When will creative catch up to targeting? Is it even possible for that to happen?
The answer is (most likely) yes. The targeting side of the business has become exponentially more refined over the last 10 years due to the increase in technology harnessed for audience buying and data management. Until this year, creative was being left in the dust, but heading into 2013 we’re seeing creative technology finally begin to catch up.
Dynamic creative and creative optimization services have been around for a very long time, but they were mostly very basic, immature stabs at a business. In the past we fantasized as a collective industry about customized, real-time ads that married customer data to creative content delivery in order to drive superior interaction rates. It was really a fantasy, though, because the technology was early-stage and the costs for implementing these kinds of units were far too high.
Imagine a server with hundreds of creative images and thousands of permutations for delivery aligned with copy. Additionally, creative-oriented agencies were resistant to these services because they felt they would decrease the margins and fees associated with creative development, which is a true source of revenue for most shops.
Over the last nine to 12 months there are far more companies entering this space and bringing new kinds of technology to bear. Some of these companies are more successful than others, but regardless of who does what, they’re bringing much needed attention to the creative optimization space. Companies like Republic Project and Flite, as well as Spongecell, are bringing a fresh perspective to the new stage of rich media and dynamic creative and delivering highly interactive experiences in a lower-priced manner, which then makes them scalable for the average Internet marketer.
Some of the most exciting elements of this new wave of rich media are in-unit streaming capabilities, socially enabled environments, and cross-platform publishing. Cross-platform publishing is probably the most important of these developments, because, when tied to data and targeting, this feature enables a marketer to create a single experience that can be published across the Web, mobile phones, tablets and potentially even on an integrated TV interface that may be app-based. All this can be achieved without having to pay for distinctly different units to be created.
The trend in digital marketing is to be absolutely cross-platform; it’s become crucial to be able to publish a marketing message across all these forms of media. To do so in a cost-effective manner and without months of development is even more important.
So the question I would pose to you as a marketer is, “Are you thinking about your creative?” Too many marketers think of creative in the beginning from a messaging standpoint, but they never effectively re-address the issues in terms of tactical execution.
For you to truly scale your digital efforts, you need a ton of creative that can be tailored to match the level of the targeting, which means these are the kinds of tools you have to put in place. Creative should be a line item on your planning worksheet, so as you enter into Q4 and your inevitable 2013 planning, be sure to think it through.
Remember the age-old battle of art and science in marketing. The art is trying to get back in the game, and it’s brought some technology to make it happen!