Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Can Programmatic Ever Be Creative?

London, UK
Michael Greene, VP, Product Strategy at AudienceScience on dynamic creative and programmatic

With Virtual Reality, interactive installations, e-commerce innovations and the Internet of Things, the worlds of creativity and tech are ever-more entwined. But in the advertising world there’s one piece of technology that you’ll rarely – if ever – get a creative or maker getting excited about. And that’s ‘programmatic’. So, is it a case of ‘never the twain shall meet’ or can programmatic ever be creative?

LBB> What are the brands that are embracing the fusion of programmatic and creativity? What data are they using to inform their campaigns? What do the campaigns look like? What digital channels are they using? How ‘personal’ can they get?

MG> Marketers are applying more data types than ever before to inform ad targeting. While demo targeting – for better or worse – remains at the core of most targeting strategies, marketers are actively utilising an array of data – from what content a consumer reads online, to where they shop and what they buy when they are there. 

The key for any marketer is really finding the right balance between personalisation and scale. Especially in mass-market verticals like CPG, you don’t want to sacrifice reach for granular targeting. Instead, you want to use creativity and data together to personalise messages for each consumer while still reaching a large percentage of the population.

LBB> What is hindering it? Is it a lack of understanding and skills that bring data and creativity together? Or the cost of creating multiple versions of an ad? Or something else?

MG> Concerns over creative costs are certainly the biggest barrier for most marketers. This is especially true for video advertising as production costs are high and typical tools used in display for scaling creative assets – like dynamic creative – don’t really apply. 

Marketers also have to contend with creating for more devices than ever before. Ads need to deliver their message on big screens with captive audiences (e.g. TV) as well as small screens with distracted, on-the-go users (e.g. smartphones). In this sense, targeted creative must reflect not only audience and content, but also context.

LBB> In terms of budget and timing, what sorts of pressure does creating multiple versions and edits add? Can that be ameliorated? 

MG> It certainly requires more upfront planning. Dynamic creative can help streamline the process by seamlessly creating many different ads from a small set of creative assets and then optimising those based upon live campaign results.

LBB> What innovations can we expect to see in dynamic creative optimisation that are likely to impact on greater data-led creativity?

MG> We are seeing new targeting capabilities like offline-purchase and location-based targeting open up new doors for dynamic creative optimisation. For instance, a snack food brand may choose to serve a different ad depending upon what brands a consumer bought on their last grocery visit or alter creative depending if that consumer shops after work or on the weekends.

LBB> What does it mean to the consumer? Will they notice it? And will it help reduce the impact of ad blocking?

MG> Ideally, better application of data and creative will mean more engagement from consumers. As for ad blocking, that’s a larger challenge. With rare exceptions, nobody likes advertising, but it is an absolutely critical part of how we as a society fund content. Ignoring or blocking ads isn’t a new concept – think getting up to get a snack during a TV commercial break – and today’s ad blocking is just a higher tech version of that. 

LBB> Programmatic and ad targeting can also yield data about content effectiveness, requiring a degree of dynamism in the production process… how can the buying/programmatic part of the industry and creative/production/content side better interact? Have you any examples of these working together well?

MG> Ultimately, it’s the job of the marketer to tie these pieces together. Programmatic tech companies should be providing clear, easy to understand insights into what’s working, what’s not, and why. Likewise, creatives should be agile in taking this feedback and making adjustments.

LBB> At places like Cannes it still feels there’s such a disconnect between the ‘creative’ world and that ad tech world (perhaps with media agencies somewhat straddling the gap) – will these worlds ever truly come together? Do they need to?

MG> They do come together and that’s via the marketer. Everything from creative, to technology, to media is ultimately paid for by a marketer, and ultimately, it’s the marketer who links all these things together. Do I expect machine learning experts from programmatic tech companies to interact daily with graphic designers from creative agencies? Probably not. But the output from both these groups is ultimately done on behalf of the marketer and the market will continue to serve as the critical common thread.

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