Back to the Future - How Creativity Needs to Keep Up with the Shift in Media Buying

Advertising has often had its growing pains and digital advertising is no exception. With the rapid expansion of available inventory online and programmatic marketplaces offering placements on a mass scale, creativity and user experience can be left behind.

By Nikki Hawke, VP of Global Marketing at The Exchange Lab

Online advertising is experiencing a renaissance. When TV ads first took off they were essentially filmed radio spots - it took several years for marketers to fully take advantage of the medium. Similarly, while advertisers have been running campaigns programmatically now for years, few are actually taking advantage of the technology available to make their creative pop. Programmatic offers scale and branding capabilities - but while ad location and timing may be smart - the content isn't always. If the creative doesn't resonate, then the advertising doesn't matter.

Many marketers may feel they're still in complete control of the message, but in this era it's the whim of consumer sentiment that creates engagement in marketing campaigns. Generic banners are no longer enough to grab users' attention; the technology is here as a springboard for creative, and marketers who see the vast potential in personalization and differentiated creative have already been doing some amazing things with programmatic.

Personalizing with programmatic

, it utilized five different male models who represented five types of consumers visiting their website. Topman was then able to serve the right creative to their demographics who fit into one of their customer categories including: Not Bothered, Understated, Aspiring Fash­ionista, Extreme Fashionista and Elusive. This level of personalization and retargeting, taking into account factors such as age, browsing history and marital status among others is only available through programmatic.

While campaigns such as Topman's require a large creative budget, marketers can take advantage of Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) in their programmatic campaigns to personalize the text and images in an ad without putting together dozens of individual ads. For example, an airline can advertise different routes dependent on a browser's search history. This side-by-side DCO Toys R' Us ad for local stores showcases the most popular toys at each store, and tells the viewer where the nearest Toys R' Us is. This demonstrates how powerful programmatic can be in displaying only relevant information to the consumer.

The benefits of personalization are clear, with 43% of marketers stating in a recent CMO Council survey that it generates more conversions. When shoppers feel like their ads are more relevant to them, they're more likely to become loyal and repeat customers. We're living in the participation generation; whether directly or indirectly - consumers want to be in control of the types of ads they're seeing.

Unilever's Axe ran their own experimental version of Dynamic Creative, the Romeo Reboot campaign in Brazil - which linked together different filmed creatives into one video to match a users' preferences. Modernizing the story of Romeo & Juliet, the film would change music, plot and even genre, with a mind-boggling 100,000 possible permutations. This is personalized advertising fully realized.

New formats, new storytelling

Many feel that taking advantage of programmatic to find your audience and being creative are mutually exclusive, but this isn't the case. Marketers need to plan for their audience while also leveraging the technology available. Long gone are the banner ads of yesteryear; new rich media display ad formats create attractive ads with animated and interactive features, as well as enabling video integration. They can also expand and cascade, making them adaptable to different device sizes.

The shift to digital has also signaled a change in how stories are told to consumers. Unlike television ad spots, in digital there is no need to serve campaigns linearly. Creative assets can be differentiated across multiple platforms, devices and feeds, yet work together as a unified whole, and programmatic ensures those assets are reaching the right people. These multi-layered narratives help tell a story in an engaging way that appeals to the participation generation.

Google calls this generation 'Gen C', who thrive on creation, curation, connection and community - they live and breathe digital and don't want to passively take in messaging, but would rather be part of the conversation. For Gen C, campaigns need to be engaging, interactive, and most importantly, easily shareable. If you can win the hearts and minds of the Gen C consumer, you'll soon see them turn into brand advocates and spread your message further than you ever imagined.

The year that never was

We constantly hear that this year will be "the year that programmatic goes creative." However, while many advertisers have yet to catch on to the new wave of digital storytelling, this so called "year of" arrived early for those in the know. Looking forward, the technology available to marketers is only going to become more advanced and offer further opportunities for multi-layered narratives (think programmatic TV and OOH). Marketers need to stay ahead of the curve and advance on current trends, or be the ones reading "year of" articles and wishing they had caught on sooner.

About the Author

Nikki leads the international marketing and communications team as VP Marketing, Global at The Exchange Lab. Nikki has more than 15 years' experience working with some of the most exciting brands in the world including; Showtime, Yum! (KFC, Taco Bell & Pizza Hut), General Motors, Global Television and Mike's Hard Lemonade. A results-driven marketer with experience on both the client and agency side, Nikki is a highly organized, collaborative and creative manager with experience working in multiple verticals including Retail, Financial, Automotive, Telecommunications and QSR. Before The Exchange Lab, Nikki was Director of Marketing & Communications at Juice Mobile, a leading mobile marketing and technology firm.
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