Failures or ‘duds’ are inevitable in the creative process. But they don’t have to be true losses. Instead, they can serve as significant learning experiences. By analyzing and understanding our mistakes, we gain insights that can inform our next moves and shape better outcomes.

Dissect what works

Instead of constantly inventing from scratch, it’s valuable to take a closer look at successful projects. Break down the elements of your creative and examine them on their own. Examine the hook, the middle part, the ending. Try changing the copy, or the color coding. Experiment with the formatting. You can even try to mix and match elements from different creatives. Every part of your creative has its own strengths and weaknesses that can be optimized. When you pull things apart, you can create a modular format that makes experimentation easy and efficient. Build on what works and keep optimizing while leaving behind the ineffective pieces. 

Get your hands dirty

A structured approach to creativity has its own merits, but there’s something to be said for pushing all that aside and trying something completely different. Give your creative team a new sandbox in which to play and let them explore “random” ideas. A change of scenery or approach is an effective way to push your own creative limitations and drive innovation. As long as you’re executing the ideas thoughtfully and within the confines of your budget and brand, don’t be afraid to get dirty. 

Refine and iterate

Once you’ve found the successful components of an otherwise dud of a campaign, now it’s time to have some fun with them. Make minor changes. Make major changes. It might be something as simple as a copy change that’s the difference between failure and success. Experiment with new color combinations or find a new hook. Take the intro of one unsuccessful piece of creative and see how it works with the ending of something more effective. This process of iteration and refinement, even if it results in more duds, ensures continual learning and growth.

After running an unsuccessful campaign, it’s an easy trap to fall in to think that you need some sweeping complex solution. To wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. But the reality is that simple changes can often have a big impact. Making a few tweaks here and there can be the difference between success and failure. And even if the next round isn’t a success, that is another opportunity to keep learning and iterating. In the race to innovate and optimize, keeping things simple is often the way to go. 

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