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Sometimes you just read a phrase and know exactly what is meant by it – and it perfectly captures a truth that hasn’t been expressed quite so well before. I felt like that when I heard Sheryl Sandberg use the phrase “thumb stopping creativity” to describe the secret sauce that great mobile creative has.

Because the truth is that whilst we all use our phones more than ever before, in many cases we’re not necessarily paying a huge amount of attention. That’s particularly true, of course, in media and social apps including Facebook. It’s not a crime to admit that sometimes users are simply going through the motions or killing time when in our apps. In fact it helps us understand that we have to work hard to get their attention, and harder again to make them act on what we tell them.

Perhaps the single biggest and most pervasive myth in marketing is the idea that campaigns become effective simply by existing (most people will correctly shake their heads at this point, but trust me – most organizations still operate on this principle). The truth is that poorly executed campaigns with weak content only do one thing – teach consumers to ignore you. And this is especially true on mobile, where users are uniquely intolerant of anything that gets in the way of what they want to do, even if that is just consuming some distraction.

So on mobile, this ‘thumb stopping quality’ is most certainly desirable – whether that’s in the context of brand advertising shown on a platform like Facebook, or in the more personalized and 1-2-1 communications delivered on a platform like Swrve as rich push or in-app experiences. So how do we achieve it?

Well the most obvious place to start is simple enough. Invest in the creative process. Think carefully about the user, use the data you have available, and deliver the content that you believe will resonate most effectively with that user in particular. Go beyond one-size-fits-all as much as you possibly can.

And when it comes to data, use real user responses (or lack of them) to further refine your creative efforts. It is sometimes argued that A/B testing is the enemy of creativity, in that it replaces human intuition and flair – the things computers find tough – with dry numbers. But to me, that is a particularly wrong-headed view.

Far from working against creativity, a smart and focused A/B testing does precisely the reverse. It ensures that your best efforts when it comes to stopping those thumbs are given every chance they can get to succeed. A/B testing, when done well, helps optimize the ‘big picture’ at the edges and ensure that great ideas are brought to life in a way that real users respond to. In fact the more you care about supporting creativity, the greater the investment should be in the data that optimizes and ultimately endorses that process.

Lastly, put the effort in to ensure that your best creative efforts aren’t undermined by poor delivery – at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or simply slow to load. Take the time to consider target audiences carefully and fit your creative into the right place in the customer journey – the moment when, to extend the analogy, the thumb is already predisposed to stop.

Bring all these elements together, and you’re close to delivering the sort of content and creative that delights your customers AND your finance department. And that’s the holy grail of marketing!