News & Views

Opinion / Programmatic Gets Creative

by Contagious Contributor

Programmatic was devised as a smarter, cheaper way to get Ad A to Consumer B, but in 2015 it’ll become much more integral to the creative process. Drew Myers, director, client management at Millward Brown explains.

If you’re a creative, you might think that programmatic has nothing to do with you. Surely it’s more ad:tech designed to deliver media efficiency?
That might have been true last year but now – with more and more digital messages being delivered via programmatic – it’s time for creative to ride the programmatic bus.

While programmatic remains controversial (or misunderstood depending on your point of view) with advertisers, research shows that most in the industry are positive about the creative opportunity. A survey by AOL Platforms in the UK at the end of last year – Programmatic Futures: Where Culture Meets Code – found that participants who numbered some of the biggest media owners, trading desks, industry bodies and publishers were broadly positive.

Asked whether the ability to target and track consumers through programmatic technology is leading to new forms of creativity and storytelling in advertising, 47% agreed or strongly agreed, compared to 24% who disagreed or strongly disagreed. Almost half of those surveyed felt that programmatic is enhancing creativity, with almost half of respondents (48%) to the research seeing it as having a positive effect, rising to 56% of buy-side respondents. That compared to 28% of the industry who said programmatic inhibits creativity and 24% who said it makes no difference.
What’s encouraging them to be positive are brands such as Nike, who have used programmatic to create and deliver adaptive ads that change according to the target audience.

Nike used dynamic creative to fuel its real-time Phenomenal Shot campaign for the World Cup. At the heart of an experience designed to celebrate the best live moments from Brazil 2014 was an HTML5 dynamic template that allowed the brand to create and manage one flexible ad – instead of hundreds of custom-built ads – that could run across screens. With dozens of potential alternative creative executions and 15 different languages, they used a spreadsheet to allow all staff to generate the most relevant ad for events on the pitch.

This example demonstrates how programmatic can deliver mass personalization at scale, sparking new opportunities for creative thinking.
To succeed, creative agencies will seek to partner with developers or build up their own advanced programming capabilities and cross-functional abilities to produce and deploy smart ads with customizable creative elements.

The best of these executions will not seem "robo-generated" but will enable a new kind of dynamic, relevant storytelling based on when and how they are delivered.

The first stage of the process will be the introduction of customised colour schemes and verbiage to set the proper mood and tone. A next step is evolving video to be customised with distinct vignettes with smart sequencing or a “choose your own adventure” style, determined by your digital behaviours and psychographics.

For example, an individual execution could be made up of four variable elements such as colour, message, vignette/scene, and product, each with a number of options – three options per element would yield 81 creative variations. Different permutations could then be targeted via real-time availability based on pre determined targeting variables such as age, gender, site visitation, and previous ad exposure.

The result is a creative “tool kit” with smart options deployable instantaneously at key moments in the decision making journey, driving increased brand meaning because of the context and sequence in which they are delivered.

Ultimately, programmatic creative will become more human, seamless, efficient, and easy to digest, and 2015 will bring the onset of this evolution. To achieve this, new skill sets will need to evolve beyond specialized silos to leverage a cross-functional talent. Creative programmatic will be good news for brands, helping them rely on emotionally powerful and relevant messages to achieve their goals, rather than current retargeting techniques which often rely on offers to clinch the deal, cutting margin and profit.

In addition to increased efficiency, the ability of programmatic to target very specific people at known points in the purchase journey should make the impact of delivering the right messages much more powerful. For example, bespoke messaging could be delivered to entice active considerers of specific competitive brands.

Programmatic advertising will continue to evolve – the background algorithms will become more sophisticated, and the appearance of the creative will evolve to enhance the viewer experience with an increasing number of variables taken into account.

Marketers must challenge their creative and media agencies to work together to leverage the latest consumer insights to fully understand the touch points of each target and how to deliver impactful messaging via highly adaptive (real-time) advertising.