Ad Tech: 'How' To Knock It Out Of The Park

Let’s take a minute to survey the ad tech landscape. In its simplest terms, we can divide things into three groups – media, audience data and creative. On the media side there are the ad networks and exchanges – inventory aggregators and automators like RocketFuel and MediaMath. On the audience data side you have the data management platforms (DMP) – companies like Bluekai, Neustar and eXelate. And on the creative side there are companies like Doubleclick Studio and Spongecell—the creative optimizers that bring interactive functionality to online ads. Mr. LUMAscape himself, Terry Kawaja, has usefully termed these groups the “where,” the “who” and the “what” of the digital advertising ecosystem. 

The last ten years have really been about media and data and the integration of the two; now it’s creative’s turn.Using data to make content—to make the “what” more engaging and more powerful is the next step in the transformation of the digital advertising industry.  We’re already seeing the beginnings of this technological revolution.  Creative teams now have access to incredibly powerful tools. Consider the following three ways creative agencies can take advantage of technology to better engage consumers. 



Embrace real-time marketing. Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet heard ‘round the world helped draw attention to the importance of real-time marketing (RTM), but RTM isn’t solely a social media phenomenon. Indeed, real-time elements can be part of every digital campaign.  Today’s technology allows advertisements to be updated on the fly, in real-time, so advertisers can more seamlessly react to events as they happen. We’re already seeing savvy brands and agencies move to take advantage of these advances.  Witness Mindshare’s recent announcement of its Loop initiative, which brings real-time technology to the world of paid media.  Creative agencies are following suit. It’s critical that brands and agencies embrace RTM and the technology available to assist in RTM efforts so it is not just limited to social media. 

Bring personalization to brands. Dynamic creative technology now allows ads to automatically update their content based on a variety of parameters, ranging from the user’s location and local weather forecasts to sophisticated demographic information and behavioral inputs.  These tools have been successfully employed by direct response players, with companies like Criteo offering product retargeting tools to serve personalized content in an effort to elicit clicks, but it’s been underutilized by brand advertisers.By employing dynamic creative to tailor content to match the consumer, brands can offer consumers more personalized and engaging brand experiences.  Moreover, they can do this more cheaply.  Rather than building and running a variety of creative, each made to reach a specific geo or demographic segment, advertisers can create a single ad with a single ad tag and use dynamic creative to customize ad content on the fly, meaning lower production and trafficking costs. 

Test smarter. It’s time to kick the click-through rate (CTR) to the curb.  The CTR, still the performance metric of choice for many agencies and advertisers, is an antiquated relic. While potentially relevant for direct response advertisers, it’s hardly a proxy for what a marketer really wants, brand engagement. Today’s technology offers far more sophisticated tools to examine whether consumers are engaging with ads and whether ads are contributing to brand lift.  Moreover, with optimization tools, advertisers can, in real time, adjust the weighting of creative to feature the best performing ads.  No longer are copy testing and prayer the only tools in the shed. 

There is, of course, one piece missing in Kawaja’s where-who-what taxonomy, and that’s the “how.”  With creative reaching technological parity with media and audience data, putting the pieces together becomes the challenge.  It's the key to achieving that long sought goal of right message, right person, and right time.  Fortunately, we’re well under way.   

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