I started my professional life behind a computer screen; A beautiful blank, black canvas that didn’t even exist merely two generations ago. More than a decade in, I have learned to be a knowledgeable online marketeer. My laptop, tablet and phone have become an extension of my selfexpression. They are what drive my curiosity and my creativity.
Or at least, they should.
Sometimes I struggle a little with the fact that I want to be far more creative than my computer skills allow me to be. And that is not the only problem; Performance marketing has strongly shaped my perception of the world around me. To a certain extent, I feel that it hinders me in my personal creative flow, sometimes. And it has become ever more apparent to me in the last couple of years.
I think we all want to be creative in our lives. Do something that we have never done before. Create something with our own bare hands. But what does it mean to create something for an online marketeer?
The digital artist within me
I am not an artist, nor do I have the mindset of one. I do feel that I want to create something meaningful – find creative solutions to problems that no one has come up with so far or has dared to do.
The pictures that I have in my head, the vision of the things that I would like to create; they are all nearly tangible – yet, so far away. Our digital world has created a gap between that what we want to achieve and being able to create it. Although I didn’t grow up with any of these tools; things were so much “easier” when we just needed to learn how to work with wood, or pen and paper.
There are just so many things that I cannot do on a computer, simply because I don’t have the skills or “speak” the right programming language. My basic html and java skills will let me change the background color of a website or change a bit of padding here and there, but that is just about it.
And as much as I would like to learn exactly how I can get the very best out of these tools, I sometimes struggle with the fact that I cannot learn fast enough to be truly creative.
Can an online marketeer be creative?
My job is highly technical. I give people advice on how they can solve and approach their digital marketing challenges. The solutions are not necessarily rocket science, but they require an in-depth understanding of the possibilities that our online tools offer us. Thus, I learn to work with the tools that are out there. I don’t create anything new, but I pass on my knowledge. Trying to find someone to pay me for the time I have invested in learning more about tools, technical tools.
The more time I spend learning about the possibilities, the more sidetracked I become. There is just so much out there that we can do and could focus our attention on. It has become a lot to take in.
My job is all about making sense of it all.
Explaining the possibilities to those around me. Nothing more, nothing less. An online marketeer creates frameworks for creativity in which he chooses not to be creative at all. And I need to limit myself to my own creative possibilities. There is a threshold to the level of “fun” that I can bring to the table if I want to be successful.
Because I started my career by learning how to be sensible and data-driven, it is very hard to turn away from that.
Hail to the creative specialists
The more advanced and vast our digital landscape becomes, the more we turn intor silo-driven knowledge aggregators. Each and every new person that is added to the workforce, will learn one specific trade or part of the game. It wasn’t like that for us who started out in online marketing in the early and mid 2000s. We still had the opportunity to do basically everything. Tinker with our own little web-products and cheat the system.
I have become one of them, though. As time progressed, I have to admit that my speciality lies in online performance marketing.
Maybe not because I chose it to be, but it is what I keep coming back to. There is something magical and almost scientific about working with performance data. I strive to make things measurable for a living. That is what online marketeers do.
And it is a killer for anyone who wants to be creative. I am in constant struggle between getting enough data points and finding creative out of the box solutions. The ridiculous thing is though, I create the boxes that I strive and tell my clients to break out of.
Why do I keep coming back to creating restrictive creative boundaries for myself? What is it about data that is so important that I force myself not to be creative?
Time is of the essence
My main problem keeps boiling down to: time for creativity. Time has been weighing me down lately and it is something that I hadn’t noticed a few years back. Maybe this is a normal thing about growing up, but these things have really started to bother me as of late.
These are the struggles of an online performance marketeer and time is the common denominator:
- I never have enough time to think over all of the possible scenarios, thus I create a framework that allows me to test just a few.
- If time is not the problem, then short term resource limitations are. If we would have enough time to educate new employees on how things work, we could get a lot more done.
- Budgets are never the problem, I work with whatever I have got. But it is difficult to meet a goal when time is of the essence. And the willingness to invest in creativity is never high enough.
- There is lots of data out there, but in the last ten years it has become sigificantly harder for regular performance marketeers to dig into that pool of data. None of us really have access to the information that facebook, google and amazon have on us.
- I don’t have enough time to learn all the ins-and outs on new tools as much as I did ten years ago. Although my knowledge base expands on a daily basis, as I read a hell of a lot, there is only so much that I can take in.
There are ever more digital professionals, which is I absolutely applaud. I think it is important that a new generation steps up to the plate and shows me exactly how we can truly use these new tools to our creative advantage. It is inspiring to live in a day and age in which things move as fast as they do and I wouldn’t want to miss it.
I have never been a fan of thinking in one dimensional silos. There are just so many things out there that interest me. But, I do understand that if I really want to focus my creative efforts on one thing, I will need to specialise myself in one way or another.
Or learn how I can share my thoughts and tools even better with the world. My quest for creativity is far from over and I love the fact that I’ve started to realize how important it is to me. Being a good performance marketeer is just one part of the story.
And I know that my creative story, has only just begun.