Unlocking ROI: The power of collaboration in creative optimization

By Shani Rosenfelder

Dani, a UA manager at a mobile gaming company, logs into the dashboard to check the performance of the holiday campaign. She notices that the numbers are lower than expected. With the holiday season well under way, there’s no time to waste. She needs fresh creatives to boost engagement and conversions. Meanwhile, across the office, the creative team is deep into brainstorming for another campaign. They’re unaware of the issues with the holiday campaign’s creatives. Their focus is on their current project, unaware of the urgent need for adjustments.

This scenario highlights a common challenge in the company’s workflow. The lack of communication between the UA team and the creative team leads to missed opportunities and wasted resources. If only there was a smoother collaboration process, they could address issues promptly and optimize campaigns effectively.

The critical gap lies in the inadequate collaboration among User Acquisition (UA) managers, creative strategists, and Business Intelligence (BI) engineers. These key stakeholders often struggle with ineffective collaboration. This leads to significant inefficiencies, diminished campaign performance and wasted resources. The synergy between these roles is not just beneficial—it’s imperative. A recent McKinsey study revealed a remarkable 25% uptick in overall marketing campaign effectiveness among companies that champion cross-functional collaboration.

This substantial uplift not only boosts ROI but also underscores the critical need for cohesive operations among UA managers, creative strategists, and BI engineers. We’ll look into the challenges and inefficiencies that arise from a lack of collaboration as well as the dynamic potential of collaborative optimization. We’ll also explore how advanced tools, including AI and report aggregation platforms, can do much more than just bridge gaps. They actively enhance and accelerate the creative and analytical processes, propelling marketing teams toward more effective and efficient campaign executions. Through this exploration, the transformative power of strategic unity and technological aids becomes clear.

The impact of siloed work on campaign performance

Disconnected teams often result in redundant efforts, conflicting strategies, and ultimately, missed opportunities for optimizing campaign performance. This disconnection manifests in various impactful ways:

The “Hunch”

Creative strategists frequently develop new marketing creatives based on instincts and qualitative feedback, rather than relying on real-time, data-driven insights that could lead to more targeted and effective content. On the other side, UA managers, who handle critical performance data, face substantial barriers in sharing this valuable information effectively and quickly with the creative team. The root of this problem often lies in the lack of a user-friendly platform for data sharing.

Out-of-sync data

We’ve also seen cases in which UA managers extract data into cumbersome Excel sheets to build their presentations. This is not only time-consuming but also occurs infrequently—sometimes only every few weeks or months—due to the involved labor and time. Creatives are then often out of sync with the latest data insights, leading to misalignment.

Collaboration in Creative Optimization - out of sync data

Divergent objectives

UA managers and creative strategists often clash in their primary objectives. UA managers may focus on quantitative metrics such as conversions and cost per acquisition, while creative strategists emphasize visual appeal and alignment with brand messaging. This lack of unity not only undermines the effectiveness of individual campaigns but can also impact the overall marketing strategy, leading to missed opportunities and decreased campaign performance.

This conflict sometimes goes even further. Top-performing ads can be off-brand, causing friction when UA managers push to run these high-performing ads. Meanwhile, creative strategists may advocate for on-brand ads that don’t perform as well. This classic industry conflict highlights the challenge of balancing performance metrics with brand integrity.

Delayed, inconsistent data

BI engineers are critical. They primarily focus on “plugging the pipes” (that is, connecting the data to the right systems) and make vast amounts of data available, enabling others to perform analysis and derive insights. Yet engineers working independently without effective collaboration with UA managers and creative strategists leads to significant issues in communication and data use. BI engineers often look at data and insights differently from how creative strategists and UA managers might. Without a common framework for data interpretation and decision-making, these differing perspectives can lead to conflicting interpretations of the same campaign performance metrics.

That’s why regular and structured data-sharing sessions are needed, as well as a unified analytics framework that all team members can understand and apply.

Compromised feedback loops

The absence of open communication channels can severely compromise the effectiveness of feedback loops. When communication stalls, feedback on campaign performance, creative content, and strategic direction becomes delayed or even unactionable. This is particularly detrimental when quick iterations on creatives and rapid deployment of A/B testing are necessary to continuously refine and optimize campaigns.

The lack of timely, effective feedback leads to slower campaign optimization, resulting in missed opportunities. For teams to act as a well-oiled “machine” or creative production engine, a robust system must be in place to facilitate swift and ongoing communication.

An often-overlooked creative challenge is the integration of concept with placement. Strategists may at times conceive ideas in isolation, crafting concepts that may excel in creativity but falter in context-specific suitability—be it as a rewarded video, within a social media feed, or on a platform like TikTok. Such a misalignment can force a concept to fit where it doesn’t naturally belong—much like forcing a square peg into a round hole. Emphasizing collaboration early in the creative process ensures that concepts are tailored for optimal placement from the start, preventing abstract ideation and aligning creative vision with practical execution.

Real-world consequences

Real-world examples show the tangible consequences of poor teamwork in creative optimization and overall campaign success. In one common scenario, the creative team creates a set of creatives based on their understanding of campaign needs, only for the UA manager to find them unusable as they don’t match the required specifications or marketing objectives. This not only wastes time as the creative team goes back to the drawing board, but also delays the entire campaign rollout, resulting in lost opportunities and resources.

We also see loss in flexibility. Often, previously successful ad creatives suddenly stop resonating. Ideally, a nimble, collaborative team would quickly analyze performance data, understand the drop in engagement, and iterate on new creatives. But in a siloed environment, this critical information might not reach the creative team in time, or the feedback loop is so delayed that by the time the issue is identified, the campaign has already suffered significant setbacks. What could have been a quick pivot turns into a prolonged, inefficient effort.

This communication challenge is compounded further in companies who manage multiple apps or brands, with each potentially having different data analysts assigned. When these analysts work in isolation, responsible only for their specific apps without a unified communication strategy, the lack of cohesion can lead to inconsistent interpretations and strategies across the board. 

Five Benefits of Collaborative Optimization

Bad communication can be devastating to a campaign. But when collaboration is effective, the positive impacts on creative optimization and overall marketing campaign performance are profound and multifaceted. This synergy not only enhances the efficiency of operations but also drives more impactful and targeted campaign outcomes. Here are 5 benefits:

1. Integrating data-driven insights with creative strategy

When creative teams incorporate data-driven insights provided by BI engineers into their creative process, the outcome is far more impactful. This integration ensures that each creative decision is informed by real-time data about audience behavior and campaign performance.

2. A comprehensive approach to campaign optimization

Collaboration allows campaign optimization to be holistic. UA managers, with their focus on performance metrics, can guide the creative team in understanding which elements of the campaign are driving ROI and where improvements are needed. BI engineers can then analyze vast amounts of data to provide actionable insights that help refine these strategies further. Every aspect of the campaign is then fine-tuned for maximum impact.

3. Better, more agile decision-making

Armed with these comprehensive insights, teams can then make decisions based on a complete understanding of the campaign dynamics. This means faster iterations and A/B testing, as well as more timely recalibrations. Collaborative efforts ensure that the marketing team stays agile, adapting quickly to new information while continuously optimizing strategies.

4. Cross-disciplinary knowledge sharing

Each team member brings a unique set of skills and expertise to the table. UA managers understand the nuances of campaign optimization strategies, creative strategists contribute with innovative design and content ideas, while BI engineers bring critical data analytics capabilities. These diverse perspectives and skills are shared through collaboration, enriching approach and execution. This fosters innovation and builds a more robust understanding of what works best, promoting continuous improvement in strategies.

5. Aligned goals

Collaboration in Creative Optimization - aligned goals

Aligning goals, strategies and resources lead to the creation of optimized creatives and targeted messaging that are backed by data-informed decisions. This unity not only streamlines the marketing process but also enhances the effectiveness of the campaigns, driving better performance and tangible results. Critically, all parties should also agree on which sources and metrics should be used consistently to avoid confusion and inefficiencies. This alignment fosters a cohesive team environment with fewer conflicts and a better culture, demonstrating that the team worlds well together. This approach not only delivers superior results but also strengthens team dynamics and workplace satisfaction.

Collaboration works

And this is more than just theory. Collaborative optimization delivers tangible, research-backed improvements in ROI, conversion rates and customer acquisition. Deloitte’s collaboration with the MIT Sloan Management Review, for instance, found that 53% of businesses leveraging cross-functional teams witnessed significant performance enhancements. Moreover, HubSpot reveals that 28% of marketing leaders recognize “collaborating across teams when planning marketing activities” as a top method for increasing visibility within the company.

The evidence is clear. Teamwork not only brings isolated project benefits but also contributes to enduring organizational success. Effective creative optimization demands not just the unity of efforts but a strategic alignment of goals across all key stakeholders. Fostering a culture that prioritizes shared insights and collaborative engagement unlocks the full potential of marketing campaigns, ensuring both immediate impact and sustained growth.

Best Practices

Optimizing creatives is also about embracing a set of best practices that are about integrating the right tools and enhancing human collaboration. Businesses must therefore combine the right tools, policies and practices.

Choosing the right “Tech stack”

Sophisticated tools are key to boosting synergy across cross-functional marketing teams. Ensuring your “tech stack” is equipped with robust tools like Adverity, Datorama, and AppsFlyer Creative Optimization is crucial. These platforms offer advanced features that enable data-driven decision-making, efficient creative testing, and streamlined campaign optimization. This fosters a collaborative environment that’s faster, easier, and more transparent.

For example, AppsFlyer’s Creative Optimization solution enhances teamwork by allowing for rapid testing of creatives and quick adjustments based on real-time feedback. This ensures that all stakeholders can make informed decisions promptly, boosting both the agility and effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

Meanwhile, tools such as A/B testing platforms, creative analytics software, and project management tools are also key for improving collaboration between teams. A/B testing platforms enable teams to quickly test and refine creative strategies based on real-time data. Creative Analytics software offers detailed insights into creative performance, helping teams tailor content and optimize marketing strategies effectively. Project management tools (e.g., Asana or Slack) are also crucial for maintaining clear communication and coordination, ensuring everyone is aligned on project goals and progress. Collectively, these tools significantly improve data sharing, communication, and the decision-making process across marketing teams.

Appointing a Creative Strategist

But marketing campaigns also require an overall manager. Enter the creative strategist, a role that’s become crucial for enhancing cross-functional collaboration and driving effective creative optimization. As growth consultant and former creative strategist Marcus Burke emphasizes, creative strategy involves refining the often chaotic process of creative ideation into a structured, repeatable workflow that not just spawns innovative ideas but also ensures continual improvement over time.

“… Make sure someone in the team owns this process,” explains Burke. “Otherwise you tend to default to this hit or miss approach where ads are created randomly because someone saw a competitor ad that was interesting or had a good idea. This isn’t predictable and you won’t be able to scale.”

Creative strategists play a pivotal role in breaking down the silos between design, analytics, and user acquisition teams. They act as the linchpin that ensures all teams are aligned, sharing insights across the board to optimize creative outputs. For example, by incorporating early performance metrics into the creative development process, creative strategists can help preemptively adjust strategies, saving time and resources while enhancing campaign effectiveness.

Case studies

Many businesses have found success through the above practices. Ace Games had difficulty identifying effective creative elements and consolidating metrics from different networks. Through the effective use of creative optimization and aggregated reporting tools, the company upped the percentage of successful creatives from 55% to 80% and boosted its click-through rate (CTR) by 52%. This transformation was not just about improving numbers but also about enhancing cross-functional collaboration within the company. The new tools and data insights allowed various teams, from artists to UA managers, to gain a clearer understanding of performance metrics and focus areas, fostering a more inclusive and informed creative process.

Smartmove JSC, a prominent player in the APAC mobile gaming market, also dramatically enhanced its user acquisition (UA) efficiency and boosted ROI through advanced creative optimization. These tools gave the UA team detailed, creative-level ROAS and retention metrics, enabling them to quickly identify and eliminate underperforming creatives while scaling up successful ones. This ability to make data-driven decisions significantly improved their overall campaign performance.

AI tools not only reduced the time spent on manual classification of creatives but also allowed for more nuanced testing and optimization strategies. For example, the team could tailor video content to specific age demographics by analyzing how different colors resonated with various groups, enhancing the appeal and effectiveness of their ads.

Burke also highlights the potential of AI-driven tools in accelerating creative optimization processes:  “When it comes to headline and body texts on Meta, I barely ever have the time to test them because I’m already creating so many different video iterations. This is a job I hand off to Meta’s automation, report on the results on a monthly basis and then iterate. These micro-variations are something I feel AI can really help support me with.”

Beyond siloes

The evidence is clear. Supercharging creative optimization requires a commitment to best practices in technology integration, strategic alignment, and most importantly, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement. These elements are crucial for turning theoretical benefits into real-world successes, enabling businesses to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing.

Shani Rosenfelder

Shani is the Director of Global Content Strategy & Market Insights at AppsFlyer. He has over 10 years of experience in key content and marketing roles across a variety of leading tech companies and startups. Combining creativity, analytical prowess and a strategic mindset, Shani is passionate about building a brand’s reputation and visibility through innovative, content-driven projects.

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