The Creative Journey: How Millennial Media Creates Ads that Stand Out
The Creative Services team is Millennial Media’s in-house mobile ad creative production agency. While other teams focus on how to get the ads where they need to go, when they need to go there (which is no small feat, good job guys!), the Creative Services team makes the things that users see and interact with spectacular. I’d like to tell you a bit about the people who actually do this, and how we spend our days.
We are responsible for communicating our clients’ messages to their consumers, which involves equal parts art and science. We have a team of graphic designers, developers, project managers, and engineers; all with a single creative mission: make our advertisers look huge on a very small screen.
Let’s get started!
Many of our advertisers are new to mobile, and we help them navigate the creative and technical possibilities of this new medium.
Digital advertising involves about 10 browsers on two main types of machines; mobile has literally tens of thousands of combinations of browsers, makes, models, screen sizes, tools, and languages. It can be overwhelming. We simplify these differences to allow our advertisers who want to be part of the design process the ability to do so as easily as possible.
We meet the advertisers where they are in mobile, and give them as much autonomy (or hand holding) as they require. However, no matter how much a client needs us to do for them, we want them to come out of the experience a little smarter about mobile than they were before.
Taking into account target audiences and relevant devices, our creative team brainstorms ideas for clients’ mobile ads. We also provide guidance on production costs, and act as a sounding board to help advertisers understand what is possible with these devices.
Once we have an idea, then come the mock-ups; fully designed creative executions customized to the advertiser’s needs. We design all of the user interfaces for each screen, and create animations using those pieces to demonstrate functionality.
In the end, a picture is worth a thousand words, and the mock-ups that the Creative Services team creates help the advertiser visualize their entire story in a mobile format.
Initial Concepts and Design Process:
Despite the fact that we provide design guides, most advertisers have us custom design for them. In those cases, we start the process of creating the initial concepts. The advertiser provides our designers with assets, an idea of what type of ad units they want, and their campaign goals. From that information, our designer creates individual static images of all of the screens and sizes of the units requested. This process can result in as many as 30 different iterations of an idea.
Millennial Media offers over 75 individual functionalities, which advertisers combine to create custom ad units. Each of our designers is an expert in all of them. (They have to be, in order to determine which ones can be combined without causing technical issues. Catching these issues at this stage saves tons of time down the road!)
Once all of the screens are designed, the concepts are sent to the client. Then we incorporate their feedback and present revisions. We repeat the revision process until the client signs off on the final designs.
Building and Development:
Building takes the image files and transforms them into working advertisements that can run on our system. Since our designers have basic code experience, they build our simpler ad units. When things get more complicated, our developers step in.
Millennial Media has a Software Development Kit (SDK) that accesses the native functionalities of mobile devices. These features are unique to Millennial Media, and our developers do the heavy coding that lets us use things like the device’s camera or microphone to create first-to-market ad units.
Just as we require all of our designers to have a technical side, our developers all have eyes for design. They look for ways to make each interaction faster, better, and more intuitive. They tweak animation and other Easter eggs (ie, hidden details in the code) and turn good creatives into great ones. The devices that run our ads change every day, and these developers figure out cool new ways to use the latest tech.
Since we have complete creative and technical control over the ad unit, we can make a lot of amazing things happen with a user’s device. However, the real goal in the end is for the advertiser to gauge the performance of their ads is through the measurement of whichever metrics are important to them.
We work with the advertisers to determine those creative metrics, and then attach tracking of the advertisers’ choice to any part of the ad. For example, in an ad that uses the tilt functionality, we can report to a fraction of a degree how far to the left or right the user tilts the phone!
Every single ad created in our shop goes through our QA process, regardless of whether it was designed by us or the client. These engineers test each ad for tracking, functionality and usability across multiple devices. The QA engineers report any issues to the designer and developer who built the ad, and they go back and forth until all issues are fixed. Once it gets the official sign off from QA, the ad is sent off to be trafficked and set live.
It’s a thorough process, but a great one, too. We really enjoy making cool things do cool things, and we take pride in what we do every single day. If you’d like to learn more about how Millennial Media can provide your team with breakthrough creative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Millennial Media is the leading mobile ad marketplace, making mobile simple for the world’s top brands, app developers, and mobile web publishers. The company's data and technology assets enable advertisers to connect with target audiences at scale, while driving monetization for publisher and developer partners. AOL acquired Millennial Media on October 23, 2015. Millennial Media boosts AOL's global, mobile capabilities and scale across ONE by AOL for advertisers and agencies, and offers the most attractive monetization platform for app developers.