A Year’s Canvas: Key Design Insights from the Brand Studio Team

Creativity has no boundaries; it’s a dynamic and powerful drive that enables us to think outside the box. Calculated risks are taken and conventions are challenged. Over the past year, the Outbrain Brand Studio team has helped advertisers reshape the way digital marketing looks and performs on the open internet – yielding impressive business outcomes. The cherry on top is being recognized by industry leaders across the globe for our approach. 

I’m fortunate to be part of an outstanding team, composed of brilliant minds who understand the art of digital marketing. Here is a glimpse into our perspectives and fundamental design principles used to transform a brand’s presence online.

1. Design for touch

    Tactile experiences matter more than ever, not just to help generate audience attention but sustain it. Unique experiences that interact rather than interrupt, to bring audiences closer to a brand’s story and evoke curiosity and exploration. As Tim Skrlec, Design Lead of Brand Studio, puts it: “Design isn’t just about visuals. It’s about creating a story that resonates and endures beyond the screen. Audiences enjoy an immersive, multi-dimensional experience, and brands can use that wisely; for example, by showcasing multiple products and pointing to different landing pages in one single experience.” 

    To build up its presence in a new market, DS Automobiles tasked the Brand Studio team to build a custom with multiple interactive elements. Users were able to swipe cards to learn more about the car’s features, and then view a 15-second showcase video. Users who tapped on the creative were redirected to a landing page that drove conversions toward orders. The campaign outperformed all channels with best engagement (7.73%) and conversion-to-orders (+10% sales conversions vs. social platforms).

    2. (F)use what you’ve got 

    Starting from scratch can make brands hesitant to diversify their channels. But in the realm of creativity, there’s no need to discard your creatives or go back for another take. Have existing creatives for display or video? Leverage both types of assets from other channels and maximize impact by adding layers of engagement. That’s what Ford did, together in one experience, to promote its new all-electric Explorer. Proving the power of transforming what’s already in a brand’s creative arsenal, we saw an engagement rate 2-times higher than our benchmark for automotive on standard high-impact display as a result.  

    From Ignazio Marozzi, Delivery Lead of Brand Solutions: “Sometimes, the best-performing ideas come from testing combinations of what we have, in innovative ways – and optimizing towards the desired brand outcome…not simply viewability or traffic. Part of creativity is using what already exists and making it gain and keep attention on the ad itself. In doing so, ‘repurposed’ advertising saves time and resources – two major challenges every advertiser has to deal with in every campaign.” 

    3. Collapse the funnel 

    Build your brand… and drive sales? These days, more and more advertisers are seeking to blend stages of the marketing funnel to deliver seamless customer journeys. And it makes perfect sense, because campaigns can do more than one thing at the same time. 

    A great example comes from a beloved brand of mine, Elvie, whose products and methods really improve the lives and lifestyles of women. As a new mum myself, their breastfeeding range is one I wanted to rave about to everyone I knew – and also those I didn’t. Elvie challenged us to deliver a custom digital experience that was purpose-built for engagement, helping to showcase its transformative femtech products, accompanied by like-minded ‘motherpumpers’ and their five-star endorsements. Half of all video views achieved 100% completion, while 78% of users swiped for more after reading the customer review card. With over 900K engaged users, it was very clear that the more audiences interacted with the experience, the more likely they were to convert.

    Here’s my take: Marketing online isn’t about thinking in silos, but seeking to establish a connection with audiences that you can then nurture for long-lasting relationships. To do that, you need to consistently deliver valuable, relevant, and meaningful experiences where the audience feels the brand is thinking of them and not themselves.

    In an industry that is constantly changing, creativity is among a brand’s most valued traits. These design principles are core to our beliefs and mission to transform advertising on the open internet into a better experience for everyone. As for the industry, it’s time to reshape creativity one campaign at a time. 

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