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Understanding Visual Terminology

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American designer Charles Eames defined design as “A plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.”

The basic components of visual compositions are broken down into “elements” and “principles.” These have a range of applications, from classical paintings and photography to more contemporary utilizations of advertising and UI/UX design. One must consider the arrangement of elements and application of design principles to determine the success of a piece objectively, rather than subjectively. The elements of design are the key parts whereas the principles are the manner in which they are implemented.

The elements of design:                                 

Key design principles are:

1. Line

1. Balance

2. Shape

2. Rhythm/Repetition

3. Texture

3. Movement

4. Color

4. Contrast/Dominance

5. Value

5. Harmony/Unity

6. Space

6. Proportion/Scale

7. Form

Ultimately, the fundamental goal of visual communication is to convey a message to a particular audience. When judging a design’s effectiveness, we must consider three things:

  1. Accessible information: Is the text legible? Can someone with poor eyesight read the data?
  2. Visual hierarchy: Control how the eye travels. Is the most important information being observed first and quickly?
  3. Aesthetic stamina: Trendy appears dated quickly and will commonly be overlooked by audiences. To quote the late graphic designer Massimo Vignelli, “If you do it right, it will last forever.”

Too often, agencies rush to get creative out the door that is visually engaging, but fail in communicating the basic message to the audience.

…not at CRAFT. Our design team is keenly aware of the necessity and effectiveness of using these elements and principles, giving proper consideration to how the viewer will absorb the content.

Take this eblast for example:

Danielle crafting creative

At first glance, it’s simple. It’s clean. It’s light on copy. But take a closer look, and see if you can discern how the elements and principles were applied to create an aesthetic and successful solution.

And now, consider yourself well-versed in the dialogue of design. It’s one thing to observe. It’s quite another to understand.

Design: It’s more than meets the eye.

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The Cannes Lions recently announced their winners, ranging from Volvo’s genius “The Epic Split” commercial to Harvey Nichol’s hilarious “Sorry I spent it on myself” campaign. While all unique, each winner shares a distinct trait – they all cater to the specific tastes of the Internet.

The Internet is a tricky beast. Its users can smell phony all over brands and organizations that adopt older Internet memes, such as Turkish Airlines/Kobe Bryant uninspired selfie spot and Friskies sponsoring Grumpy Cat. It often rewards creativity, irony, and/or universal appeal and dislikes when brands try to “fit in” or claim memes for marketing.

This is not a new dynamic. Since the days of Ogilvy, ad agencies have worked tirelessly to create inventive, fresh content that is crafted specifically to consumers without feeling like advertising. While tastes, attitudes, and media platforms have changed, the goal is still the same. Just in the past few decades, people have become more educated, more impatient, and more difficult to impress. Therefore, the Internet is a window to our changing culture.

A brand’s creative triumph on the Internet can be seen as a paradox, particularly when it comes to video content. By not tilting at the tempting meme windmills, at most giving a nod to ironic or awkward humor, brands can win at the Internet game. Users want content that entertains them, is sharable, and is artistic/clever enough to make them feel like they are making a smart choice when they like ad content.

Volvo’s “The Epic Split” is a perfect example of this model.

The 60-second spot features martial artist and B-movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme and his famous flexibility to show off the smoothness of their Dynamic Steering. Oddly mesmerizing, the commercial is Internet gold. JCVD is another 80s icon whose over-the-top persona both on and off-screen have made him an Internet darling. Fittingly set to Enya’s “Only Time,” the ethereal, adult contemporary hit only adds to the ironic humor factor. Simple, sharable, and stunning, the spot currently has over 73 million views on YouTube and earned Volvo a coveted Golden Lion.

Following these “Internet rules” might be difficult for many political ad campaigns, as they often do not have the luxury of time or funding similar to some of the Cannes winners. However, there have been glimmers of this in recent political commercials. Brett Smiley, a Democratic candidate for Mayor of Providence, launched a clever ad that caused waves on both Internet aggregators and major news sources.

In the ad, Smiley speaks of his early road to candidacy all through the Futura font filled filming style made famous by director Wes Anderson. This is the perfect example of a candidate breaking the mold of political commercials. The creative team who fashioned this campaign gem made something memorable, particularly to the younger, Wes Anderson film going constituency to whom Smiley is targeting.

Political advertising has a reputation for feeling hackneyed and amateurish, which is unfortunate but also promising for forward thinking clients. The solution may lie in hiring the right creative team, one that is paying close attention to trends and understands what grabs audiences better than a busy candidate or organization would care to know.

CRAFT is one such agency. Young, dynamic, and fearless, CRAFT has garnered national attention and earned numerous Pollie and Telly Awards for its inventive ad campaigns. Our most recent success is the debut ad for Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio. Called “Groundbreaking” by the Wall Street Journal and “First of its kind” by CNN, CRAFT presented DeMaio as a “New Generation Republican,” bringing a fresh and positive message into the 2014 Congressional election. Another triumph is the 2012 Congressional campaign for Mia Love, where CRAFT fashioned a compelling narrative which not only won two Telly Awards and six Pollie Awards, but also earned over $1 million for Love’s campaign. CRAFT combines political expertise with creative finesse rarely seen in most public relation firms and ad agencies. Winning hearts on the Internet is more important than ever, and CRAFT understands that.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Vanity = lack of real value; hollowness; worthlessness.

Vanity Metrics = See above.

Unfortunately, Vanity Metrics—Likes, Opens, and Follows—are exactly what associations, campaigns and companies use to determine success with regard to social and email campaigns.

Make no mistake, building these communities is incredibly important, but that is only the beginning of the process. You must make sure you are reaching these audiences and they are engaging with your content. This is becoming increasingly difficult as recent changes to Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail have the potential to marginalize a Like, Follow, or Open, at least with regard to messaging and direct response campaigns.

The changing landscape began with Facebook adjusting their algorithm that reduced organic reach from 15% to 1% or less. Now simply producing and sharing content does not ensure you will reach even a minimal amount of your supporters.

Next, Gmail announced it would cache images—including pixels used to track opens—making it harder to accurately track the total amount of opens for each of your emails. Even before this change, the value of an opened email was already artificially inflated. Emails are a delivery platform, not a destination. Opening an email is valuable, only if the user is then compelled to click-through to your site to learn more and take a specific action.

Finally, Twitter announced the addition of a “mute” button to its platform. Now users can elect to follow a brand/campaign, but can mute their tweets, which means the brand/campaign has a new follower, but one who does not receive any tweets and therefore unable to help spread your message.

These changes reinforce the need for email and social media managers to shift their focus to stats that measure actual engagement such as shares, email click-throughs, and retweets when determining the success of campaigns.

CRAFT always has put a premium on engagement, and we’ve refocused our clients’ efforts on shares, retweets and email click-throughs in anticipation of these changes by Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail.  We work with clients to target qualified audiences with digital advertising to build online communities, with success determined by engaging these communities.

Our clients are building large online communities with engaged audiences where message drives actions such as purchase, donation, retweet, or share.

Focus your efforts on driving up engagement rates and you will know for sure if your communities can hear you.

Quick, what sites performed best for your most- recent network campaign? What drove the most clicks? What about conversions?

Media buyers and planners need to know these answers to key questions to better plan, execute and optimize existing and future campaigns. Yet, many do not, and cannot, know these answers. Why?

Because of a lack of transparency. 

Lack of transparency can damage a campaign in several ways, including:

  • Wasted Client Money
  • Potential Loss of Revenue
  • Brand Dilution
  • Damaged Reputation

All of these could threaten the success of your business, resulting in lost clients and lost jobs.

Let’s look at this through the lens a traditional ad buy. A TV buyer would not spend his clients’ budget on ads without knowing where they are airing. So why should a digital buyer, with greater access to insights, accept a lack of full transparency?

Transparency, more than programmatic or native advertising, is the key to the future of digital advertising.

Notably, without transparency you cannot make truly informed decisions about your ad campaign. Without transparency, your “big data” is misinformed and can lead your campaigns astray. Without transparency, you are generating false data and wasting budgets.

We’re not the only ones pulling back the curtain on this. AdWeek’s Mike Shields wrote a compelling article ”The Amount of Questionable Online Traffic Will Blow Your Mind The World Wide Rip-Off“ that examines this ever-increasing problem for buyers and sellers – lack of transparency. In that article, Zach Coelius, CEO of Triggit, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Whenever you buy from someone who won’t tell you where your ads are running, there is a real danger they are ripping you off.”

Following up on this, Digiday published an article “The Hidden Cost Bots Add to Online Ads,” where they continue to highlight and address the fraud issues facing digital buyers and sellers. The article points out, “Not only are brands paying for fraudulent ad impressions, but they’re also finding bots are leading them astray in their efforts to reach real humans.”

So what can buyers do to help ensure their data is real and their campaigns optimizing correctly?

Demand transparency.

If you can see the sites that are driving traffic you can make informed decisions and more easily detect fraud. If you are running a public affairs campaign, and the bulk of your clicks come from ads on CollegeHumor (mentioned in AdWeek article), you should question the results.

Don’t waste your budgets on fake or misguided impressions or clicks. Before you plan your next campaign, make sure you can monitor and manage the sites where your ads run. Demand transparency.

CRAFT is bound by talented individuals who share creative aptitude, technological expertise, strategic thinking, and political or public affairs campaign experience.

John Randall shares all of these.

John Randall’s experience, skills, and talents make him perfectly suited for the job as CRAFT’s Director of Digital. We know all about John’s thoughts on digital strategy and thought we’d share them with you in this Q&A.

Name: John Randall
Hometown: Holyoke, MA

Twitter handle: @jrandall

Why did you decide to join CRAFT?

In addition to the creative and cutting-edge campaigns CRAFT designs and implements, you can’t help but be impressed with the team they have and their vision for the future.  In purely selfish terms, this is an incredible chance to learn from some of the best in the business. But most importantly, a great opportunity to do amazing work and help push digital campaigns in politics and public affairs to the next level.

What are the current trends in (online) advertising?

The two biggest trends right now are programmatic buying and native advertising. Programmatic is not new, but it is becoming more widely adopted, as it allows advertisers to highly automate the buying process based on data—merging two of the differentiating factors of digital.

How should campaigns use big data?

Data is a powerful tool, but like any tool, if its not used correctly it can do more harm than good. Campaigns need to understand that just because you theoretically have the ability to target small groups of people that are not always the best, or most cost effective option. Effective message targeting is essential, but sometimes it squeezes out blocks of people who may be influenced by that specific message. Big Data is nothing new – just read Team of Rivals when it discusses Lincoln running for the House and having voter contact cards – its just the amount of data we can now access and use is now limitless and it’s important to use the data smartly to achieve your goals. Data is a tool, not an end.

What recommendations do you have for candidates running in 2014?

Start early and be aggressive. Digital isn’t a silver bullet or something you can just role out at the end. Also, don’t nickel and dime digital budgets. Spend what needs to be spent to succeed, or at least to know why something failed.

Have a question for John? Ask him on Twitter.