Automation Accomplished, It's Time for the Creative Renaissance

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, May 11, 2016

Automation can only get us so far toward realizing the full promise of digital. Where the machine lets off, the creative must pick up. This presents a big opportunity for creative agencies -- but only if they have the right pieces in place to seize it. 

So pay no mind to the suggestion that the programmatic revolution has left creatives behind. Quite the contrary. Human touch is very much needed. Creativity still matters. Execution matters. The question now facing agencies is how to calibrate efforts to complement and extend the power and efficiency that automation provides. The realization of the promise of digital advertising requires both art and science. 

Grab Your Seat at the Table 

Data enables a new level of contextual sensitivity that can make the right message even more relevant to the consumer. But the ability to use data to target the message to the most receptive audiences doesn’t take the pressure off the message itself. Quite the opposite: the message needs to be as relevant and as precise as the data-driven timing and execution. 



So first and foremost, creative agencies must be clear about the challenge at hand. Data-driven, cross-device campaigns are the new standard, and that means there is more pressure than ever to deliver impactful, high-quality creative. It means that human creativity matters more, not less. 

It’s easy for media agencies to gloss over that point, and to underestimate the need to consult with their creative partners early in the cross-device planning process. That’s because in some ways, marketers have mastered the difficult half of this puzzle: they’ve learned to utilize DSPs and DMPs to target users at all parts of the funnel. What they haven’t been able to do is effectively leverage the talents of creative agencies, to adjust and tailor their core creative capabilities around what the data is signaling. 

Creatives should take comfort in that reality, and also accept the challenge that it represents. Automation doesn’t derail or dilute their value proposition, but it should reshape how they exercise their core capabilities. 

Work and Play Well With Others in a Cross Device World 

Optimizing creative for cross-device in this way is not a problem for machines to solve. It belongs to all members of the campaign, and requires that they work closely in unison.No longer can media agencies, production houses, brand managers, and creative teams operate separately.  

That’s why a reorientation to cross-device begins with a new approach to comprehensive planning. Agencies should take the lead in bringing brand clients, creatives, and media planning teams together at the outset to map an overarching framework that accounts for the differences in audience, timing, and context. Creatives cannot rely on just producing lots and lots of different messages for each particular audience, and letting the rest of their counterparts figure out how they fit in later down the line. Cross device doesn’t require more volume as much as it requires skilled planning for how and when to deliver really solid creative that was designed from the outset with those contexts in mind. 

In order to plan effectively, creatives should commit to understanding what signals the data can provide at different stages of the campaign. In turn, the other campaign stakeholders need to ensure that the data signals are actionable at the creative level. That’s difficult if the responsibility for making sense of the data falls on several siloed parties beyond the reach of the creative process. Bringing prospecting and retargeting data under one roof, integrating it into the same creative process, is essential. 

It’s helpful to think back to the early days of digital. At one point, there was a collective epiphany that Search and Display had a mutually beneficial relationship and could thrive on an integrated plan, once we learned to leverage learnings across these media types (i.e. cross-referencing keyword behavioral trending and click-through and conversion performance data to optimize). It appears obvious in retrospect, but we face a similar problem now with respect to cross-device targeting. Our prospecting models and findings can work hand-in-hand with a cross-device re-targeting approach as we use our behavioral and cross-device pathing analysis to inform our messaging across devices, all within a single plan. 

Great Creative Must be Measurable 

There are endless options to measure a message’s effectiveness. Sync with your media agency and the client to spell out campaign goals clearly to ensure that performance reporting and attribution are built into the ad unit. Look for ways to track steps toward the ultimate conversion. Things like video completion indicate how well a message is resonating with an audience. Don’t overlook the simple stuff, for instance, if success means driving consumers to a coupon redemption, make sure that your ad’s call to action encourages download of the coupon and that the landing page has proper conversion tags in place. 

The creative renaissance starts today. Historically as a creative, your work was measured in Lucite trophies and client happiness. Today, you must wire your ads to drive the success metrics for your advertiser and their media agency. The machines have led the charge to this point, but now it’s time to add data-driven art to the science. Seize the opportunity, as human touch and creativity matter more than ever in advertising.  

1 comment about "Automation Accomplished, It's Time for the Creative Renaissance".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 12, 2016 at 9:56 a.m.

    I agree, Joe, but in my experience, too many "creatives" regard media as a boring numbers game and they are reluctant to even talk to media people. For their part, most media folk are not well versed regarding how ad campaigns are deveolped---positioning- as well as execution-wise, and all too often they are at a loss when such subjects arise. The only way to fix this communications and knowledge gap is for agency management to really integrate the creative and media functions so both sides not only talk to eachother, but also understand what the other is saying. In view of the constant client fee crunching that is taking place, I don't see this happening, I'm sorry to say.

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