Programmatic Personalization Requires Cross-Functional Collaboration

In recent months, agencies and advertisers across the globe have been increasing their discussions about the future of dynamic creative optimization (DCO) within the growing programmatic media landscape. It appears most are excited to reap the benefits of personalized creative combined with programmatic media, but they are also often frustrated by various factors hindering DCO's adoption.

Achieving successful data-driven programmatic creative requires a dramatic departure from the current industry mindset and practices. Fundamentally, teams need to rethink traditional silos, and collaborate across roles within the advertiser, media agency, creative agency, ad operations, media partners/trading desks, and technology vendors. Every team needs a broader understanding of the full picture than they currently have, and project managing a successful strategy is a challenge. Given the infinite variance of roles and responsibilities between parties, it’s very difficult to standardize an approach to creating and executing personalized creative campaigns.

Among the biggest challenge is the tension between media and creative agencies regarding DCO. Media agencies struggle with navigating the vast number of media and targeting capabilities available to them when they only know part of the story. Finding the right audience and placement is useless without a relevant message to go along with it. Media teams need to be brainstorming collaboratively with creative agencies on how to align data, media and creative in a holistic way rather than forcing one to dictate the other, or having them completely at odds with each other. But they often meet resistance and apathy when approaching creative agencies with dynamic creative initiatives.

In practice, creative agencies are often brought on after the media has been segmented and planned, and so they often feel like data and targeting ends up dictating their creative strategy rather than inspiring it. Creatives need to be empowered by data and have a seat at the table in the media/audience strategy process in order to embrace the potential of DCO. Many are also stuck in a mindset (or contract) that rewards total hours spent in production, rather than compensating based on the quality of creative strategy, messaging, and concepts. If you can build 10 banners in 10 minutes with DCO, as opposed to 10 days of manual building, and you bill your clients hourly, it’s easy to see DCO as a threat to your business.

But if you’re able to bill the client by creative concept/variation, DCO has the potential to increase margins and revenue by slashing manual production overhead and freeing up that time for a much higher volume of strategic, quality creative. Advertisers should see this as a win as well, because it means more of their budget goes toward innovating a personalized connection with their consumers and thus maximizing ROI.

Luckily, forward-thinking agencies that recognize the value of programmatic personalization are beginning to invest in dedicated internal teams tasked with building deep expertise in DCO, educating their colleagues, and bridging functional gaps to lead the organization into this new paradigm. These agencies will be rewarded for their efforts with significant account wins, as advertisers will come to demand this level of strategic sophistication.

However, advertisers are not off the hook for pushing outside of their comfort zone in order to succeed in programmatic personalization. Both creative and media agencies alike are excited about new personalization tactics and capabilities, followed quickly by a reason why they can’t implement them for a given advertiser. Certainly not every new tactic is appropriate for every client, but if advertisers want to get the most out of their digital marketing investment, they may need to make significant changes to other aspects of their business. Antiquated site architecture, lack of proper asset and data management, as well as restrictive bureaucratic processes are all common culprits for why agencies can’t innovate for their clients.

In general, the industry is grasping the value in pursuing personalization. While some teams may be more averse than others, eventually every player in the digital advertising space will take incremental steps to evolve their business and provide a more efficient, effective, and relevant consumer experience.

4 comments about "Programmatic Personalization Requires Cross-Functional Collaboration".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 25, 2017 at 9:14 a.m.

    I have long advocated better integration between the media and "creative" functions at ad agencies---to no avail. And this is not only due to the arrogance of the "creatives", who look down on media people as boring numbers crunchers-----sometimes true but sometimes not----but also top management at both the agencies and their clients, who believe that "creative" is 100% of the solution, while media planning and buying are, to put it bluntly, of much less importance. So I agree with the basic premise of this piece. However, I must also confess, that media people who live and die by "the numbers' are their own worst enemies. Until those who want to get more involved where it counts---by guiding the creative process and informing---or educating---the creatives about the many targeting capabilities that are availble in media, including subtle mindset variables, not just product buying or demos----- nothing will happen. To do this, the media planners, especially, must learn how marketers evaluate their products and sales potentials, how ad campaigns are developed. how all of this is measured, how ROI studies work---and don't work--etc. so when they present a case for some sensible departure from the media "norm", it is presented in marketing, not just media terms. Also, they must learn to sell---not just play it safe by being "buyers". This entails risks---but that's one thing the top creatives face every day. Not every campaign works, many fail their pre tests or worse, bomb in the marketplace---when this happens the blame falls largely on the creatives. But when it works, they, justifiably can take much of the credit. Media people who wish to advance their function---and roles---must learn to take more chances----not be led around by the nose by "data".

  2. David Wang from Certona, January 25, 2017 at 2:09 p.m.

    Great article. I wrote an article on Forrester's approach to personalization which addresses some of these issues. Check it out:

  3. Kyle Sherwin from Sony Music, January 26, 2017 at 12:22 p.m.

    Great article - there's also DCO work being done in the audio/music space, also requiring a basic rethinking of workflow (data, ad serving, creative):

  4. Matt Bea from Bullseye, February 10, 2017 at 12:26 p.m.

    Very well made article. It is definitely only a matter of time before just about every company starts to embrace personalization. If you look at this page: you will see how SundaySky approaches some of these issues in the different industries that their clients operate. 

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