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On Becoming A Creative Technologist

Today I will address the Association of National Advertisers Client Forum with an important message: It's time for technology to factor into the advertising equation early and often.

A smart and strategic blend of technology and creativity is critical to developing effective digital advertising campaigns, but the role of technology is too often overlooked. A few, who we refer to as "Creative Technologists," are already doing this beautifully, and their successes provide best practices for our industry.

Creative directors who passionately embrace technology as an essential part of their role will soon be leading advertising's next creative renaissance. And while there's no question advertising will always be an idea-driven industry, those who focus only on the big, attention-grabbing ideas, taglines, and buzz-generating events will be left behind.

Creativity and technology are the ideal partners for solving today's digital advertising challenges, especially as online marketing becomes an increasing piece of the overall advertising mix. While the concepts may at the surface appear to be completely independent of one another, they actually should be viewed as one and the same from day one of campaign development.

You may have heard this message before, but it has never been more important. The past 18 months have seen a tremendous amount of innovation across our industry, and understanding how to take advantage of these opportunities will be critical as online marketing becomes an increasing piece of the overall advertising mix. These innovations now allow agencies to use audience insights to make real-time decisions about millions of possible creative options. This means that online campaigns are now continuously evolving on a moment-by-moment basis, based on what we know and learn about our audience.

For example, let's say the brand stewards for a leading home retailer want to reach women in their 30's and men in their 40's, but certainly don't want to hit them both with the same message. Rather than spending the resources to develop thousands of different ads based on gender, age, and lifestyle, the creative technologist can take advantage of new tools that develop ads by combing various creative elements in real-time, based on audience data. In this case, the advertiser can easily send a gardening message to a 35-year-old woman in New York City with a background image of rooftop gardens while sending a message about power tools to the 42-year-old man in the suburbs with images of vast landscapes. In one fell swoop, the creative technologist has just created a deeper and more meaningful consumer connection by leveraging data, technology and creativity to drive sales.

Additionally, smart and focused behavioral targeting enables advertisers to shape the messaging and creative in an ad based on the real-life activity data that's been collected. Let's say a Kim Clijsters "wanna-be" is researching tennis rackets. A creative technologist would know that a buyer who has just entered the words "tennis racket" in a macro web search would be much more likely to respond to a display ad promoting the new Clijsters model at a later date.

Lastly, online marketing programs can pack more punch by leveraging technology innovations that link search and display advertising. In some cases, advertisers can insert video, audio and images directly into search results. For our budding tennis star, when searching for rackets online, she can be fed a display ad in the actual search results. This holistic and creative approach creates a unique user experience that attracts and engages the target.

To sum up, the quest to develop creative online advertising that connects with target audiences is possible. It's a difficult assignment that requires a balanced mix of creativity and technology. Today's creative directors must embrace the different technological capabilities available to them, and understand how each can inform and elevate an overall creative campaign.

Change is never easy. But, it can be especially challenging to 'left-brained' talent like creatives who must embrace a 'right-brain' function like technology. For those of you facing this game-changer, doing so is no longer a nice-to-have. It's a must-have. It's that simple.

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1 comment about "On Becoming A Creative Technologist".
  1. Dawn Gallagher from The Innovation Cafe , September 24, 2009 at 11:48 a.m.

    Quote: "Rather than spending the time developing different ads based on gender, age, lifestyle and more, the creative technologist can take advantage of online tools to easily send a gardening message to a 35-year-old woman while sending a message about power tools to the 42-year-old man."

    I'm having trouble understanding how these two creative approaches differ. Aren't you still developing separate ad versions to meet the 35yo woman's gardening info needs vs. the 42yo man's power tools info?

    (p.s., the right brain is the creative side, and the left brain is the technical ;-)