How MediaMonks is Harnessing the Power of Creative to Connect Emotionally with Customers

by Simon Williams

posted on 11-18-2019

When Wesley ter Haar co-founded MediaMonks in 2001, it was a simpler time for advertising.

Brands knew what they wanted to communicate to customers and reached out on their own terms. Using whatever technology their budgets would allow, they pushed clever storylines for product features, pricing and promotions. And they typically told customers where to go to get the best deals.

Today, all of that has changed. The explosion of worldwide data has armed consumers with so much online information, they are not only more discerning in purchase choices but more demanding of companies they choose to do business with. It’s no longer enough for brands to compete around having the best gadget. By next year, more than 80 percent of brands expect to compete mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience.

MediaMonks, which cut its teeth in a traditional marketing environment, has adjusted well to this new reality. Years ago, its creative teams worked with advertising agencies that did what everyone else did – assemble snazzy television and print ads designed to grab attention and inspire purchase decisions. Now, leveraging Adobe Creative Cloud, MediaMonks, uses a wide variety of modern technologies to deliver personalized experiences that make consumers feel special.

On any given campaign, this might involve short films with interactive voice, visual effects, rich media or animation components. Or it could use edgy augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) or artificial intelligence (AI) elements. It could even extend to experiential marketing activations. Regardless, MediaMonks shines at pinpointing the types of experiences people respond to and delivering digitally enhanced stories through the right channels at the right moments. According to Wesley, Creative Cloud for Enterprise is helping to enable this storytelling—but more on that later.

“In today’s digital landscape, brands have to pull together a bunch of different (technological pieces) and make them all feel like coherent experiences for customers,” says ter Haar. “To me, experiences can be small things. Moments of interesting information that you get at just the right time. Or they can be big events. Somewhere you’re going. It can even be a progression where you start with very small moments of magic and delight then get exposed to various over-the-top visuals. The key to success is connecting everything you do to something that approaches a compelling brand narrative.”

Creating for a fluid customer journey

According to ter Haar, this isn’t easy to accomplish because the modern customer journey doesn’t begin in one place and end in another. Now, it’s more fluid with consumers going to multiple physical and digital locations to learn, form opinions about brands and ultimately make purchase decisions.

“When you look at customer journeys in general, the way most marketers tend to approach things is very mechanical,” he says. “It’s very funnel based. You connect with them at point A then take them to B, then to C and on to D. The reality of how people interface with brands, though, isn’t that linear. Not by a long shot. They go between events without apparent rhyme or reason. Savvy brands try to understand that dynamic and how customers engage with them throughout their journeys.”

One insight MediaMonks has gained over time is that more consumers today respond to and remember visuals that mirror the types of subtle imagery they regularly experience in television and cinema. The trick, ter Haar says, is to figure out which pictures will trigger the strongest emotional responses among end users and then integrate those into the creative productions for a longer-lasting impact.

“When we talk about memory, we’re really talking about emotional resonance,” ter Haar says. “It’s about finding the things that digital and interactive components give you to create those imprints on memory and those moments of emotional resonance that are different from how films or books do it but feel personal and remain true to what research tells you end users will respond to.”

MediaMonks recognizes the importance of personalizing content, but ter Haar believes the industry at large may be missing the mark on what that means to customers. While they appreciate brands that provide messages or visuals that seem customized just for them, these days it can go too far. Data and analytics tools make it too easy for brands to target and re-target customers with promotions and pricing based on their online viewing or buying habits. This often leaves consumers feeling assaulted rather than nurtured, which isn’t what most have in mind when they seek personalized experiences.

“When that happens, customers don’t feel that the data is being used to do things that are good, exciting or in their best interests,” ter Haar says. “Where the magical interaction really happens is when brands deliver experiences in ways that consumers weren’t expecting. That’s where digital has its real moments of impact.”

Technologies are available to accomplish this – if brands have the right strategic mindset and leverage the most powerful technologies available to them, ter Haar says.

To identify the best ones, MediaMonks goes through a vetting process it calls the “trend lens” in which it evaluates the merit of various innovations based on three criteria: their maturity, user adoption, and their ability to scale. In some cases, this has helped production companies avoid over-investing in technologies with limited payoff.

When comparing VR and AR, for example, ter Haar says MediaMonks determined the technical maturity of VR to be relatively low, user adoption to be mostly limited to gamers, and scalability difficult because not many people have VR-capable headsets. But MediaMonks found the AR landscape to be much more mature and scalable with Apple, Google, Facebook and others implementing AR in their platforms and more user devices supporting the technology.

Adobe’s role in MediaMonks’ digital transformation

According to ter Haar, making all of the technologies it uses available to its 1,500 Monks (employees) worldwide would be almost impossible if not for the fact MediaMonks relies on a single platform – Adobe Creative Cloud – for facilitating strong communication, teamwork and co-creation.

“Creative Cloud has become a really cool part of our collaboration model,” ter Haar notes. “The idea of moving everything to the cloud, and the speed with which that has transpired, has become one of the most important parts of our digital transformation story. That collaborative component that it provides has completely changed the way we operate.”

Adobe XD, which includes dozens of powerful features to help teams design, prototype, share and collaborate on rich user experiences, has been a gamer changer for MediaMonks, ter Haar says. At the same time, the production company is experimenting with artificial intelligence capabilities in Adobe Sensei to automate tedious processes that bog down creative processes.

“Adobe is one of the few companies that are defining what the connective tissue will be between corporations and consumers,” ter Haar says. “We need to be the very best when it comes to our creative work on those platforms, which means we’re constantly looking for cutting-edge technology, trending user behavior and emerging formats. Adobe is the constant in our ability to do that.”

Topics: Creativity, Customer Stories