Avoid Checklist Mentality When Shopping For Creative Tech

Advertising technology is complicated stuff. The industry adopted numerous abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms to help brands and agencies understand the technology (and to make it easier to sell). While this certainly fostered growth, it also created a “checklist mentality” for marketers looking to tackle digital.

They hear about DSPs and DMPs (demand-side platforms and data-management platforms, respectfully), and figure success is merely a matter of getting one of each and checking the boxes, whether or not the technologies actually help their marketing goals.

This mentality is pushing into the field of dynamic creative optimization. While the tools offering scalable creative production, personalization and optimization are often called DCO, the emergence of the creative management platform, or CMP, is causing new confusion. Adding to this is the new market convention of bucketing creative tools under the broader umbrella of “programmatic creative,” which describes a variety of approaches to building data-driven creative for a programmatic environment.



Before marketers add “CMP” to their shopping list and discount other dynamic creative technologies, they need to remember the tools are a means to an end: All decisions should be based on their goals. To help marketers better evaluate dynamic creative solutions, they need to ask the following questions of every vendor.

How much automation do you offer?
Data integration and automation are crucial components of dynamic creative. Brands employing DCO strategies often have large product data sets with frequent updates. Where available, it’s important to automate dynamic data for maximum efficiency and scale, while reducing time-to-market to mere minutes without manual human intervention.

How much control will I maintain?
It’s critical to have complete control over serving logic and subjective creative elements. Creative teams need pixel-perfect control over every permutation of imagery, messaging, and dynamic elements like color and layout, and need the ability to designate which permutations are served to which target audiences under which conditions.

What kind of decisioning capabilities are available?
The decisioning engine is the nuts-and-bolts of any DCO tool, and it’s what drives the personalization and optimization process. While the term DCO is now commonplace, the truth is each provider and technology works a little differently. Marketers need to understand these differences and how they’ll play a role in the implementation of their campaigns.

What kind of data can I use?
Data is the key to all dynamic creative strategies. The signals used to determine which permutation is served to which customer have a huge impact on campaign performance. While brands and agencies have valuable data that maximizes relevance and performance, it’s crucial to understand what datasets are available and how easily external data can be integrated.

What kind of scale is possible?
Scale is crucial for any dynamic creative strategy with multiple creative permutations. Some providers deliver a separate ad tag per creative permutation, and rely on media teams to perform nightmarish trafficking to execute all targeting and rotations. Other providers limit the number of targeting rules available in a single strategy, or they require all creative decisioning to be built in a drag-and-drop interface that becomes laborious at scale.

Many marketers claim a “black-box” mentality is inherent to DCO technologies, but they can find solutions that provide previews of each distinct creative version and targeting rule for total transparency. Marketers also need versioning and decisioning logic together in a single ad tag.

Marketers should never contract new tools because “everyone is doing it.” They should leverage tools that match their campaign needs. Once they fully understand their campaign goals, they will be able to make informed decisions on which technologies to implement — regardless of what acronyms they go by.

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