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.