What if the Wendy’s classic “Where’s the beef?” campaign actually started out as “Where’s the tomato?” Or if the iconic 1984 Apple ad spoofing George Orwell was originally a spoof on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle?
Before the efficiencies of programmatic, brands typically spent the majority of their campaign budgets testing the messaging. If the creative failed, it was shelved. If it worked, media planners went to work creating spreadsheets of TV, radio and newspaper spots. It makes me wonder about the potentially great creative we never saw because the targeting and distribution couldn’t scale to success. But as we have moved into the era of digital advertising, creative is only half of the equation.
When Great Creative Never Sees the Light of Day
While we are caught up in conversations about programmatic, RTB and everything in between, we are ignoring a pending marketplace trend, where technology and creative services begin to merge and advance each part of the equation and build a more valuable ad campaign driving sales and brand awareness. Programmatic technology has enabled more efficient buying and selling of ads, introduced advanced targeting capabilities and served as a main driver shepherding industry maturation and increasing digital ad spend. For brands to capture consumer attention, they need to amplify the art of a clever ad with programmatic targeting and optimization. In 2014, we saw agencies begin to snap up more ad tech companies in a move to solve for this exact equation.
Ad Tech’s Darwinian Evolution: Art + Science
Shortly following the failed Publicis and Omnicom merger, both holding companies began a surge of M&A and funding announcements. As one of the largest holding companies, Publicis frequently snaps up smaller companies to expand its empire. It used to be that agencies acquired companies to strengthen their core competencies so, as agencies focused on building upon existing offerings, they failed to leverage emerging technologies to target and distribute the creative.
Rather than build their own tech stacks, which is time consuming and costly, agencies are now quickly acquiring ad tech companies for “ready-made” technology. Publicis announced their cash purchase of Sapient Corp a week after purchasing RUN. They invested in Matomy, a company that has a supply-side platform (SSP) for video advertising and have also been eying Criteo for acquisition. WPP has also followed suit with their large investment in U.S. advertising-technology company AppNexus. This strategy is indicative of a larger trend that we will continue to see in the industry where the art of the creative merges with the science of technology. Why? Because we’re hitting an inflection point where agencies are asking themselves where their business model will be in five years if they don’t buy or develop technology offerings soon.
Stronger, Faster, Quicker, Smarter
In today’s programmatic era, advertisers can begin to test the creative elements of a campaign to see if it is working at a fraction of the cost than before and then build the campaign out around its preliminary performance. Advertising agencies will continue to create content for brands but need the science of programmatic to deliver the content to their audience and measure ad effectiveness for maximum results. With brands demanding more transparency and operational efficiencies and waste, companies with limited or siloed offerings will become very niche or extinct. The outcome of merging different capabilities into one company will produce a lean, nimble and agile future for advertising. Furthermore, both the buy and sell side will benefit greatly.
Going programmatic is an effective solution to part of a marketer’s strategy. Brands need both creative and technology and should merge the two more seamlessly. Amazing creative can take brands to new heights with programmatic. In the 20th century and even beyond, advertising used to be focused on placing the right ad at the right time. However in our crowded day and age, it’s now about getting the right piece of content to the right person at the right time. I look forward to seeing how the industry embraces this trend and how the landscape continues to evolve.