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On this episode, CTC’s Director of Creative Strategy & Performance Aileen McKenna joins Taylor & Richard to discuss the urgency of building great evergreen ad creative in September and October, how to systemically brainstorm new ad ideas, and the right place to expend effort and resources when Black Friday comes.

⁠Show Notes:
  • If you’re a $10M - $100M ecommerce brand with a Growth Quotient (GQ) of 130 or greater, we’ll cover $25k of ad spend when you become a CTC client. Apply here
  • The Ecommerce Playbook mailbag is open — email us at to ask us any questions you might have about the world of ecomm

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Hey folks, before we get into the show, I wanted to tell you about a special offer we're running right now. If you're a 10 to 100 million dollar e-commerce brand, with a growth quotient of 130 or greater, we'll cover $25,000 of your ad spend. When you become a CTC client, you'll get a much needed efficiency boost in the crucial weeks approaching Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and we'll get a client we're confident we can win for well beyond the holidays. 

So just go to Click the hire us button to get started, or follow the link in the show notes.

[00:00:33] Richard Gaffin: Hey everyone. Welcome to the E-Commerce Playbook Podcast. I'm your host, Richard Gaffin, director of Digital Product Strategy here at Common Thread Collective. I'm joined as I always am by Mr. Taylor Holiday, CEO here at CTC. Taylor, how you doing today?

[00:00:47] Taylor Holiday: Doing good. Doing great. 

Excited to have a new guest on the podcast.

[00:00:52] Richard Gaffin: I know it is very exciting because our new guest is Aileen McKenna, who's our director of Creative Strategy and Performance here at CTC, here to talk us through what we have to do on the creative side as we approach the Black Friday season.

But Aileen, how are you doing today?

[00:01:05] Aileen McKenna: I am doing very well. Thank you.

[00:01:08] Richard Gaffin: Well, so Aileen's calling us from from across the pond, London, England Shoreditch, specifically as I understand it.

[00:01:15] Aileen McKenna: indeed. I am in a coworking space and short in the very fancy Soho house, which is much fancier than I am.

[00:01:24] Richard Gaffin: Okay, so tell me now, obviously British food has a reputation, , I don't know. Thought I'd kick it off with that, but so last time I was there it wasn't great. I've heard it's gotten better. What's what's your take?

[00:01:35] Aileen McKenna: Oh, great. I mean, you just have to know where to go.

That's just, I mean, first of all, Sunday Pub Roast extremely important and you can get great ones in most places. But there's awesome, there's like a lot of really fun and awesome restaurants here. I actually, that's like kind of what I come to London to do now.

Sometimes I'll see theater. Mostly I wanna eat and go to pubs.

[00:01:57] Taylor Holiday: It's kind of like LA I feel like it's like incredibly diverse. Like when I was in the UK last time, it was when Perce was still here at CTC and she gave me the recommendation, like the best Indian food I've ever had was in London. So good

[00:02:08] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Of course, I think like last time I was in London was like 2006 and I made the mistake of going to like basically a Tex-Mex restaurant. And so I think that's probably why

[00:02:18] Aileen McKenna: mm-hmm.

[00:02:19] Richard Gaffin: That's probably, yeah, it didn't really help the experience. 

[00:02:21] Aileen McKenna: That's on you? Yeah. 

[00:02:23] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, exactly. Okay. So from across the pond, we're talking about creative today, so I think what we wanna kick this off is in the now, which is to say this is, We're in the mid, mid-September, so nearing the end of Q3 into the beginning of Q4, which of course is as we've sort of been beating a dead horse about, it's, it's the most important time to create Evergreen Creative to establish that performance before we get into the actual discounting season.

So, Aileen, why don't you talk us through a little bit. Oh, and by the way, actually, I, I should preface this by saying, Probably a month ago, Taylor and I talked a little bit about this exciting new creative ideation system that we've come up with here at CTC that we're using to generate creative ideas.

And Aileen is the mastermind behind that particular system, so kudos to her. And I think one reason that it's, it's great to have you on is for you to sort of talk through that system and talk through how we're implementing it right now. To make evergreen creative. So let's, let's kick it off there.

What's how's that 

[00:03:21] Aileen McKenna: Yeah. Wayfinder Wednesdays are sort of the heart of our creative ideation system now. And what I really, really love about them is that they get sort of. Not just all the important people into a room once a week to really, really focus on how our teams can be servicing our clients. 

But they also get like a diverse set of minds together to bring all kinds of different knowledge and experience to bear upon the process of creative ideation, which I think is. I, I'm always a fan of bringing more different types of minds into the room in the early stages because I think, like, you just never know who's gonna have a great idea. And so I find that this like combination of having folks with a media background, folks with a more growth and marketing background, having your creatives. But even then, like bring in retention, bring in anybody who I think is willing to kind of be open in that conversation. 

It's so good to have them upfront because it brings all kinds of interesting stuff to the table that you then have the opportunity, your strategist can come in and shape and guide and make more of that.

But in the beginning I think more minds are better. So that's one of the things I really love about this process.

[00:04:39] Taylor Holiday: Add in, can I tag in right there Alene? 'cause I think 

[00:04:41] Aileen McKenna: yeah. 

[00:04:41] Taylor Holiday: good point that, so when we think about this concept and premise, right? We have these constraints around think through the lane of offer angle or audience. And one of the things that matches perfectly with what you're saying is that I have found.

People, and I don't know if it's just like their natural predisposition in terms of how they see the world or what it is. They all pick a different lane to start from. Like when they think about creative inspiration, some people go immediately to audience. They think about who they're talking to and they think through the value proposition to them.

Some people look at the product and they go, oh, there's a clear value proposition. Now who would that matter to? Then some people think about the offer, like, what am I selling? Okay. Then what would be the value? Like, so in each of those lanes, I watch people naturally gravitate towards creative ideation through each of the doors.

And when you put 'em all in the room, you get a lot more volume of ideation because everybody's walking through sort of a different starting point through those constraints. And that's been cool to see is that the constraints highlight the diversity of thought in a way that leads to, to more creative options.

[00:05:42] Richard Gaffin: And I just wanna add is a bit of context. You, Aileen mentioned Wayfinder Wednesday. So this is a day, basically we block out one day a week and spend the entire day, as I understand it, ideating particularly around creative, but around other strategic things, I imagine. But the idea is to spend an entire day, so eight hours of everybody's time slowing down.

Thinking strategically about the big picture. But anyway, yeah. So I think your first point then is diversity of thought into sort of the beginning of the, the brainstorm process. And I do think that's important from like my background as a creative. Oftentimes it could be treated as like this silo thing where the creatives are the only ones genius enough to come up with a great marketing idea.

But the reality is that any smart marketer, . Any sort of aspect of the field is gonna be able to come up with an interesting angle for why a product might matter to someone. Okay. So if that's the first piece of advice, then let's kind of keep moving on from there. So sort of what are the next steps then as you sort of think about Evergreen Creative.

[00:06:38] Aileen McKenna: Yeah, I think piggybacking off of what Taylor just said, that that offer audience angle combination, I think is a really powerful way of thinking about how to develop creative, right? I. Not just because people can come in from different angles, but because at the end of the day, those are sort of the three most important elements to bringing your product to market in a way that really connects with the consumer. I. I think everybody, when they think about marketing, thinks about the offer. Is it a sale? What are we selling? Like all of those pieces are important. And they're like, for me, I happen to be a person who often leads with the offer. I think about the offer first, but then I like to think about, okay, how do I further customize this?

Right? We're using the creative to speak to a specific audience. And I think that like those next two units of audience and then angle, who are we talking to? How can we speak about this product in a way that connects directly to them? That refers back to who we are imagining in

that moment that those three units, thinking about those together with the team, I find. Really, really useful and like I have a, I have a bias towards, let's see if we can crank out, while we're together, while we're working on this, how many different offer audience angle combinations can we come up with together and. And I like that because I wanna get the most out of all of the different pieces of knowledge in the room. So that's something that like, I really like to focus on when we think about this, but like, I've been in meetings with folks, I think Taylor, I've seen in meetings, right? It's kind of like, Hey, like I have this visual idea, this thing that I saw, or that I think could be cool. And sometimes folks start there and bring that. Bring more focus to like, how do you bring this alive, visually? And but I think that like focusing on looking at those three piece combinations to determine, how you can speak about your product, your products and how you can do that in a way that's really meaningful to a specific audience that you care about is just, it's, I think it's endless too, right?


you have. If you think about this, not just

tactically of like 1, 2, 3 things, makes an idea, but all sorts strategically, if you change one thing of those three, you have a new concept, right? If you change the audience, but you still wanna focus on the fact that your product is high quality and made with wonderful materials, how would you speak about that differently for a different audience?

It's the same core idea, but because you have a different audience now you have a slightly different expression of that core idea. And I like to use that strategically, particularly for testing and learning into finding really strong performance.

[00:09:29] Richard Gaffin: Makes sense. Yeah. If, if you have eight, let's say eight angles, eight products, and eight different audiences or whatever, like the number of permutations of those three sort of categories is pretty much, I mean, it's not infinite and I can't do the math right now, but you can imagine that it just becomes, yeah, there, there's sort of an endless amount of ideas.

So one thing I wanna ask is like, we're talking a little bit, let's say generally about creative ideation and production and that kind of thing. What differentiates Q3 from Q one and Q two? Let's say in terms of at all times, ostensibly you're trying to come up with winning Evergreen creative.

Obviously you'll have some sales here and there or whatever, but what is it about Q3 in terms of production that makes it different from Q one and Q two?

[00:10:13] Aileen McKenna: So I think Q3 is it's like the moment where you really, it's your last chance to fill the sponge. Right, and so I think even though you're not yet technically in the sort of holiday period, you really need to be thinking about what do you need to do to prepare yourself for Q4 and. If you're, if you're killing it and you're firing on all cylinders, maybe you've been learning throughout the year about different offers or angles that resonate with your audience, et cetera, et cetera. If you've done that, then you have a great, you have great strong creative to get those eyeballs to generate clicks, to build audiences off of. But if you maybe. Weren't as focused on that earlier in the year.

 Now is your chance to really think about how do you connect with audiences to develop to fill that sponge and to develop folks that you go back to again in Q4.

[00:11:14] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Taylor, what's your, what's your take on this? What, what's differentiates Q3 from a creative perspective? From let's say Q one and Q

[00:11:20] Taylor Holiday: Besides sadness like Q3, Q3 tends to be hard, right? You're trying to solve for a dry period where there's sort of less moments naturally built into the calendar and. Demand tends to wane a bit. But the, the general idea leans things, right, which is that we're after being committed to an idea that we are priming customers hopefully acquiring them too, but also priming customers for what is our biggest moment of the year.

And there's all this great data that I think shows up in emails that I believe carries over into Advertising as well, which is like there, Klaviyo puts out this data point every year, and I think we reference it in our growth strategy that I think it's, I wanna see if I can find it in here. So Klaviyo puts out this data point every year that 89% of Black Friday Cyber Monday purchases via email are made by customers who open an email before the holidays, right? So, so in other words, this idea that there's like this immense amount of discovery happening is less true than we are making purchase decisions based on the things we were interested in or have interacted with prior to that date.

And so all of the work of September and October is really about driving as many eyeballs and touch points as you can to, like I, the phrase I like to use is sort of till up the soil ahead of those key moments. And that's tough. And, and so one of the ways that this can happen is that, that I think about is oftentimes we will have a disregard for, let's say, creative metrics like CTR or CPC, and we'll defer preferentially to

The efficiency of the moment, and that certainly still is going to be the core driver. But the reason I prefer or might think about driving or giving an, an additional consideration of these moments leading up to it, is that if I have the, an ad producing the same financial result, let's say they're both running at a two to one Ross, but ones at a 50 cents C P C, and ones at a dollar C P C for whatever reason, whether it's the targeting conversion rate, et cetera.

I'm gonna give preference to the high, the lower ccpc so I can drive more clicks, fill my remarketing funnels more like there's just a consideration for the amount of awareness that you're creating ahead of a peak buying moment. That is really important here too. And so a lot of times, I think this is when you'll see brands do or reach for.

Content that is a really introductory to themselves in this moment versus really trying to lean into like any sale or conversion based messaging at the very bottom of the funnel to your existing customer set. We're like, we're going out to tell everybody about us ahead of what we know is gonna be the point where they make a bunch of buying decisions.

[00:13:47] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, so there's an element where like taking an efficiency hit for the sake of engagement is actually not such a bad idea. And maybe given the fact that this is such a down season anyway for for revenue, at least it makes the most sense to kinda like push yourself towards that. Or that, those types of metrics, rather than just like trying to get the best row as you possibly can every day

[00:14:07] Taylor Holiday: And here's another thing, like one of the things that very practically from a financial planning standpoint, Is that a mistake? I can, I see brands making is they think about their percentage EBITDA outcome by month as being like 20% a month every month for the whole year. But the reality is like that's not actually what the market allows all the time.

And there's a consideration for that. And so it's funny, I was listening to the operator's podcast this morning on my way into work and they were asking this question of like, how do you grow from being a ? $10 million brand to a hundred million dollars brand. And Sean Frank said you lower your m e r expectations.

And it's just a funny answer, which is like the, the, the answer is you build the business that allows you to be really aggressive in new customer acquisition in every moment, all the time. And so you remove all the constraints, the expense, the, the overhead, the office, the, you get your margin as wide as you can, like all these things that enable you to be really aggressive.

And so, I think there's this consideration for the way in which you manage your business in September and October to allow you to be really, really lean to lower the m e r, to continue to drive new customer acquisition. That's going to allow you to maximize the margin in a peak moment, like November and December.

That I think is like a strategic decision that aligns to creative that I think can be helpful.

[00:15:24] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Okay, so then speaking of getting into Q4, so we discussed, or I discussed rather with, with Luke and Steve a few weeks ago, we kind of gave an overview of what our, our creative strategy looks like. And so there's four peaks. Within the fourth peak is sort of part of it. Like there's four mini moments within the Black Friday moment writ large.

And then within that there are four separate subcategories of strategy that you need to execute against that. And what we're talking about today obviously is creative strategy. And within creative strategy there are also four different ad types that we wanna focus on. So I'll just list those right now.

And then Aileen, maybe you can talk. A little bit through what they are and how we approach them. So, evergreen ads, that's pretty obvious. Dynamic ad frames. The third is graphic ads, and the fourth is sale ads. So some of those sound pretty self-explanatory, but let's maybe tease it out a little bit.

Alene. So talk to us about those four categories.

[00:16:21] Aileen McKenna: Yeah, I mean, your Evergreen ads are the ads that maybe you've already been running or that look like the ads you've already been running, where they're, product focused. They are my opinion, beautiful. But these are the things that you want your consumers to, interact with and be like, oh, you want 'em to remember that? You want them to keep thinking of your brand. And additionally, I think Edward Green is. Folks are gonna interact with your ads multiple times across this season, right? If you're doing this right, not only are they gonna get a frequency of more than one on most individual ads, but they're going to get a frequency over the course of this season of different kinds of ads from you. And I think that. Evergreen ads are really the opportunity here to show your product in the context of real life, in the context of the way it is used and the way that you want consumers to think about your product as solving something for them in their

life, a need, a desire, et cetera. So I think, making sure, especially as you go in the into, in the early parts of the season that you're testing into really strong evergreen creative, gives you beautiful art to put in front of people who. Maybe three days ago saw a sale ad and weren't able to click right away or forgot to click or whatever, but they're going, oh yeah, they have a sale. And look, here they are in front of me again

and that's the thing that I want.

So I think Evergreen really serves that kind of a purpose at this point in the year. 

[00:17:51] Taylor Holiday: So fun, fun, fun fact, in 2022, evergreen ads accounted for over 50% the spend that ran during Black Friday, cyber Monday. So what that means is that despite a bunch of energy and time and production effort going into making sale ads, The reality is, is that there are a series of ads that for most brands, have been proven to be highly effective at driving engagement on the platform.

We all like to think that a customer reads everything about our ad in the ad and it internalizes it in this way that they're like very acutely aware of exactly what they're clicking on, et cetera. The reality is those ads probably have great hooks. That great value proposition of the product that people have seen before, that they understand and interact with in a way that drives them to a site that now also includes a great sale.

In a way that it's just added value to something that was already performing really highly. So you're sort of aring the conversion rate, the conversion rate's going up on what was already a really great ad. And so that tends to outperform creative that you're generating net new, that you don't actually know if it's gonna work or not.

And so in many cases we see that the evergreen ads just continue to do a lot of the driving and work for us. And so getting great ads into the ad account become this foundational pillar that worked through all seasons in reality.

[00:19:09] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, and I, I think there's a lesson there too about like showing people those same evergreen ads in September, October when they are likely to have a poorer efficiency, really tease people up to seeing that same ad again prior to Black Friday or during Black Friday. Remembering it and knowing that they had been saving.

One thing that we talked about a couple years ago is that, and this is not strictly true, but most people who are buying something on Black Friday aren't seeing your brand for the first time. Right? They, they're not buying something that they haven't already been kind of planning to buy in advance.

And so that, that's sort of what the, the Evergreen is teeing up. So now you mentioned. Obviously like net new or like creating some really like spectacular holiday ad isn't really going to work. But there are three other ad types here that I think circumvent that or play with that idea in a really interesting way.

So tell us a little bit about dynamic ad frames. Alene.

[00:20:02] Aileen McKenna: I I think dynamic

ad frames are are like a secret weapon that I don't know that enough people are taking advantage of, right? These are to be really designy. These are transparent images that have some designs. As you might imagine with a frame at the edges you can put anything that you would like but like we, like love to do, right?

Like, eye catching colors really clear communication of any deals or sale information you can bring some branding in that brings some interest to your traditional catalog ads, right? These frames are dynamically loaded over your catalog ads. So that those product on white background shots that are very standard for those ads get like that little hit of visual interest. And we've just seen them, they're fairly low lift to produce. They can be done largely through sort of graphic design elements. You don't necess. You don't really have to go out and shoot content. You don't have to use a lot of time on developing, motion graphics. But they are, they add some branding.

They become, they can be more eye-catching and they really bring interest to like your catalog ads that are already working hard for you. Right. So, they're just like a low lift creative that I think the payoff is really excellent.

[00:21:25] Taylor Holiday: One of the, one of the things that isn't often considered in the cost of. Acquisition is the cost of production. And so when you can find ways at a low lift level to improve or message the moment, and even look, a lot of us in the agency world, we deal with brand perception as a primary hurdle to getting things approved and getting things alive in the ad account.

And so there's a relationship between . The elevated view that brands have on themselves, and rightfully so, 'cause they've done a lot of work to develop who they are as a brand and the amount of effort that's required to reach that threshold, . And sometimes it's ha like it requires a lot of effort to get there.

And this is a way I've found that you're leveraging the product catalog. Okay? So you're starting from a foundation that we know is an effective mechanism for delivering Facebook ads. And we're saying, okay, we are going to create thematic. Momentary messaging to layer on top of that product catalog to drive a little bit higher engagement for the season.

So whether it's like, a gift frame that shows off, red and ornaments on their perimeter or something that specifically messages your Black Friday, cyber Monday offer, that's live for those days only. You're just elevating your product feed to do a little bit more work for you in a low lift way, from a production standpoint to help you continue to drive as much value as possible.

[00:22:41] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, I think that there's, there's definitely a. Misconception, maybe that because Black Friday is this enormous moment, it requires an enormous effort or it ought to require enormous effort or something like that. And which is not to say that it doesn't, but the type of effort that it requires is very different from sitting down, concepting out some, like really, novel holiday thing and then like going, shooting it and blah, blah, blah.

And it's like, yes, it's a big moment. And yes, it should require effort or it does rather, but that all, all is in terms of like, Building out the ad account and spend management and all that kind of thing. Really, the creative itself, people are not interested in hearing something like new and novel about your product.

They just wanna see it. And so I think this is a really genius way to just take, take DPAs, which perform historically, perform really, really well, and then put a frame around it that shows what the offer is. And so, Can, because the offer is popped up, like obviously that's there and or entices people to click through.

But the actual lift is very, very low. Another thing too, I I vaguely recall talking to Luke and Steve about this was putting that type of ad that frame on your Evergreen ad. So you're still showing the same ad, but then there's a frame over top of it that says, Hey, you get 30% offsite white today.

Which again is you, you get to have your cake. You eat it too.

[00:23:56] Aileen McKenna: Exactly.

[00:23:57] Richard Gaffin: So then let's go into, and this is like really the only type of ad, well, there's two types of ads here I would say that are net new, but this one is maybe the simplest one. So let's talk about graphic ads. What does, what does that mean? It sounds very general.

[00:24:11] Aileen McKenna: Yeah. This is just an approach, right? This is a design first approach where you are leading with very graphic elements. I think of them also as very typography heavy.

So you are putting like front and center the message. Click here to save, save x, save y. Limited time and yes, this is an opportunity to focus on the offer, right?

This is offer

first. This, again, like as you said, is, is more low lift in terms of production and that you can handle this largely in just design. This is not, you're not, you don't have to go be like filming some big emotional tear-jerking, story about some child who's got Christmas dreams.

This is just, Hey, I know you're shopping. I know you know who I am. Here's what you can get if you shop with me today, right? So that's 30% off, 50% off. You can call out Black Friday, you can call out Cyber Monday. This is about really clear communication and a big eye catching graphic punch. So you have to be smart about color usage. Think about colors that are going to catch people's eyes, colors that

are gonna make them stop and want to click. And think about how you can use. To really emphasize your messaging as quickly and clearly as.

[00:25:32] Taylor Holiday: yeah, I think, I think the key phrase there is clear, right at this moment people wanna know, with no ambiguity, what are you offering me? Right. And again, because most people are making decisions from brands that they know who they are. Going back to this idea that this is like not the primary first touch point for them.

They know who your brand is and you are telling them in big, bold letters with eye-catching color, 50% off sale today, right? Like that's, that's the whole ad. And we see this all the time where this static image text on screen, no product at all. In some cases, literally just. The text of the sale. And if you go back and you think about, like imagine in your head trying right now, if you can picture an ad for the Macy's one day sale or the Nordstrom's anniversary sale, like there's no beating around the bush, it is percent discount, how long it lasts, ready go like that, and that it's not the time to like talk about the brand ethos or where we came from or the founder story video.

It's like, no, no, no. Here's the moment. Clarity is king. Ready? Go. And there used to be in this meta world, right, this idea that like 30% text, right? Like this idea that there should be less text on the ad. This used to be a principle, right? And some of us that have been in this system for a long time are carrying that legacy constraint.

Throw it out the window, all the text, all the time, all over the image. In this case is an important part of this.

[00:26:54] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, I think too, like if, if there's a brand that you are familiar with that you love and all that, the ad that you see is, is their logo and then in giant text, 30% off site wide, that is going to be fundamentally interesting to you because you know all that you need to know about that brand already. One thing I want to call out here is just one of the examples that Luke uses in the articles of a native deodorant ad, for instance, and this, this has a little bit more imagery in it, but it's a picture of the, the product.

A stick of deodorant, a background that's bright red, so sort of holiday themed, but primarily eye catching, right? That's, that is what the color red does. And then a big stamp in the corner that says 30% off site wide. And so again, there's nothing particularly creative or novel about it, but it does grab the eye and it tells you exactly what you need to know right away.


[00:27:42] Taylor Holiday: other, the other thing to remember I just wanna say is like, one of the things that drives me nuts that people talk about creative is they talk a lot about like headlining copy and hit. Or even Facebook comments is a thing like people will talk about. But here's the thing. An ad delivered on IG story has no comments.

It has no headline, and it has no body copy, right? An ad delivered in IG feed has no headline, has different comments than Facebook, right? You have to communicate in the image, the headline, like if you just depend on the written little headline in there, a lot of your placements, and for some brands, they're getting 60, 70% delivery on IG and IG stories like.

That the amount of Facebook or meta newsfeed delivery that they're getting is very small. That headline literally doesn't exist. So this is, it's just more reinforcement that the big, bold say what you need to say in the image.

[00:28:31] Richard Gaffin: No, that totally makes sense. And part of maybe a larger conversation about how we think about these ads as Facebook ads or now meta ads. But really we're talking about Instagram ads here, and that is like fundamentally in terms of how you think about copy, it's completely different. So, okay, so then our last category of ad here, the, the sort of last net new category we have is gifting and quote gift guide ads.

So this seems a little bit more complex. Why don't you talk us through what, what this is and what it entails.

[00:28:57] Aileen McKenna: Yeah, I think this is the most like purely holiday. And not just sale driven, but product driven. A little bit of story driven, but this is your opportunity. I see. I think, to connect with the consumer who is thinking about. The gifts they need to give, the gifts they may want to receive and going, okay.

I, I made it through Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On Black Friday I bought myself a TV 'cause it was cheap, but I didn't get a gift for, I. Dad, he's a pain in the butt to shop for, or, I need to figure out what to do for all of my nieces and nephews. And this is your opportunity to get in front of people and say, Hey, we have the gifts for you, right?

This is your

chance to put together creative that has a little bit of a story to it so you know, best gifts for dad. $20 gifts, a chip before Christmas, all of those things right, are opportunities to have this like, short, clear message, but one that's a little bit more storytelling, a little bit more supportive to the shopper, right?

It's, it's catching both consideration and sort of creating intent. And yeah, and it's like, so a great opportunity. I've seen this done a bazillion times. I still think it's compelling, no matter how many times I've seen it done, is a beautiful flat lay of multiple products that are, associated with each other somehow I. Whether that's advertising a bundle for your company that sells hats and socks and t-shirts and sweatshirts, and you advertise your bundle by showing each of those products together in a flat light or hanging on a rack or, some. Stylistic treatment of those products. But that's also a place to think about like, do you have, do you sell a variety of products that would suit a variety of different shoppers or different gift gifters and receiver recipients? Then how can you tell a story about that, right? Gifts for the gardener, gifts for the impossible to gift, and how do you bring your products together to kind of tell that story with typically a little bit of photography, but you also, if you have a real good designer, they can often take Existing photographs, product shots, kind of cut them out of that product on light setting that I think we all have for

all of our products and put them into sort of layouts that look like flat lays, that look like that bring them all together into one cohesive image that tells the story

for this shopper or that gift recipient.

[00:31:36] Richard Gaffin: So it sounds like from, from concept to execution, the gift guide ad is definitely more complex than all of the other ones. And so we've sort of been beating the drum throughout this episode around simplicity is king the sort of . On the creative side, lower effort actually pays off more in some respects, like in terms of the dynamic frame ads and using your evergreen ads and so forth.

So what is it about the gift guide ads that makes it worth it? Like why, why is it worth the expenditure of time and resources?

[00:32:05] Aileen McKenna: I think your sale ads at times are going to hit a point of exhaustion for people. You can only see 30% off as your like big graphic enough as so many times. So for, you're like, cool, I got it. But like, I don't know, I wasn't thinking about buying something from you right now in the context of like what I think of as products that I would buy from you. That's. And I think additionally they have a little bit of that tie back to Evergreen that we were talking about, about like these ads that really tell the story of who you are and what your products are and what you sell very simply, straightforwardly. And they have this opportunity to kind of tie back to that and to put. What you, not just what you are offering in terms of discount or fast shipping or any of those things, but also to put your products back into the context for shoppers. So they go, oh yeah, and there's a sale. Cool. I'm gonna go click right now.

[00:33:05] Taylor Holiday: Yeah. And the other thing, so I want to just clarify something you said, Richard, which is that I don't know that I'm saying that this is, that's that it's about simplicity and doing as little production as possible. I'm saying that there's a relationship between cost and ROI and the higher the cost, the higher the ROI needs to be.

So if you need to generate wins at a lower cost, there are ways to do it. But I also think that if we look at our revenue over the course of the year, If there are cases where these, this period of time, starting from November, 25th through December 19th, is 50% of a brand's revenue. So if I think about the allocation of my creative production cost under a similar timeline, like then there's a really good argument that some of your best, most beautiful photography, your most thoughtful offers, your most operationally sophisticated delivery should be in this period.

And so I think like gif framing is really about offer design. I think as much as anything, which is to say like, how do I . Frame my product in the narrative that meets this being a good gift while somebody's out making a decision for a specific person. And a lot of times you'll see this around bundling where they just take the same products that they've had all year, and now it's the boyfriend box.

Now it's the, a gift for mom bundle. And it's just, we do this with Bamboo Earth, right? We have all these mini kits that we have, like the Aging gracefully mini kit. Well, it's the same products as this other four, but it's framed for a specific customer. And one of the best things to do is go to Wayback Machine, okay?

Which is Go look between December 1st and December 19th for like the best brands in your space and see how they merchandise their website during the month of December. And what you'll see is all these ways that they're gift framing. That's the phrase here. They're showing you how their product.

Fits within the cultural process of buying things, right? And so there's a, there's a real opportunity to use and learn from them about. And a lot of it is some sort of custom packaging into some bundled set of products targeted in messages to a specific user. 'cause in this case there's this weird dynamic between, there's a difference between the purchaser and the user.

And you have to help the purchaser frame how this is a great product for the user. Because there's, in the moment I want you to think about is like Christmas morning when you give someone a gift. They open it and then there's that 10 seconds after where you do that quick explanation of why you bought it.

Like, it's like, why did I think this was perfect for you? And you kinda like, justify why you got it. Oh, I saw this on this thing and it made me think of you. Or like they said this was the best gift for, like women who love crochet and that's, you like said whatever. And so what you're, you're giving people is the, the message that they can use for the justification for their own purchase, right?

Like, because we're all sort of ner giftings hard and like everybody wants to be a good gift giver. So help them, help them be a good gift giver by really meeting them in their specific pursuit. And there's a bunch of ways to write those headlines and to take the same group of products and reorder them, a messaging just slightly different to meet a bunch of different personas.

[00:36:10] Richard Gaffin: Right. Yeah. And so I think like, yeah, so maybe the better way to reframe it then is like, it's not necessarily, it's not necessarily good in a vacuum for the ads to be lower effort. And I think that's not necessarily what it was saying. It's about are you expending your effort as much effort as possible?

'cause it is the biggest time of the year in the correct ways. So coming up with, Specific novel maybe examinations of what your brand is and, creating sort of these emotional storytelling pieces or whatever. That's a bad use of effort. A good use of effort is to not spend too much time thinking about that and instead spend a lot of time producing a lot of dynamic

What frames or whatever, and pushing your evergreen ads and creating graphic ads, but then also expending effort towards the type of storytelling, slightly more complex storytelling that's important in this time, which has nothing to do with your brand and everything to do with the experience of giving somebody a gift and what that looks like.

And so if you can think as clearly as possible about what the gift giver is, thinking about the person that they're giving the gift to, the better the ad is gonna end up being. I, I think too, like there was an element. A little bit of an element to this as well, where the gift, and, and you can correct me if I'm wrong about this, but the gift guide ad actually starts to see its real fruition or whatever after Black Friday, cyber Monday, and into the period when people are sort of running out of gift ideas prior to Christmas.

So if you think about a, the, the advantage of the gift guide is moving inventory that you haven't sold yet. Prior to Christmas, and then also thinking through or, or rather speaking to people who are have, who haven't planned very well, let's say like me, for instance, about what they're going to give the people in their lives and then speaking to them directly.

Yeah. Does that make sense?

[00:37:53] Taylor Holiday: I think if we go back to the original part of this conversation, offer angle and audience, you're just doing the same exercise with adding a fourth dynamic, which is time. The moment of time that those people exist in. So your audience, if we were to say, like, my audience is, people who live in Portland that are between the ages of 35 and 40, like your needs and wants aren't the same over a continuum of time.

And so there's just this fourth element that we're adding here, which is think about the people you're talking to, think about their needs in the moment, what their challenges are, and then put your product right at the center of that. And I think that that's what you're describing, Richard, is like. You just self-described as someone who's not good at chopping waits too long.

And that's a specific, you have a job that there's a product that has a job to be done for you to solve that problem. And I think to think about how your ad can message that, and this doesn't necessarily require like a whole new photo shoot. This can be done the same product in a headline in a slight, tonal change in the way you message it.


[00:38:48] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.

[00:38:49] Taylor Holiday: I think that's, that's what we're after.

[00:38:51] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Makes sense. Cool. Yeah. Aileen, did you wanna add something?

[00:38:55] Aileen McKenna: I think that like what we're talking about is, thinking about storytelling for the holiday, but in a way that's really product oriented, right? If you are. Macy's, you got a lot of money to spend on a TV slot, and it's okay if all that really does is remind people that they feel really great about Christmas and Santa and all their big feelings. And that might get them to pop into Macy's when they're in the mall. But if you are an e-commerce business, if you are an emerging business, a growing business, you don't. Really have that kind of money to spend on something that is just about feelings, right? This has to be also about products, and I think the gift guide type of ad gives you the ability to tap into parts of the emotional experience of the holiday, whether that's like loving to buy people gifts or not knowing what to buy for people. But it also is very more, much more product oriented and much more action oriented, which I think can be helpful and I think as well. Every magazine, blog, like paper, I mean everybody everywhere is going to be making a gift guide.

At this time of year, you may not have the funds to focus on PR to try and seed to journalists and see if you can get added to these gift guides, but you can kind of draft on that feeling of being a part of a gift by, by creating your own gift guide.

And I think that's a nice benefit that of this style of that as well may not be the most important, but it is a nice little bonus.

[00:40:27] Richard Gaffin: Cool. All right, so let's I think we've covered all of the creative types, so I'll ask you Aile, the same question that I asked Orchid last week, which was if you could give one piece of advice, if you could summarize everything we've talked about here. As we approach the holiday season and creative for the holiday season, what would you say is the most important thing to think about?

How would you summarize it?

[00:40:48] Aileen McKenna: I would say think about how you can make the most of what you have before you. What kind of Creative, do you already have? What kind of evergreen is already performing? What kinds of imagery and video do you already have in your possession that you can, with the smart application of a great offer, a slight tweak to the audience, or maybe it's small change to angle? How can you make that work for you in the holiday time period?

[00:41:17] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, it makes sense. Taylor, what you got?

[00:41:21] Taylor Holiday: I would I don't know, maybe it's the maximalist design trend of the moment or whatever, but I, I, I do think that brands massively underserved the work. Creatively to deliver as much value as this moment has the potential for . Like if you don't have a unique way in which you're gift framing your product, why?

Like, this is the thing I'm, and I'm gonna say this right now, to our, to myselves, bamboo Earth. Dave, I've said this to you for years. If you don't have a freaking way that bamboo Earth. Like set up as the perfect thing to fit in the stocking and the best gift you could ever give mom and the best thing you could ever do, and it's not clearly messaged to me, then you're missing out.

Like it can make a huge difference. You can become the gift of the season, you can drive yourself into that moment. And that's just one thing. The other thing, I'll, the last, the other thing I'll add is that there also is a unique opportunity if this is right for your brand, at CTC I remember last year talking with Archie, who was a, a awesome employee of ours, and she would always talk about, she's Muslim and she would say like, , I don't shop for Christmas and so I, I experience my feed for an entire month of being so obviously not for me from a brand.

And so there are opportunities also to create these unique message moments to the people who aren't participating in this holiday. 'cause it's not everybody in ways that can really endear as a separate funnel. You to a different subset of the population too. So there's all these, these things to consider, but this is like conversion rate is through the roof right now.

Go grab as much of it as you can and invest in doing it. You won't regret it. And that though all the new customers that you acquire are gonna carry you next year too. So it's, this is the maximalist moment for e-comm. Don't short yourself.

[00:42:56] Richard Gaffin: There we go. So yeah, do what you can with what you got and do as much of it as you possibly can. I think those are the two pieces of advice here. All right. Before we get outta here, I just wanna do a quick plug for us common threat collective. If you want this type of strategic thinking, creative thinking for your brand as we go into this extremely important season.

Well, I was gonna say, do we have a deal for you? So if you run an e-commerce brand between 10 and 100 million, and your growth quotient score is 130 or higher, we'll help you run that. If you wanna get in touch with us, we are so confident that we can win for you, that we're willing to foot $25K of ad spend for you as we go into the season.

Because we wanna establish long-term relationships with brands that we think can win and that we can do this type of work with. So hit us up Click hire us. Just fill out the form there and we'd be super stoked to talk to you guys, but alright, Taylor, Aileen, thanks so much for chatting.