The programmatic opportunity—or threat, depending on your point of view—for media agencies is clear. Ad inventory is bought and sold more simply and effectively through digital interfaces. Audience targeting becomes incredibly sophisticated and precise. Media buying, if less about personal relationships, consumes less time and is more effective.
So thanks to programmatic buying and RTB, advertising messages get to the right person, at the right time, for the right price.
Sounds good right?
But wait, isn’t something missing?
Oh yeah. Despite being at the heart of advertising—despite being the whole reason for programmatic buying and targeting to be used in the first place—the ad creative has somehow become an afterthought in the equation.
Yet without the right creative for that hyper-targeted audience, the value of programmatic buying and RTB is diminished considerably.
Enter the creative agency.
There is a huge opportunity here for creative agencies to make programmatic more effective for their clients, by strategizing for and delivering the creative that makes all this programmatic targeting worthwhile in the first place.
Reasons to Vary the Creative
So, how does this work and where to begin? Let’s talk about creative ideation for a minute.
Unless the marketing concept is epic, taking a single big idea and repeating it ad infinitum is no longer the smart way to advertise. That’s because consumers today have come to expect relevance for their advertising. Being told the same thing over and over again works to a point, but greater resonance can be achieved by telling more personal stories in advertising.
Before programmatic targeting was available, it was very hard to deliver relevant messages to various market segments because you simply couldn’t figure out who they were. Media buys were made (and are still, in many cases) based on general audience characteristics. Since we didn’t know exactly who was watching a TV program or visiting a website, we could only use ideas that we were general enough to have broad appeal.
Today with programmatic buying, we can now see with a high degree of detail exactly who our audience is. Relevance in advertising is attainable.
Think about these reasons to vary the creative when using a programmatic buy:
- Does the primary value or reason to purchase differ by demographic?
- Does the primary value or reason to purchase differ by behavior or purchase intent?
- Should the message change depending on a prospect’s stage in the purchase cycle?
- Can the creative be customized based on location information?
- Are there targetable audience groups that reflect these stages?
The creative briefs creative agencies receive from the clients will probably not suggest the degree of relevance that programmatic advertising can make use of. And so by helping clients answer these questions, and producing creatives from those answers, creative agencies can provide tremendous value.
An Example of Relevance
Say your client is a leading manufacturer of paper towels. Paper towels are a widely-liked product used by many different segments for many different purposes. Yet advertising for this product has traditionally been very generally-themed, or only targeted at a certain market segment, such as moms.
But what resonates most with one segment, may not be the best message for another.
Imagine using the following images to promote a paper towel brand:
- A 44 year old male, after finishing work on his vintage car, wipes the leather to a clean shine with a paper towel.
- A 32 year-old mom with a new baby doesn’t mind her baby’s mess, because her paper towels are cleaning it up so well.
- A athletic 32 year-old woman who is not a mom is treating herself to a healthy salad. She dries her freshly-washed lettuce to perfection in a bed of paper towels.
No doubt a talented creative agency could generate many successful iterations on a campaign in this manner. And thanks to programmatic targeting, these images could be shown to the exact segments where they might resonate.
Creative agencies can also test concepts against each other. For instance, would a 25-34 year-old woman be more likely to take action after seeing the example of the woman drying salad, or the man engaging in his hobby. The answers that data can reveal to marketers are often surprising. I’d love to know, and I can, thanks to programmatic advertising.
Long Ideas, Not Big Ideas
If success in advertising means moving away from big idea advertising to toward relevance in advertising, it also means moving from away from big ideas and toward long ideas.
A long idea isn’t just one creative message. It’s a series of touch points over time, with a central theme or story.
Don’t think a long idea is small. The sum of all these touch points adds up to something really powerful. Almost like a conversation, long ideas build sentiment and brand loyalty, and eventually add up to resonant advertising.
Bradley Moore, National Head of Digital for McCann in Australia put it eloquently:
“Now more than ever, the most effective integrated creative advertising agencies are not coming up with big ideas but with multiplatform stories – stories that can be told in many different and compelling ways across marketing channels, but always unmistakably from the one brand.”
Not only should creative agencies advise their clients on choosing the right creative for each market segment, they should also think broadly about these creative messages over time, and how programmatic buying can allow long idea campaigns to be delivered to the market.
But varying creatives by market segment, and also more frequently over time could come at a cost.
Getting Creative to Scale
Sounds like a lot of work, huh?
That may be great news since more work means more potential dollars that programmatic campaigns will bring creative agencies. But questions still remain on how to add real scale and volume to the creative process without exhausting the resources of the agency.
Building many ads with different messages consumes extra time and resources. Since most campaigns include ads of multiple sizes or for different channels (display, social, video), that drain on resources is compounded and can easily get out of hand. Factor in HTML5 and mobile, and the task looks even larger. Plus, you need real insight into the marketplace to come up with these relevant long ideas in the first place.
That’s why many agencies are now investing in tools like social media monitoring, content suggestion engines, and programmatic creative ad builders. These tools enable agencies to listen to consumers for insight into what is important, pitch a successful campaign to their clients, and then execute on that campaign in a reasonable time frame.
These efforts will no doubt also require more cross-departmental communication, rethinking roles, or even exposing more data and insight to clients. But the result can be a significant value-add that captures even more long-term business.
It may sound daunting, but pairing relevant creative with programmatic advertising unlocks tremendous value for both the agency, and the advertiser.