan.