Iterative Marketing Podcast Episode 24: New Program or New Creative?

An iterative Marketing program is not set and forget. Learn the signs of when it’s time to change your ad creative or to launch a new program entirely.

Episode Show Notes

Introduction to the Podcast: New Program or New Creative?

(0:00 – 4:11) Introduction to Iterative Marketing Podcast: Welcome to the Iterative Marketing Podcast, where, each week, hosts Steve Robinson and Elizabeth Earin provide marketers and entrepreneurs with actionable ideas, techniques, and examples to improve marketing results. 

The topic of this episode is understanding the difference between developing a new marketing program and making creative changes within existing programs. This episode addresses questions often raised by clients and new adopters of the iterative marketing process. Since most of them are more familiar with traditional campaign thinking, the concept of continuous programs is a different mindset for them. We aim to provide clarity on when to execute a creative refresh within a program versus starting a new program altogether.

The resources discussed on the show can be found at, which includes a blog and a LinkedIn group for community interaction.

Programs in Iterative Marketing

(4:11 – 6:56) Defining a Program: A program within the context of iterative marketing is defined as the intersection of a clearly defined objective for a specific audience without a definitive end. This definition emphasizes three key aspects: a precise goal, a target audience, and the ongoing nature of the program.

Examples of Programs:

  • A dating website could have one program focused on recruiting women and another aimed at recruiting men. Although the audience changes between the two programs, the objective remains the same – increasing the number of singles on the site.
  • A non-profit organization could have one program designed to encourage their core audience to donate money and another to motivate them to donate time. Here, the audience remains the same, but the objectives differ.

Programs in B2B Contexts:

  • A company selling time management software could target different industries (like healthcare and insurance) with separate programs, all with the same objective of customer acquisition.
  • At Brilliant Metrics, we are launching a program to recruit agencies to help promote iterative marketing and to find agencies interested in a partnership.

The Scope and Objective of Programs: Organizations could run one or multiple programs depending on their audience and objectives. For instance, a healthcare organization might have separate programs for recruiting young families, older generations, and new mothers, each with different objectives. The objectives of a program are not tied to the creative or the big idea but to the overall business goal.

Creative Changes within a Program

(6:56 – 10:44)  Definition of a Creative Change: A creative change occurs when the content used in a program changes while the structure (tactics, metrics for success, etc.) remains the same—the actual creative content shifts based on data indicating a need for change. The creative aspect and the program can be worked on independently. The decision to change the creative content is driven by data that suggests the existing content is no longer effective.

Examples of Creative Change Frequencies:

  • For a content marketing program with regular blog posts, creative changes might occur once a week or more, based on the metrics.
  • In a traditional paid media advertising program, the same creative content can run for years. The frequency of change depends on the audience’s engagement cycle. For example, new mothers looking for birthing centers have a cycle of 1.5-3 years, allowing the same creative to run effectively for a long time.

Criteria for Changing Creative: Creative content is changed when it is no longer effective. As long as the creative is working, it remains in place. When it’s changed, all other elements, like targeting, distribution, measurement, and optimizations, should remain the same or as close to the same as possible. An exception to this would be any format changes in content may necessitate minor changes in distribution and measurement. For example, shifting from a white paper to a video might require adjustments in delivery and measurement methods while aligning with the content and program objectives.

Charity Outreach

(10:44 – 11:34) Charity Break: Teen Challenge

Distinguishing Between Creative Changes and Program Changes

(11:34 – 14:56)  Program Change: If either the objective or the audience of a program changes, then it’s a program change. 

Creative Change: When the goal or target audience remains consistent, any alterations pertain to the creative content and are hence considered creative changes.

Program Update: As part of the iterative process, programs can be updated where the ‘bones’ or mechanics of the program change. This is about experimenting with the tactics that support the creative aspect to continuously improve the program. A program update is different from a creative change as it impacts the mechanics of how the program works while the audience and objective remain the same.

Creative changes can sometimes necessitate a program update. For instance, if the creative medium changes from a static image to a video, this could require tweaks to the delivery channels and measurement methods. However, these are still considered program updates and not new programs, as the audience and objective haven’t changed.

When to Change Creative

(14:56 – 18:47) Two Types of Creative: There are two distinct types of creative content – branding and direct response. Branding creative aims to reinforce the brand and evoke a feeling or concept, while direct response creative intends to drive a measurable action within the audience. The effectiveness of direct response creative is easier to measure, which helps determine when a change is needed.

Measuring Response to Creative: By tracking the response rate to the creative over time and performing experiments and optimizations, one can construct a graph that depicts the effectiveness of the program. This graph typically resembles a half-pipe. The X-axis of the graph represents time, and the Y-axis represents the effectiveness of the program (for instance, cost per action). Initially, the graph remains flat as data is gathered for establishing a performance baseline. As changes are implemented based on experiment results, there’s a steep decline in cost per action, indicating increasing effectiveness.

Saturation and Diminishing Returns: Over time, optimizations yield diminishing returns because it becomes increasingly challenging to identify impactful optimizations, and the audience starts to saturate. After reaching a certain point, the cost per action starts to climb again due to a smaller subset of the audience left to take action. When this upward slope becomes steep, it’s time to change the creative content and initiate the next optimization process.

More Considerations When Making a Change

(18:47 – 23:27) Consider the Data and Watch for Diminishing Returns: Although it may not sound scientific, a marketer often gets a feel for when things start to go wrong by continuously reviewing data. It may be a cost threshold or some other brand-specific indicators that signal the need for change. There might be a situation where the new creative is still in progress, but the old one is already showing diminishing returns. In such cases, it might be better to pull out the old creative and temporarily fill the gap with brand ads until the new creative is ready.

Limited Resources: With limited budgets and resources, businesses need to ensure their marketing dollars are spent effectively. If the current creative is yielding diminishing returns, it might be time to pull it out.

Preparedness and Avoiding Gaps: To be most effective, marketers should always have the next creative ready in the wings, waiting for the running creative to run its course. This ensures there is no significant gap in content, which could be detrimental to the marketing efforts. Long breaks in content can severely limit the types of experiments a marketer can run, refresh rates of cookie pools, the building of databases, and gathering insights about the audience. Therefore, it’s essential to avoid big gaps.

First-Party Data: If you heavily rely on first-party data for advertising, remember that platforms like Facebook limit custom audiences to 180 days. If you don’t give your audience a reason to engage with your content within that period, you risk losing that audience.

Understanding Creative Changes, Program Changes, and Program Updates

(23:27 – 24:45) Types of Changes: We’ve identified three key types of changes within a marketing program:

  • Program Change: This involves changing the audience or objective and effectively starting a new program.
  • Creative Change: Here, the fundamental mechanics of the program stay the same, but the content delivered to the audience changes.
  • Program Update: This involves changing the tactics and measures while keeping the same objective and audience. This may include adjustments to the channels, messaging, frequency, and other variables.

Data-Driven Decisions: Perhaps the most crucial takeaway is that these changes should always be driven by data. By continuously monitoring performance metrics and analyzing trends, marketers can determine when it’s time to make a change. Instead of relying on gut feelings or subjective judgment, data provides objective evidence that can guide decisions about when and how to update creative.

Remember that the goal of these changes is to improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. By staying agile and responsive to what the data is telling you, you can ensure that your marketing remains fresh, engaging, and impactful.

Join Us Next Time

(24:45 – 25:58Conclusion: In this episode, we explored the differences between creating a new marketing program and making innovative changes to existing ones, helping those used to traditional campaigns understand the concept of continuous marketing programs. We also clarified when to refresh creative within a program versus starting anew. Join us next week where we will discuss programmatic media

Have a great week and we’ll see you next time. This concludes this week’s episode. For notes and links to resources discussed on the show, sign up to the Brilliant Metrics newsletter.

Iterative Marketing is a part of the Brilliant Metrics organization. If you would like more information on the marketing services provided by the expert team at Brilliant Metrics, reach out today for a free discovery call.

The Iterative Marketing Podcast,  a production of Brilliant Metrics, ran from February 2016 to September 2017. Music by SeaStock Audio.

Learn more about Iterative Marketing and listen to other episodes on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

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