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The Case for Imagination

My daughter's favorite TV show is "SpongeBob SquarePants." She loves it. Nothing else even comes close. Because she's such a fan, I downloaded the top 100 episodes on the family iPad and we watched one in bed last Sunday.

In the episode, titular character SpongeBob and his pal Patrick claim that all you need to have fun is an empty cardboard box. When their friend Squidward asks why they're interested in just the box and not the TV it used to hold, SpongeBob replies, "We don't need television, as long as we have our...imagination."


Even though he's just a cartoon character, SpongeBob's insights are very valuable. What if you applied his wisdom to your online marketing strategy? If you were more imaginative, could you make magic happen this holiday season?

Ask yourself these questions:
First off, do you use your imagination when it comes to cross-channel engagement?
 Because each form of media (display, video, mobile, social) is unique, you need to come up with an original approach for each in order to have a successful online marketing campaign. That is, every platform is a unique cardboard box. Play around with them individually and come up with something different. Your game plan for display isn't going to fit into your social media strategy. Your approaches, however, shouldn't be too disparate--remember to maintain a common theme across all channels.

Second, how inspired is your creative? 
I have seen far too many banners that are just plain bland, and their mobile counterparts are merely shrunken versions of them. Also, many in-stream video ads are simply repurposed from TV ads. We've already established that you need to tailor your strategy to the platform, so make sure your creative makes the most of each medium. Have some fun--that cardboard box could be a spaceship, and that other one could be a teleporter or time machine.

Third, do you think creatively when it comes to your data? 
I've written before about the need to use fresh and current data--in light of the explosion of technological platforms, it is crucial to know how to glean the most important information from the vast sea of available data. It takes some original thinking to determine which data sets are truly valuable and worthwhile to you. If you use the most relevant and enlightening data to inform your creative efforts, you're on the right track toward an innovative campaign.

Finally, are you thinking outside the box when you define your goals for success?
 If you've read my previous blog posts, I may sound like a broken record here: if you're stuck with the tunnel-vision view that last-click attribution is an accurate method of gauging marketing success, then you're not really seeing if your strategy is working or whether your dollars are well spent. You should stop zoning out in front of the TV--get off the couch and start using your mind. What about running campaigns to drive new site traffic instead of merely retargeting to your current ones? How about targeting lapsed users? To do so, it's time to align the right attribution model with your marketing goals. It's time to think up that interstellar spaceship.

I never thought I would learn anything from watching a cartoon with my daughter, but it makes sense that I could be inspired by a quirky children's show. Children and their beloved cartoon characters aren't burdened by rules, convention and routine. You don't need to be either. You have your imagination.

Avi Spivack is Product Marketing Strategist for Akamai