Integrating Creative in a Programmatic World

In our most recent webinar, Anna Jorysz discussed the role of creative in the continuing growth of programmatic. You download the slides here: Integrating Creative in a Programmatic World

Programmatic buying has come a long way since it was introduced in 1994. Each development, from Ad Networks to Ad Exchanges to DSPs all the way up to Programmatic, has greatly improved everything from campaign flexibility and targeting to brand safety.

Despite all of these advancements, it’s safe to say that the quality of the creatives isn’t up to scratch. In fact, there is very little difference between the first banner ads of 1994 and the ads we’re seeing now 24 years later. While this might be overstating the fact, it’s easy to see that the user’s experience hasn’t moved on.

Why has Creative Fallen Behind?

Why does programmatic seem like it is so much more advanced than creative? One big reason is that programmatic has been so successful at driving ROI, and there are 3 key areas that account for this:  

  • It opened up easy but relevant reach through long tail searches and special interest sites
  • Using the huge amount of data in the marketer’s arsenal, targeting based on individual preferences became possible.
  • The power of machine learning allows for smarter bidding and optimisation.

However, is this really improving marketing or just making it cheaper? Easy and relevant reach is essentially cheap inventory. People-based targeting is just minimising your wasted spend. AI is able to do all of this but smarter. So while these areas do drive performance, it might be more accurate to say that these gains are more about being cost-effective than truly influencing customers to purchase.

Creative is inexplicably tied to programmatic. Your creative messaging has to work even harder when it comes to long-tail because customers are aware of the media you’re buying. Plus, if you have that much data on someone, there is no excuse for not showing them a creative that will be of direct relevance. And while machines are not likely to replace human creatives any time soon, it would be shortsighted to not leverage them for improvements. It’s clear then, that for programmatic to be truly effective, we have to ensure that creative is keeping up with the developments.

Taking this a step further, high quality creative can also go a long way to solving many of display’s current issues.High quality creative can help to measure the incremental value of display campaigns, by comparing influence, view-through attribution and interaction with other channels. We can even use interactions with other channels to influence how we display those ads and the media buying strategy going forward. It can also help counterbalance the growth of ad blockers and the impact this has on viewability. Advertisers have pushed for greater viewability, and publishers have responded to this by cluttering space above the fold with ads. While these have appetizing impressions, these placements can often hinder user experience. Better creatives will do a lot to improve user experience and also provoke a shift away from spam tactics and towards true relevancy.

Four Key Considerations:

Integrating Media and Creative

How many times have we been told that silos don’t work? By integrating media and creative, we can ensure that our campaign goals are aligned, that we communicate effectively with audiences as they move through your marketing funnel, and maximise synergy with content on the sites. This can be as simple as making sure your call to action matches up with what you’re advertising.

Using Data to Inform Strategy

Programmatic is very data-driven, which means creative has to be as well. The first thing to look at is how you’re using dynamic elements: work out what signals are available to you such as behaviour on site and audience segments, or even from third-party APIs, and build from here. You can then use this data to find content that supports your creative so that you’re showing your ads in placements that complement your message. When in doubt, remember that you have a lot of historical data that you can use as your starting point.

Creating Value-Adding Experience

The user is giving their attention to your ad, but consider: what are they getting in return? This is more about giving them something that is actually of value to them, once again reinforcing the importance of relevance. This has to be balanced with common sense though: there is a fine line between relevance and creepy. Your creatives also need to drive engagement with your brand or products, whether that’s raising brand awareness or convincing users to buy. You might also be able to find new ways to shorten the path to purchase, by making the ad a more useful part of the user journey.  

Measuring Creative Success

Finally, it’s incredibly important that you’re measuring the success of your creative efforts; and this isn’t something you can leave and come up with afterwards. Think about how creative-specific metrics can tie into your overall campaign goals, and how granular you might want to go with your reporting. Think about any tests or trials you can set up to really prove which elements of the creatives led to their success. Then, you’ll need to build in the tracking capabilities, and with rich media, there is a lot that you can track. To do this, you’ll need to know how you’ll be defining an engagement or interaction. Lastly, in the creative process, you have to make a lot of assumptions to get started, but make sure you’re testing to see if your assumptions are right.

As we continue to make developments to programmatic, we have to ensure that creative is keeping up to speed. Otherwise, it’s likely that we’ll start to see the drop off of programmatic’s success.

Best Practise: Data Studio Dashboards

In the midst of Q4, you’re probably drowning in data already. Or you’re likely to be post-Black Friday! At times like these, no one wants to spend hours churning through reports, or figuring out on-site journeys from those rather confusing Google Analytics flow reports. We all just want to know what’s working, and what’s really been going on with our customers.

To help with the data overload, here are our top 10 tips for creating easy-to-use Data Studio reports that are bound to impress your colleagues.

1. Define your requirements

You’ve created your first Data Studio dashboard and added your data source. You are then presented with a blank canvas. Pretty intimidating, right? Deciding in which direction to take your dashboard may seem overwhelming at this stage and to overcome this, you may be tempted to dive straight in and get creative. However, doing so at this point can result in a confusing dashboard that doesn’t answer all your questions, or match what you had initially imagined.

To avoid this, it’s a good idea to define your requirements early on. Considering what key information you want to convey in your report, and who your audience will be, helps provide a framework for what you build.

Thinking about your KPIs is a good place to start. Do you really need all those metrics, or will sessions, transactions and conversion rate suffice?

2. Keep the styling simple and consistent

Data Studio offers a great variety of opportunities for customisation, and for those of us who spend our days in Excel it can be pretty enticing to get as creative as possible!

However, you’re probably after a professional and streamlined look, so try not to get too overzealous. Might be best to leave the word-art and rainbow colour scheme at the door. Sticking with a couple of complementary colours and one or two fonts will make the report easy to read and allow the audience to absorb your key points.

3. Utilise different ways of displaying information.

Data studio offers 11 different chart types, making diverse presentation of data easy to implement. Having a variety of visuals in your report will engage the viewer and help them understand what you are trying to convey more easily. When you’re choosing your chart type, have a think about what it is you’re trying to communicate. If you have more than 3-4 data points, a pie chart might not be the best solution; if you’re showing how a metric has changed over time, a line graph is likely your go-to option.

4. Add time filter controls

Adding the date range widget allows you to view data dynamically and maintains the relevance of the report, as it is easy to update the widget as time passes. Goodbye weekly reporting – or more like daily over Black Friday! – and hello to a single report that never expires.

5. Utilise Google Analytics segments

This is by far one of the most useful feature releases Google have done for Data Studio. It’s pretty impossible to create a base dashboard that meets everyone’s needs. You might be focused on customer retention, whilst your colleague is all about customer acquisition – and the report you create for the digital team on a Monday purely focuses on Mobile traffic. The magic of Data Studio is being able to create one report, with the option to bring in various Google Analytics segments in order to aid finding customer insights for different audiences.

6. Experiment with customisation

Don’t be afraid to play around with different functionalities and customise charts as needed.

A time series chart, for example, can be manipulated to appear as just a trendline rather than a detailed graph. This can be helpful in visualising top line trends at a glance. We’ve found it particularly helpful to use overall numbers (i.e. total revenue, total orders) and their % change year on year at the top of all our reports, before we delve into the details further down. This helps to easily contextualise any granular insights on performance.

7. Multi-page reports

Having all the relevant data presented on one page has merit in that the information can be communicated at a glance. However, if your dashboard starts to look cramped, this may have the opposite effect – making the report hard to read and potentially losing the interest of your audience!

To avoid this, Data Studio offers a multi-page functionality. A good tip when utilising this feature is to give each page an overarching topic. This will help keep the report organised and easy to navigate. It’s also a great idea to use the opening page as an Executive Summary, with the following pages drilling down into more detail for those that need it.

8. Data blending

Google recently introduced a data blending functionality that allows different data sources to be combined, or ‘blended’. For example, combining data from multiple GA views is now possible. This is a huge time-saver for those users who don’t have access to a data warehouse where the data is already blended for them. Perhaps you want to include a data source of margin data from Google Sheets for all your products sold. Voila: you can now generate insights across numerous sources with a few clicks of a button.

9. Use your report as a template

Data Studio allows you to create copies of your dashboard – super handy if you need to generate multiple reports with similar styles for various purposes. You can simply copy your dashboard and use this copy as a template, no need to start again from scratch!

10. Provide some detail

Customising charts and visualising data can be fun, but don’t forget to give some detail to your analysis. Not everyone is data literate and so it’s good practice to provide an explanatory label for each chart you create, including any caveats they need to be aware of (i.e. site was down for 3 hours on x date). Sometimes it’s even helpful to add a brief line of commentary, if you feel it’s particularly relevant for the point you want to communicate.

Combining Art and Science at connect:London – Part 2

This is the second edition of our coverage of Luke Judge’s presentation at connect:London. Last time, we looked at how art and science complement each other to inspire great work. When they work together, they can transcend complexity to create something truly beautiful. As a marketer, we should be using these moments to get potential customers from moments of wonder to the “I Do” moment.

In the second half of the presentation, we look at how the current technological climate has allowed us to unite media, creative and technology in order to deliver experiences that delight audiences.

The Creative Renaissance

Reaching the “I Do” moment has never been more promising. Once upon a time, technology could only support media or creative, never both. Now, however, we are on the cusp of a creative renaissance, where our technology has matured enough to give us a unique opportunity to bring together media, creative and technology in new and exciting ways. From the first banner ad in 1994 to the launch of social advertising in 2006, all the way up to the introduction of DoubleClick Bid Manager in 2012, we’re now at a place where programmatic bidding is everywhere.

We’re moving into a new phase of interconnectedness where data and measurement bind media, creative and technology together. There has never been a time when we have had such powerful tools to deliver experiences that delight our audience.

The Marketing Symphony

With all of this in mind, how do you get started?

Think of the modern marketing mix as an orchestra, with an effective CMO as a conductor as they piece it all together to deliver a great experience for their audience. Data, creative, tech. media and measurement all make up different sections within the orchestra: woodwind, brass, strings and so on, and each one needs their own time to shine.

  • Data – Your Violin Section: Use data to garner learnings about a target audience and create a segmentation plan to deliver results. Data comes in many forms, it’s up to the marketer to collect and unite what’s relevant.
  • Creative – Your Woodwind Section: In the same way that the woodwind section often leads the melody, creative leads your campaigns. This is where we pick the formats that will appeal most to the audience.
  • Tech – Your Percussion Section: This gives us the right tools to monitor your creative formats, underpinning everything that we do. From setting up and managing our campaigns to the measurement of their performance, we couldn’t do any of this without our technology.  
  • Media – Your Brass Section: Media gets your campaign out into the world; finding the right audience at the right moment, with minimum waste, at the best possible price.
  • Measurement – Your Lower String Section: The strings sit at either end of the orchestra, and measurement is the twin to data. You rarely find violins without a double bass, and you won’t find data without measurement. This allows you to demonstrate your performance, supporting your entire marketing symphony.

In any given symphony, different sections will need to be showcased; focussed on; brought to the forefront. As a skilled conductor can control the whole orchestra while also bringing out the melody, a talented CMO has complete oversight of the marketing mix, knowing exactly the right time to bring out different elements.

Always remember…

Our key takeaways are simple. Use data to get to know your audience. Tell them a story that sparks an emotional response and use creatives which build on that connection. As you’re taking stock of performance, measurement will be important but remember to trust your instincts. Then you’ll be sure to get the “I Do”.

You can find the slides from Luke’s presentation on our Slideshare.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Christmas

While Christmas ads have been gracing our screens for a number of weeks now, I believed it would be remiss to write a G|B|U until December was officially upon us. Now that I’ve cracked open my advent calendar and am in a perpetual Christmas Eve mindset, it’s time for me to bring poison pen onto that most hallowed of advertising periods: Christmas

It’s my favourite holiday and it doesn’t take a lot to impress me over this period. Make me smile, laugh or just be adorable, and you get a gold star from me. But how do this year’s holiday ads measure up?

Ahead of the Pack

An honourable mention must, in my opinion, go to John Lewis. From around the 15th of November, you cannot get through a day without the inevitable question arising: “has the John Lewis ad aired yet?”. They have sparked nostalgia, made us gasp in awe, and brought many a tear to even the hardiest of souls. As such, it feels unfair to consider it amongst the Good, Bad or Ugly: they exist in a class of their own.

With that said, this year’s ad is not up to snuff. Don’t get me wrong: I have a soft spot for Elton John, and “Your Song” is one of my favourite songs. But Elton John alone does not a good Christmas ad make.

Think back to 2011 and “The Long Wait”, all about a little boy who was so excited for Christmas, just so he could give a gift to his mum and dad. A look back at Elton’s life cannot possibly provoke these kinds of emotion. However, a much more successful ad series comes from John Lewis’ partner in crime: Waitrose. The theme “Too good to wait” allows for a much more lighthearted ad: be it through skipping the Christmas lights countdown or fast-forwarding through the John Lewis ad (we’ve all done it), these snappy placements are much more engaging and refreshing than Elton’s story. Plus, the dad saying “Stollen?” gets me every time.

On the upside, even the worst John Lewis ad is still better than some of the Bad and Ugly of Christmas advertising. More on that later.

The Good

With that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the Good of Christmas advertising. There’s a lot of them and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a few of my favourites.

Claiming my top spot this year is the Sainsbury’s ad: a wholesome depiction of a Christmas play that makes me die of cuteness in exactly 25 seconds, and makes me cry in 33. These kids are adorable: from their giggles to the little waves to their parents in the audience, they’re funny (big fan of the one playing the Queen), and I am rooting for Plug Boy – who I believe should be our new national hero. I love it, and I want 10 more of these ads throughout the year.

I’m also a big fan of Spotify’s Wrapped campaign, which is a great example of effective personalisation and a very literal interpretation of data-driven marketing. It’s really fun, and something I look forward to every year.

Final mention goes to the Heathrow Bears. Funny and emotional in equal measures, my poor heart simply cannot handle the tiny bear reaching out to cuddle his grandmother. As someone who lives really far away from their family, this one hit me right in the feels and serves as a reminder that the season is really all about family.

The Bad

There is one thing I truly, truly hate in Christmas ads, and it’s ads which merely show a stream of products. As we’ve seen above, there are ways for retailers to showcase their brands without a running list of products and prices. In a season fueled by imagination, laziness cannot be tolerated.

The Ugly

If Good is the Nice List and Bad is the Naughty List, then Ugly isn’t on any list.

The worst ad of the year, and I do not use this term lightly, comes from a brand which is much more high end. I will preface this with an observation: I am not Burberry’s target audience. but, good Lord that does not excuse the 1 minute and 47 seconds of drivel that they pushed out this year. This spot would be more befitting of Halloween: a creepy rendition of “Carol of the Bells” plays over some frankly dizzying camera-work. A cast of famous faces stays frozen in a number of “typical” holiday scenes – stuck on a delayed train, having Christmas dinner, watching TV – showing off the latest fashions and jewellery from the brand. The poses themselves look like something out of a horror film, something made even worse by the background music.

Burberry has produced something that is boring, a little bit scary, and thoroughly uncompelling. Not ideal for a Christmas ad.

I think that there is one key takeaway for Yuletide ads, and that’s simply to make people happy. People love the spreading and receiving Christmas joy, so make sure your spots give them that feeling too. It really is as simple as that in my book.

An aside: if you read this series intently, you’ll know I have a soft spot for KFC ads. Their Holiday ad also does not disappoint.

Top Tips for Sleigh-in’ it this Christmas

With Cyber Weekend behind us and Christmas looming ever closer, these next few weeks are the most crucial for any advertiser. We asked the team at NMPi for their top tips to make the most of your campaigns and snap up those last minute sales.


“Use your audiences effectively! It might be easier to capture searches for “insert-brand Christmas sales”, it’s a tired approach that relies on consumers actively looking for you. While efficiently capturing searches for just “Christmas sales” is more difficult, it can often prove more profitable if done right. You’ll be able to pull wandering consumers back to your brand and drive additional revenue all the while.” – Josh B, Senior Account Executive.


“On social, there are a couple of things you can take advantage of. If your messaging is based on gifting, then make sure your creatives reflect this. For example, have your creatives feature people enjoying your products, rather than focusing on products themselves. Also, remember that some customers may only buy from you once a year – they might not be a part of your normal demographic but are buying a gift for someone who is. To be able to retarget them, you can leverage CRM lists to circumvent the 180 day limit on Facebook pixel audiences. This way, you can target people who might have fallen out of the normal targeting window or don’t match your interest-based targeting.” – Jack C, Performance Manager.


“Storytelling over this period, particularly on display, is always a winner. Plan your ad copy or creative so each user learns more about your brand each time they see your ad.” – Charlie K, Account Executive.


“Increase your Display spend at the beginning of the month to raise awareness of your offering early on. While it might be a little late for that now, you should also ensure that your last delivery date is called out in your messaging.” – Alice M, Senior Account Manager.

There’s not long left until the big day, but with these top tips you’ll be able to pick up some quick wins across the Yuletide seasons. If you want to get some external insights into how your campaigns are performing, take advantage of our Christmas gift this year: a full digital audit. Get in touch with the team to request yours today.

Combining Art and Science at connect:London – Part 1

You can never underestimate the power of great experience in driving performance, and great experience comes from uniting art and science. NMPi CEO, Luke Judge, brought his thoughts to the stage at this year’s connect:London.

The Marriage of Art and Science

Art and science complement each other to inspire great work.

Music, an inherently artistic discipline, is filled with mathematics: major scales are based upon the mathematical equation for the 12th root of 2.

Leonardo da Vinci was an extraordinary artist because he was an extraordinary scientist, and his empirical observations of form were the basis for his paintings.

The Fibonacci sequence, and by extension the golden spiral, occurs naturally in anything from sunflowers to galaxies. It is so appealing to the eye that it is the reason behind our attraction to certain works of art, including, “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.”

So when art and science come together, the result transcends complexity to create something truly beautiful.

It can be hard to think about digital marketing beyond its impact to the bottom line, but we should be striving for truly great marketing that makes us feel something different: be it wonder, curiosity, excitement or fear of missing out. It is those feelings that create an emotional connection with your brand, and ultimately establish customer loyalty.

Our job is to get someone from those moments of wonder to saying “I Do” and making that lifelong commitment.

Bringing the Romance Back

So how do we guide customers from their first search all the way to that final conversion?

Let’s start by dating; you have to meet your customer first at a time when you are relevant to them, so pique their interest on Search. They’ll swipe right when they’re ready. Once you’ve got them interested, it’s time to add some sizzle. With high impact creative you can create excitement.  If you’re a retailer, create an environment which allows them to browse shoppable products set within a real-life setting. By creating these real-life environments you can establish your branding and resonate with the consumer.

You then need to spend some quality time together with personalised dynamic creative. This is where you focus on each other’s interests, build loyalty, and extend your relationship. Say a customer put a tennis racket in their basket but didn’t purchase – target them with a discount code on that racquet to encourage their conversion. If they have previously purchased a racquet, instead target them with related products like tennis balls.

After you’ve spent some time in a relationship, it’s time to get engaged. Make sure it’s a great experience; frictionless like the iPhone. You need to be honest and trustworthy, like John Lewis and Marks and Spencers. And you need to be there when they need you like the AA.

If you get the whole thing right, they’re sure to say “I Do”.

If you want to find out more about the presentation, you can download Luke’s slides here, and you can read part 2 here.