Pairing Strategy with Creativity to Make Your Content Work For You

Content Marketing

These days, the native campaigns that truly encourage individuals to engage and connect with your brand are the ones that lean on creativity. Here, Andy Hammond New Zealand Country Manager for Outbrain takes us through his tips and tricks to get your campaign to cut through to your key audiences.


“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you’ve written your headline, you’ve spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

While this insight comes from advertising maestro David Ogilvy’s 1983 book Ogilvy on Advertising, the principle is probably even more important than ever in our digital-dominated age.

These days, getting your ad in front of the reader is the easy part, we have a host of sophisticated tools to find the right customer at the right time. But it’s creating something that is going to cut through the noise and lead them to click through where the real art starts.

In the fast paced online ecosystem, attention spans are getting shorter, so to truly engage and inspire audiences, creativity paired with strategy is needed to secure click through rates.  

For many advertisers and marketers with the goal of driving awareness and engagement, click through rates (CTRs), viewability, dwell time and interactions are all key performance indicators (KPI’s) that they should be working towards.

Yet how do you encourage a reader on the other side of your screen, potentially on the other side of the world, to engage and interact with your brand and its message?

I’m afraid there is no silver bullet, but if we assume you’ve done the hard work to define the personas you want to speak to, and which stage of the funnel the ads are being served to them at, and the algorithms have done their job to put the content in front of your target customer at the right time, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.

So here are some easy tips to make sure you’re securing click through with your creative native advertising.

First thing to realise: the headline is everything

Keep your headline messages concise and to the point.

As Ogilvy himself said: “Never use tricky or irrelevant headlines…People read too fast to figure out what you are saying.”

They must work in context with the content, and must look and sound similar to the rest of the content on the platform they’re on. Keeping it in context makes it a better experience for the reader, and increases the likelihood they’ll click.

Consumers these days are savvy and headlines must be timely and persuasive. For advertisers, pushing your own agenda isn’t empathic to the consumer and it won’t inspire them to click. So chill out on the urgent messaging, and let the customer decide when they are ready to interact with your content.

Media owner headlines are often more objective and impartial, and are often perceived as being more trustworthy. So make sure any headline you create is neutral, this is the best way to gain attention, increase your CTR and post-click engagement.

Another way to grab audience attention is to call out the people you’re looking to reach in the headline. For instance, if we’re selling a product for Apple users the headline could be “Apple users probably have this challenge with your Mac”.

This also means no explanation points or ellipsis. According to a study by BrainPower and Outbrain, headlines with no punctuation see the highest click through rates.

Lastly, the idea with headlines is to keep it short and sweet. The ideal length by CTR is anywhere between 7-11 words. Anything beyond 11 is too much information as it will lose interest, anything under is not descriptive enough.

Secondly, think about the visuals

Images in today’s digital world have less than two seconds to make an impact. So when it comes to pairing a creative piece with good imagery, spend some time thinking about what is going to really connect with your audience.

In this landscape, readers are also more likely to engage in content that they can relate to and see themselves within in some way. So using clear images that represent your target audience within your creative is an important step.

Think about this from your own perspective. If you’re 35, looking to buy your first home, it is unlikely you are going to engage with ads that predominantly show older families or seniors.

Images must be contextually relevant to the headline and must entice the reader in, they need to stand out in a good way and highlight the uniqueness of the product or service.

A simple trick with images is never make your audience guess. If you’re talking about the product, show the product. If someone has no idea what you’re selling, they are unlikely to click through to find out.

Like I said, there is no secret sauce to this recipe. But there are some tools which can help you understand what’s happening.

About Andy Hammond

Andy Hammond is New Zealand Country Manager for Outbrain.

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