Commentary

What's Stopping Creatives From Matching Programmatic Targeting?

Ad design has historically been a labor-intensive process -- often requiring several layers of approvals, a great deal of technical as well as design knowledge, and enough time to produce, edit, and implement all the requisite variations to suit platform requirements. Programmatic has vastly increased efficiency and scalability, yet the explosion of audience targeting opportunities it has incited has left advertisers scrambling for creative to meet the exponentially increased demand.

Advertisers are left wondering how to scale creative.

Even as creatives in-house (and agencies) are tasked with accomplishing more, faster -- and with less available budget -- creative has not yet adopted programmatic as its problem to solve. This concept of performance punishment for stale digital creative and programmatic is becoming widely understood, increasing the pressure to have more frequent updates to creative. These growing demands continue to make the case for combining technology and existing talent as the only feasible and scalable solution. The challenges facing creatives in their quest to match programmatic targeting boil down to six key issues.

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1. Creatives have not yet adopted programmatic as their issue

Creatives still have not realized the full capabilities of programmatic by taking advantage of all the targeting now possible, like segmenting audiences based on how often a customer saw an ad, or where the customer is in the purchase life cycle. Rather than blasting the same message and hoping someone converts after seeing the same thing 10 times, there’s a real opportunity here for creatives and media to collaborate for more effective targeting and messaging.

Creatives need to think about campaigns with timelines -- “one and done” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Focus on sequencing messages to the same consumer to tell a story over time, effectively warding off creative fatigue, which results in lower brand favorability metrics and lower direct performance.

2. We are facing near-infinite ad sizes and versions

Programmatic makes it easier than ever to sell ad space, and has thus led to the introduction of more ad sizes. However, media analysts realize that many ad sizes are undervalued and want more creative to ensure fulfillment for narrow targeting and to get the lowest price for a valuable impression. To compound the issue, more ad versions are demanded because of the targeting options available.

We need to use tools to make global changes to all ad sizes at once and to automate the creation of new ad sizes. This will provide economies of scale, as building and editing multiple sizes will take less time than building one at a time. Tools are also the key to automating multi-version production, enabling more timely campaign setup than with manual or complex DCO, which requires intricate development knowledge and more planning.

3. Collaboration and approval workflows can be tedious

Workflows in many organizations require the input and approval of a number of people. With desktop file-based ad-building systems, the latest versions are not accessible to everyone. All players need to know which stage the ad build is in and whether there are any potential roadblocks along the way. Cloud-based workflow tools make it easy to share work, get feedback, and automatically notify the next party that their input or sign-off is needed to take the ad to the next stage.

4. Traditional DCO is complex and time-consuming

Traditional DCO requires the creative platform to know the full media plan so targeting can then trigger the creative to change. It is complex to set up, time-consuming, and redundant. The media platform also needs the same logic. Keeping creative and media teams in sync is hard enough without unnecessary campaign logic. Right now, it's as if we require synchronized skating with one partner telling the other what is changing in the routine only after they have hit the ice.

Better communication helps, but the comprehensive solution is to program the campaign logic in one place. Just deliver the creatives to be loaded into the targeting system and save the entire team from doing twice the work to remain synchronized.

5. Real-time insights are lacking

We not only have to be able to understand how the ad is doing in real-time, but we must be able to do something about it. However, creatives typically hand over a file and never hear about it again, which is counterproductive to the entire programmatic mentality of test and learn. We’re still seeing too much planning and reporting where changes and optimizations are not based on readily available data.

Creatives need a more intuitive way to run their own A/B tests, as well as an easier way to create a "B" test requiring less programming and ad ops knowledge. They also need access to the reporting in real-time, with an ad tag-based system so that updates can be pushed live rather than stopping the campaign and creating a new one with newly uploaded files.

6. Creative planners are needed

Right now, production builds the ads as specified -- but sometimes the media plan changes, new data comes in or the client may want new versions. We must introduce "creative planners" who can plan a brand design and leave room for tailoring to different audiences. These professionals will employ flexible templates and tools to adapt different types of inputs and outputs. Finally, we’ll move beyond allowing changes only where text is the same exact length, for risk of breaking the ad design.

Understanding each of the potential stopping points and their solutions is key for creatives living in this new programmatic world. Creatives who are comfortable with the technology and skilled in using tools for maximum efficiency and scale will enjoy the greatest opportunities as programmatic continues to proliferate across advertising of all kinds.

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