Using an iterative process when developing a startup has been a common element of that community for a few years now. Popularized by Eric Ries’ Lean Startup, as well as Steve Blank and others, this concept treats business more like an experiment, rather than a set of existing best practices and efficiency norms.
The basic premise of iteration is that it’s simply impossible to know what will work and what won’t before it’s actually out in the world. While market research, business analysis, and industry case studies may exist, they can’t guarantee success for any new business or product. Those models can only provide reasonable guesses based on historic data. They do very little in helping us understand the impact of things that do not yet exist.
Similarly, we can’t really know if an ad will truly increase sales, until people see it in the environment that it actually runs. Ad testing in focus groups is a very artificial setting and doesn’t realistically simulate how people will interact with an ad.
The iterative model can generally be summed up as:
- Developing a hypothesis about a feature or element of a product
- Putting out a Minimum Viable Product to test the hypothesis in the real world
- Determining if the hypothesis is correct or not
- Using the findings to optimize the product and trying again
So what if we adapted that discipline to advertising?
Let’s take a TV campaign for example. Usually an advertising agency will develop a few different concepts; present it to the client; get their feedback on it; go back and do revisions; continue this back and forth process until one concept is selected; then produce the scripts. What if instead, you tried to use an iterative approach, like:
- Develop a concept that communicates the client’s message
- Create a low-budget “minimum viable creative execution” on YouTube
- Get the client to approve posting in on their social media networks as a user generated video
- Read what people comment and see how much they like it and share it
- Come up with another concept with the intelligence gained
- Do the same process
- Keep going until you have a concept that really seems to resonate with people
- Produce a professional TV spot that’s similar to the “minimum viable creative execution” and see how well it does
Ok, let’s be honest. There are very few clients that would want to take this chance. And there are very few agencies that would want to produce low-production creative to see if it works. However, if we are to innovate as an industry, we need to not only look at new mediums to communicate our message, but also new methods on how to develop those messages.